Knowing your personal strengths is very important for a meaningful career change. It becomes even more important when you’re in your 40s, 50s, and beyond. Imagine what it must be like to do work that:
- feels natural to you
- allows you to do what you do best
- gives you the feeling of being “in flow” and totally absorbed in what you’re doing
All these things happen when your work fits your unique strengths.
“Let everything be allowed to do what it naturally does,
so its nature will be satisfied.”
~ Chuang Tzu
In your own career, does it seem like you’re too often focused on correcting personal weaknesses? Or maybe spending too much energy trying to do what doesn’t come naturally to you? When you use your personal strengths, you live and work more consciously. You feel connected and engaged with your work.
Now, Discover Your Strengths
There are several books and tests available to help you identify your personal strengths. According to the book, Now, Discover Your Strengths, you have certain innate talents which you may not even be aware of. These talents, also called themes, can be found in the ways you naturally think, feel, and behave.
What do you do so easily and well you don’t even think about it? Some clues to help you identify your talents are:
- your spontaneous, immediate reactions to events
- your yearnings, what you’re drawn to
- rapid learning of certain subjects or activities
- your satisfactions, what you enjoy
Through practice, your talents can become strengths. The original StrengthsFinder Profile and the more recent StrengthsFinder 2.0 are tests that will help you discover your top 5 strengths. The purpose of discovering your strengths is to show you where your potentials are. It’s then up to you to develop them.
According to Martin Seligman, who wrote Authentic Happiness, your unique strengths are related to your values and how you view the world, relate to others, and make decisions. Here your strengths have nothing to do with your talents. Good musical pitch is a talent. Your “character” strengths are virtues which include things like integrity and kindness.
To live authentically, it’s important to find ways to make your work match your strengths. Seligman believes there are 3 ways you can look at your work.
- Job- this is something you do to get a paycheck, so you can pay the bills
- Career- the focus of a career is on advancement and prestige, as well as making money
- Calling- here, you use your strengths on behalf of a cause that’s larger than you, and you value work for its own sake more than making money
You can find out your top 5 character strengths by taking the VIA Survey of Character Strengths at the Authentic Happiness website.
Build Your Strengths
Once you know your strengths, the next step is to decide how you can apply them in your work and in your life. You’ll be most successful and productive when you use your strengths most of the time. Your greatest potential for growth is where your strengths are.
In StrengthsFinder 2.0 and Go Put Your Strengths to Work, you can find out how to develop and use your personal strengths in the world in order to make a positive contribution. Strengths-based career coaching also offers an effective way for you to discover your innate talents and build them into strengths as you change your career.
In what ways can you honor your strengths in your work?