How to Find Your Strengths and Make a Difference in Your Work
By Rachel Linch
When was the last time you really thought about the strengths you have and the special gifts you bring to the table?
We all have specific strengths that make us who we are. Marcus Buckingham, New York Times bestselling author and co-creator of the StrengthsFinder tool, defines a strength as an activity that leaves you feeling strong.
So, what are your true strengths?
I recently found myself asking this question and feeling unsure of the answer on the day of my graduation. I remember standing in my cap and gown on the football field at the University of North Texas. Hundreds of other graduates wearing masks stood around me under the bright stadium lights while we celebrated one of the greatest achievements of our lives– from a social distance, of course.
It would be an understatement to say that closing an important life chapter in the middle of a global pandemic was an interesting experience. I remember feeling a mixture of emotions that day. I felt pride but I also felt like I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do next. This moment I had been anticipating for so long had finally arrived and I felt a bit lost.
I found myself searching for answers that could help me feel a little less lost – something I have found myself doing a lot during these unprecedented times. As I stared into the abyss of my unknown future, I quickly realized I am the only person who really knows what is best for me.
How to Find Your Strengths
I gained a sense of direction when I went back to the basics of who I am and really thought about my strengths. My career coach recommended I watch a video from Buckingham called, “The Truth About You” to help me navigate this process.
I highly recommend watching this video if you have the time. It’s only 23 minutes long and is full of great, practical advice – especially if you resonate with feeling stuck in your life or work.
In this video, Buckingham breaks down the importance of leveraging your strengths and how to practically apply them to your life. First, he addresses the three common myths that often hold us back from playing to our strengths:
- Myth #1: As you grow older, your personality changes.
- The older you get the more you “become who you already are.” This is the reason you need to become good at describing what your specific strengths are.
- Myth #2: If you want to grow, you can’t rely on your strengths and need to work to improve the areas you are weak.
- Instead of spending time on your weaknesses, you should be working on your strengths because those are the areas you will experience the most growth.
- Myth #3: The best teams have a bunch of well-rounded people playing every role.
- The point of being a great team player is to be aware of your own qualities and to partner with other people who bring different strengths to the table.
He recommends that anyone who is trying to figure out their unique strengths “pay incredibly close attention to how [they] feel before, during, and after an activity.” This is an important practice because your feelings will give insight into what your strengths are so you can better understand them.
According to Buckingham, you can use your daily life to find out what your strengths are by doing this exercise:
- Grab a notepad or your phone and take it with you everywhere you go for one week.
- Write down “I feel/felt strong when…” anytime you feel excited to do something, feel in the zone while doing something, or feel energized after doing something. Don’t wait until the end of the day or until the end of the week to write these things down. It is important to do it in the moment so you can properly capture your excitement.
- At the end of the week, you will have a long list of activities that energize you. To find your strengths, look at the list and pick the top three that really stick out.
If you follow his advice, you will end up with a better understanding of your specific strengths. Then the next time you are asked what your strengths are in a conversation, or you find yourself trying to figure out what to do with your life, you will know what to focus on.
Using Your Strengths to Make a Difference
Once you feel like you have a good hold on what your exact strengths are you can apply them to your career and life to “make the kind of difference that only you can make.” Whether you’re already in a great job or you are looking for a new opportunity, it is encouraging to be reminded who you are and what you are gifted at.
With that said, maybe some of your top strengths include good communication skills, a passion for learning, or a desire to make an impact in people’s lives. If that sounds like you and you’re looking for a new career path, then becoming a teacher might be the perfect fit for you.
Learn more here about how you can get your alternative teaching certification through iteach and play to your strengths to make a real difference.