The following is adapted from Ignite Your Career!
Imagine sitting down for a performance review. Your boss says, “You’re an amazing leader.” But then instead of giving you more leadership responsibility, she says, “Let’s spend the next quarter working on your weak analytical skills. You will never be strong here, but they’re a weakness so we should focus here.”
Doesn’t make much sense, does it? In fact, it sounds like a recipe for winding up in a role that isn’t right for you.
When it comes to careers, corporate America has things backwards. Instead of fixating on weaknesses, we should focus on utilizing strengths as a path to professional success. By focusing on your strengths, you can choose the career path that works with your natural talents, not against them.
In this article, we’ll explore why understanding your strengths and choosing a profession that uses them to your advantage is the secret to a long, satisfying career.
Some Weaknesses Can’t Be Fixed
You might be thinking: “But if someone improves all their weaknesses, they can be great at anything!” It’s true that some weaknesses are developmental in nature, but others are part of your DNA, and improving them is a no-win game. No matter how hard you work, that muscle will never develop.
For example, someone who is deeply introverted might struggle to ever be successful—let alone happy—working in sales. That person would be more satisfied and effective in a position that benefited from independent, self-driven work than one that relied heavily on collaboration.
When an employer pushes you towards fixing an innate weakness rather than toward leveraging your strengths, you risk wasting time in the wrong position instead of building valuable skills and experience. You can avoid this career stagnation by pursuing a career that leverages your strengths in the first place.
Strengths Lead to Success
To help you understand how your strengths will lead you to the right career, I’d like to share the story of one of my executive recruiting candidates. She worked in consumer marketing for many years and kept searching for the right place and fit. But something always felt off.
She was laid off numerous times. Eventually, she stepped back and got honest with herself. She made lists of her loves and hates, and began to really think about her role. It turned out that “influencing others,” which is the absolute key to consumer marketing, was not a strength of hers at all. Instead, she realized that her superpowers were analysis and uncovering insights.
This realization initially scared her to death. She felt as if she had wasted the last decade of her career. But as she struggled through her self-doubt, she figured out a path ahead. She shifted from consumer marketing into market research, which is much more data intensive. It played right to her strengths.
She got promoted after one year, and she has become the person others go to when looking for data to build their ideas. Now she feels as though she is fully able to add value. “It feels really good to excel in my job and to be truly valued,” she told me.
Figure Out and Follow Your Strengths
Too many people are misguided by corporate America and led down career paths that don’t fit them—don’t be one of these people. As my candidate’s story shows, you can wallow in a job for years fighting against your weaknesses. Only by examining your talents, personality traits, and preferences can you truly assess where you’ll be happiest and most successful.
If you aren’t satisfied with your current role or don’t know which career path to pursue, I suggest being honest with yourself. Ask people you trust to share what they think your strengths are—their answers might surprise you.
In short: figure out your strengths, find jobs that leverage them, and you’re much more likely to be happy and successful in your career.
For more advice on building a successful career, you can find Ignite Your Career! on Amazon.