Finding Your Best Work
”You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” – Oprah Winfrey
There are countless motivational quotes, articles, books, and TED talks that encourage you to think hard about three messages:
1) You are unique,
2) Self-awareness is one of the key attributes to leadership success, and
3) People that are using their natural talents are more likely to be engaged in their work.
We all aspire to be doing work that is tightly aligned with our unique talents, presents us the opportunities to do what we are great at and love to do.
That sounds like a recipe for a ‘Dream Job’! How can you set yourself up for such an ideal work situation?
Most importantly, you have to know and talk about what a great work experience looks and feels like for you. This takes time and self-reflection, but the more honest you are with yourself, the less time it actually takes. You have to be able to clearly articulate the opportunities that you are on the hunt for so that your network can work on your behalf.
You will need to get clear and honest about three things:
1) Your Ideal Work Situations. Get clear on what excites you and situations where you feel well positioned to succeed. These are almost always areas of talents and strengths where you feel that the work and way of thinking it requires just seem natural to you. Reflect back on work experiences or specific tasks where you felt engaged, energized and well suited for the work. For example, do you enjoy projects with a clear beginning and end or do ambiguity and problem solving energize you?
- Think about the attributes and situational factors that were at play when you loved what you were working on.
- Ask trusted colleagues about times where they have seen you at your best and when your natural talents were being used.
- Keep a journal of what was great about your day and the conditions that made it great. For example, “it was a well-run meeting and I was given an opportunity to speak. I was brought in on a project that was loosely defined and I was given a lot of flexibility to solve the problem.” Or on the flipside, “I had a great experience because the project was well defined, had a clear beginning, middle and end and specific guidelines for how the work could be done.” Perhaps helping a neighbor with a computer challenge energized you and you enjoyed putting technical information into easy to understand language for a novice.
These situational factors will help you begin to build your story about the type of work where you thrive and feel most successful.
2) Your Danger Zones. These are the work areas or situations where you are less likely to succeed in the short or long term. This type of work makes you feel like you are working against your natural self. Be brave about getting clear on these danger zones and be willing to walk away if a large part of the work will exhaust you. You will work too long and too hard to improve on something that is against your natural talents and won’t feel energized in the long term.
Know these danger zones! If you know that doing a specific type of research bores you and drains your energy, feel confident in putting that in your danger zone list.
3) Your Short Sprints. Get honest about the type of work that you can do for a very short period of time if it is necessary or is a means to the end of getting to the work that you do excel at. When budgeting is part of my job, I’ll push through the work for my department once per year. However, putting me in charge of an organizational-wide budgeting process would exhaust me.
As you begin to journal your thoughts and build your stories, I often recommend that clients consider assessment tools that will help arm them with perspective and a language on their preferences and natural talents. I like the CliftonStrengths tool through www.gallup.com.
It will help arm you with language, advice and resources to help you think about your top talents that offer you the greatest opportunity for success. As you are journaling on your ideal work situations, you are likely to see your stories come alive as real life examples of your talents and traits at their very best. Consider engaging with a Certified Coach to gain an objective perspective on what makes you unique and help you put your Talents to work today or put your network on the path to your next ‘Dream Job’!
You need to think back in order to move forward. By confidently leaning into opportunities with these three perspectives in hand, it will become easier for you and your network to keep your ideal situations ‘top of mind’ and connect you to the best work situations.