If you’re unhappy with your current job and are thinking about making a career change, identifying what you’re good at is an important place to start. In fact, according to the Japanese concept ikigai (which means your reason for being) a person’s ideal job should involve doing something you both love and are good at. Do you know what that is or is the question “What am I good at?” inexplicably hard for you to answer? If you’re convinced you have no talents or strong skills, here are 4 ways to figure out what you’re good at.
How to discover your strengths
Ask people who know you well
Most of us are not very self-aware. While we can easily name our friends’ and family’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s often much harder to do the same for ourselves. And that’s unsurprising because how we see ourselves is greatly skewed by the opinions of others, beliefs from childhood and societal norms. With so much external pressure and influence, it can be near-impossible to view our behaviours objectively.
This is why speaking to people who know you well is a great way to figure out what you’re good at. But to get an honest answer, you’ll need to do two things: stay away from loaded questions and ask people who will tell you the truth.
Most of us are not very self-aware. While we can easily name our friends’ and family’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s often much harder to do the same for ourselves.
You’ll get the most insightful answers if you ask someone who:
- has known you all your life but didn’t choose for you to be in their lives i.e. a family member who is firm but fair
- has known you personally by choice for at least 5 years i.e. a good friend or romantic partner
- has known you professionally for at least 2 years
This combination of people will provide good insights into your personal and professional strengths as well as your soft skills (things that aren’t tangible, like being a good listener or being persuasive) and hard skills (tangible abilities like writing, singing or drawing).
Take a ‘what am I good at’ quiz or test
While you may not be able to identify your strengths on your own, a few prompts from some carefully chosen questions can be enough to reveal what you are good at.
An in-depth personality test, such as the Myers-Briggs based 16 Personalities test or an Enneagram test, can help shed some light on your soft skills, while an aptitude test (specifically looking at your career strengths) can help to reveal what you’re good at from a practical point of view (your hard skills).
Key questions you should consider when trying to answer the question, “what am I good at?” include:
- What do I do a lot of? Practice develops skills, so it’s likely that you’re better at the things you do often than the things you do rarely.
- Which activities do I naturally gravitate towards? Most people choose to do things they are good at because these activities provide some degree of instant gratification. When you do things you’re good at you feel confident and good about yourself.
- What do my hobbies have in common? Again, the answer to this question reveals what you tend to do a lot of by choice.
Look at your emails and text messages
What do your friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances often ask you to help them with? This holds big clues about your strengths. People only ask for help from people they view as more capable than themselves, so dig through your emails and texts from the last 6 months and reflect on the requests that seem to come up time and time again.
Are you the person who others turn to when they need a listening ear? Then that’s a good sign that you’ve got great listening skills. Perhaps, friends ask for your help when they need to make a big decision? This may suggest that you’ve got good problem-solving or decision-making skills. More obvious requests, like help doing their taxes, planning an event or designing a logo are clear signs that you’re strong at finances, planning and design, respectively.
Be less humble
Finally, stop being so modest and humble for a minute and compare yourself to those around you. Look at the quality of work you do, the speed you do it at, and the results you achieve. Are there any areas in which you clearly do better than others? Don’t try and rationalise or minimise your observations (e.g. I’m just lucky, I’ve been doing it longer so it’s easier for me, it’s a useless skill, etc.), just write them down.
Once you have written these things in a list, re-read the list. These are some key strengths you overlook every day.
These four strategies are very effective at helping even the most confused person figure out what they are good at. If you’ve been struggling to figure out your best next career move, make sure you start here because knowing what you’re truly good at will shed a lot of light on the job that’s likely to leave you feeling fulfilled and purposeful.
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