Tips for Finding Your Strengths and Developing Your Expertise
By Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC
Some people may find this hard to believe, but every single person in the world is good at something. Yes, everyone!
Your strength could be your artistic talent or ability to tell a story that keeps everyone on the edge of their seats. The key is to figure out your strengths and to continue to develop them. Studies have shown that it takes about 10 years in a profession to become considered an expert so let’s get started now.
How to Discover Your Strengths
You can do your own assessment to determine what you think you’re good at, what you’re comfortable doing and what you find energizing. Here are a couple of ideas:
· Make a list. Think about all the responsibilities of your job and everything that’s expected of you. Now go through that list and put a star next to everything you excel at or enjoy doing. Don’t be modest; be honest with yourself! Another way to approach this is to consider the types of problems you enjoy solving.
· Ask yourself the following questions:
o What seems to come to you more easily than to others?
o What kind of advice do your colleagues ask you?
o What types of projects are you drawn to?
o What are topics that you could talk about all day?
o What do you typically read?
These are all clues about your strengths.
· Study your list and think about your choices. Really focus on the direction you would like your career to take. What are you hoping for in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? Which skills will you need to sharpen to achieve your goals? Focus your attention on the skills that will make an immediate impact.
Discovering Your Strengths in Conversation
The second way to discover your personal strengths is to talk to others. You may think you know what you’re good at, but when you talk to someone who is an observer, you’ll get a completely different perspective. Many times, people brush over their strengths and talents because they seem easy and come naturally. Red flag! If you feel that way about something you do, it is probably one of your talents. You probably don’t realize that what you are doing is actually unique and special.
· Don’t be afraid to approach your boss and ask him/her about your strengths. Be proactive in your research! You may even want to find a mentor to help you develop a strategy and expand your vision for your career.
· Take additional training and development courses. Does your job or company offer any kind of continuing education programs? Are there classes that sound interesting and pique your interest? Find professional organizations related to your ideal job. Most of them will have networking events, conferences, and workshops. Register for classes that sound interesting to you and that will help you expand and increase your background in this topic.
Of course, you can ask your loved ones to characterize your strengths and weaknesses. They know you better than anyone else, so they’re more likely to be able to read between the lines and help you discover new things about yourself.
Chances are your friends and family won’t want to hurt your feelings by saying you’re no good at something, so instead, ask them to help you pick out your strengths. Or ask an open-ended question such as, “What jobs or skills do you think I have a talent for?”
Make sure you understand your family’s biases before making any big decisions. Just because your Uncle Bob owned his own company, it doesn’t mean that’s the road you should take.
How to Develop Your Expertise
Now that you’ve found your strengths, it’s time for you to bolster your expertise and become a true authority. This means you have to seek out opportunities to work on these skills.
For example, if public speaking is one of your strengths and interests, consider taking a public speaking class at a local university to continue to improve that skill. Take every opportunity to speak in front of groups, whether it’s a fundraiser, company meeting, giving a toast at a special event, or speaking to your child’s class. You may want to consider joining Toast Masters where you can practice your public speaking skills regularly and make great connections.
Remember: no one becomes an expert without practice. That old adage “Practice makes perfect,” is true. You have to seek out relevant opportunities and take advantage of them. Leverage these opportunities to expand your network into your field of interest. When you find ways to get out of your comfort zone you will challenge yourself and sharpen your skills.