Uncover Your Skills & Talents
Know What You’re Good at to Get Ahead

A solid understanding of your top strengths and talents is essential to creating your own career success.  Knowing what you’re good at allows you to steer your career in the most satisfying and fulfilling direction for you.

When I embark on a coaching program with a new client, I like to start out by getting a sense of where their strengths lie.  When I ask clients to share their top skills, I’m usually met with stumped silence.  Most people cannot say what they’re good at.  For many, this is due to a combination of not wanting to brag and simply not knowing – or not owning their gifts and talents. 

Too often, people overlook or devalue their greatest strengths.  Since certain skills come so naturally to them, they assume everyone possesses these same gifts.  However, the opposite is often true.  Even though a certain assignment may feel effortless to you, others may struggle to complete the same task with ease. 

For example, one of my clients, Nancy, is a policy expert for a national issue advocacy organization in Washington, DC.  Most of her job involves writing position papers which provide insight and analysis on emerging topics in her field.  She is often called upon to write these complex briefs under very tight deadlines.  Since this type of strategic thinking and writing comes so completely natural to her, she didn’t even recognize it for the highly unique and marketable skill that it is. 

I coached Nancy to appreciate this skill and acknowledge the enormous value she brings to her organization.  Very few people can write such high caliber pieces, and even fewer can produce quality, insightful work under pressure. 

The same goes for you as well.  I am quite sure you possess a unique set of skills and talents that make you stand out from the crowd.  The following power activity will help you identify these sterling qualities.

 

Power Activity:  Your Likes and Dislikes

Do you want a job that involves lots of things you like and very few of the things you do not?  I thought so.  This “Likes and Dislikes” exercise will help you define both what you want and don’t want in your professional life. 

Being empowered with this knowledge allows you to steer yourself into a career that calls upon the professional competencies that come most naturally to you.  That way, you work in a job that feels right, plays to your strengths and lets your talents shine. 

For example, Alex is in the finance industry and lives in New York City.  He has an MBA as well as the Chartered Financial Analyst designation and licensures.  Alex has 12 years’ experience as an equity research analyst.  While he has achieved a good amount of success in his career, he has never particularly enjoyed the work.

Alex had to work extremely hard to make it in the competitive finance business and never felt as though the analytics came naturally to him.  What he did excel at was relationship building and client services. 

Through his coaching program with me, he discovered that investor relations was the ideal fit for him.  As a result, he transferred to an investor relations position within his company and is extremely happy in his new role.  He says:  “I finally feel like I’m ‘in the zone’ at work and doing what I was born to do.” 

This likes and dislikes exercise will help you identify your top career needs.  As a result, you’ll have a better sense of which employers and specific positions are a good fit for you and which are not.  This information empowers you to make solid decisions about your professional future, rather than shooting in the dark with inadequate information. 

Another benefit of completing the likes and dislikes exercise is you will gain a deeper understanding of your past on-the-job experiences.  You’ll find reviewing your career history, from the perspective of time and distance, allows you to see things in a clearer light. 

Many people feel as though a weight has been lifted off their shoulders as they review past “bad” jobs.  Seeing your preferences written out helps you understand why these positions were not right for you.  You may find yourself breathing a sigh of relief as you say:  “No wonder I didn’t like/didn’t do well in that job!” 

In short, this power activity will help you define the key elements of your version of a fulfilling career.  It will help you identify your top skills and talents as well as your professional interests, career needs and work style.  Each of these pieces of information is essential to discovering your ideal career fit.

A note of caution:  do not critique or examine your results as your working on this exercise.  Simply complete each section with an open mind.  Once you’re finished, I’ll show you how to analyze your results so you can use the information for constructive career-planning purposes. 

 

Examples of Likes and Dislikes

To aid you in this process, I’ve included two examples of likes and dislikes results from two of my clients.  The first is from someone who, for the most part, does not like their current job.  The second example is from someone, who for the most part, does enjoy their current position. 

 

Likes and Dislikes Exercise

 

 

Example One:  Someone who (for the most part) dislikes their job

 

Sample Job #1: 

 

     Job Title:     Associate
     Company:   ABC Law Firm

 

 

 

 

     Dates of Employment:
     2010 – present

 

Likes

 

 

 

Dislikes

 

 

 

The Work 

 

  1. Writing 
  2. Research 

 

 

The Work

 

  1. Repetitive Paperwork Review 
  2. Working for Three Bosses
  3. Unclear Expectations

 

 

 

The People

 

  1. A Few Peers and Co-Workers
  2. One Good Boss

 

 

The People

 

  1. Dislike Most Co-Workers
  2. Direct Manager Doesn’t Understand or Respect Me
  3. Unhelpful Support Staff

 

 

 

The Organizational Culture

 

  1. Excellent Training Programs Available
  2. Generous Bonuses 

 

The Organizational Culture

 

  1. Too Competitive
  2. Stuffy Atmosphere
  3. No Work/Life Balance

 

The Logistics

 

  1. Excellent Health Benefits
  2. Excellent Retirement Package and 401(k) Match

 

 

 

The Logistics

 

  1. No time to take vacation
  2. Long Commute
  3. Expensive Parking
  4. Have to spend a lot of money on career clothes

 

 

 

 

Example Two:  Someone who (for the most part) enjoys their job

Sample Job Two: 

 

     Job Title:     Associate
     Company:   ABC Company

 

 

 

 

 

     Dates of Employment:

     2008 – present

 

Likes

 

Dislikes

 

 

 

The Work

 

  1. Strategic Planning
  2. Public Speaking
  3. Board of Directors Liaison

 

The Work

 

  1. Event Planning
  2. Required Weekly and Monthly Reports  

 

 

 

The People

 

  1. Great Manager

2.   Great Co-Workers

  1. Excellent Assistant
  2. Opportunity to Mentor Others

 

 

The People

 

  1. No Mentors Available for Me
  2. Staff Turnover

 

 

 

 

The Organizational Culture

 

  1. Relaxed Atmosphere
  2. Supportive Environment
  3. Work/Life Balance Valued

 

 

 

 

The Organizational Culture

 

  1. Few Professional Development Opportunities Available

 

 

The Logistics

 

  1. Short Commute
  2. Freedom of Schedule
  3. Lots of Shops & Restaurants Nearby

 

 

 

The Logistics

 

  1. Expensive Health Care
  2. Low 401(k) Company Match

 

 

 

Now it’s Your Turn!

Below, in the section titled “Likes and Dislikes Exercise – Your Template” you’ll find a blank template for you to fill in.  Here are specific instructions on how to complete the exercise.  Remember, there’s no pressure to come up with the perfect answers to these questions.  Simply be honest, get real with yourself and tell it like it is.  

Instructions:                                     Likes and Dislikes Exercise

Approximate completion time:            One to Two Hours

                        (Each job takes approximately five to ten minutes to review)

 

Exercise Overview:                        

Review all of the jobs you have held, including your current position.  Go all the way back to your first job – maybe it was in high school.  Print out a separate template sheet for each position and write your title at the top of the page.  Then, brainstorm what you liked and didn’t like about each job. 

 

Step One: 

Make a list of all the jobs you’ve held, including your current one.  Include jobs from the following categories:

  • Professional Work History
  • Part-Time Jobs: College & High School, etc.
  • Being a Student: Graduate and Undergraduate
  • Volunteer Roles
  • Professional Association Member/Leader, etc.
  • If you have children – of course list parenthood (One of the most challenging jobs on earth!)

 

Few!  I bet you came up with a long list, huh?  Don’t sweat it.  You do not need to complete this exercise for each and every job you’ve held.

At a minimum, please do the following:

Complete this exercise for each full-time professional position you’ve held.  For your part-time jobs, you only need to complete a few of these.  For example, if you had nine part time jobs throughout high school and college, only do three of them.  Any three will do. 

Then, from among the personal roles you’ve listed (motherhood, volunteerism, etc.) select those that feature skills sets that haven’t been included in the exercise thus far.  Overall, complete the likes and dislikes for at least five and up to ten positions you’ve held. 

 

Step Two: 

Use the template below.  Make enough copies so you have one blank template for each job you’re going to review.

Start with that first job from long ago.  Perhaps it’s your first part-time job from high school.  (For me, it was the dog grooming job I had my junior year of high school.)  It helps to start out with these low-pressure jobs rather than getting caught up in any emotional “baggage” you may have with more recent positions.

Speaking of “baggage,” reviewing your dislikes about past jobs may bring up unpleasant memories.  This is a natural part of this process.  Let the negative feelings come and then let them go.  There’s no need to hold on to them anymore.  They are simply presenting themselves so you can learn from them, utilize the valuable information and move on unencumbered.   

For each blank template, enter your job title, employer and the dates of employment at the top of the page. 

Review each job and brainstorm what you liked and didn’t like about each role.  Brainstorm what you liked and didn’t like about:

  • The Work
  • The People
  • The Organizational Culture
  • The Logistics of each job, which includes things like:
    • Salary
    • Benefits
    • Hours
    • Location
    • Commute
    • Physical Surroundings

Each job takes approximately five to ten minutes to brainstorm your likes and dislikes.  Make additional copies of the template to complete the exercise. 

Remember – there are no right or wrong answers here.  Let your brainstorm flow and do not censor yourself.  This document is for your eyes only, so there’s no risk of judgment.  I recommend you work on this a few days in a row for about 15 minutes each day.  Give yourself enough time for all ideas and observations to surface. 

Please note: 
As seen in the previous examples, you don’t have to have three items listed under each category.  Include as many or as few as you wish for each section.  Above all, have fun with it!  As I like to say:  “Throw some spaghetti up against the wall and see what sticks!”

If you need help with this, feel free to schedule a one-on-one coaching session with me.  I will help you produce powerful results from this exercise and create your Career Sweet Spot Report – which will allow you to define your ideal career. 

Click here to schedule a private coaching session.  For more information, see the section below titled Your Career Sweet Spot Analysis and Detailed Report.

 

Likes and Dislikes Exercise – Your Template

 

     Job Title:    
     Company: 

 

 

 

 

    Dates of Employment:

    

 

Your Likes

 

 

 

 

Your Dislikes

 

 

 

The Work

 

 

 

 

The Work

 

 

 

 

 

 

The People

 

 

The People

 

 

 

 

 

The Organizational Culture

 

 

The Organizational Culture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Logistics

 

 

 

 

The Logistics

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Analysis

Now comes the fun part – analyzing your results to see what themes emerge.

But that doesn’t sound fun, you say?  Well, I’ll show you how to review your results in a low-stress way.  The valuable insights you’ll gain will make it easier to clearly define your ideal career fit so you can transition into a career with more meaning, fulfillment and financial reward. 

At this juncture I’d like to say that of course an analysis of your past work experience does not give a full picture of your future career vision.  However, it does provide important information as to the elements that are important to you in your professional life.  This exercise is just one of the over 30 career exploration exercises included in this Discover Your Ideal Career Fit program.  As you complete the other exercises, you’ll have the opportunity to add to and refine this analysis.

 

How to Conduct Your Own Analysis

Once you have reviewed your past positions and identified what you liked about each one, take a break for a few days.  Getting some distance from the subject before continuing allows you to return to the process with a fresh perspective.  Then, schedule time in your calendar to review your work.  Twenty minutes will be plenty of time.  When you have 20 minutes to yourself, take a focused look at your results.

Reread each section and scan for commonalities among each position.  As you review your responses, notice the patterns and themes that develop.  Specifically, notice the themes that emerge in relation to:

  • Your Skills
  • Your Work Needs
  • Your Work Style
  • Your General Likes and Dislikes

 

Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What type of work have I most enjoyed throughout my career?
  • What are the tasks and projects I want to avoid in the future?
  • What are my top skills (both hard and soft)?
  • What are my top career needs?
  • What is my preferred work style?

 

The following will help you analyze your results and put the information to work for you.

Once you have completed your brainstorm, review your notes and identify the top skills that have emerged.  Make a list of all the professional competencies you have identified.  Even if they seem unimpressive to you – write them down anyway.  It is all highly relevant to discovering what you’re naturally good at. 

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What type of work gives me the most satisfaction?  
  • What are the top skills that have emerged?
  • What similar skills and talents can be grouped and clustered into categories?

 

After you’ve completed your list, organize it into categories.  You’ll find that certain skills go together and can be combined under similar headings. 

Your next step is to organize the information into two separate lists.  These lists should include your top five “hard skills” and top five “soft skills.”  Narrowing each list down to your top five is very important because this will tell you the type of work you enjoy most.

Hard skills are quantifiable job skills such as:  writing, public speaking and software development.  Soft skills are personal qualities and attributes such as:  hard working, creative and dependable.  Both sets are important in the working world.  Hiring managers look for both types of skills when bringing on new team members.

The following are examples of both hard and soft skills. 

 

Hard Skills

  • Strategic Planning
  • Budget Management
  • Event Planning
  • Project Management


Soft Skills

  • Organized
  • Detailed Oriented
  • Ability to Work Well Independently and in Teams
  • Tactful and Diplomatic

 

Again, I will share that of course an analysis of your past work experience does not give a full picture of your future career vision.  However, it does provide important information as to the elements that are important to you in your professional life.  This exercise is just one of the over 30 career exploration exercises included in this Discover Your Ideal Career Fit program.  As you complete the other exercises, you’ll have the opportunity to add to and refine this analysis.

Also, sometimes it can be very difficult to objectively review your own results.  Many people find this part of the exercise challenging.  That is why I’ve included detailed, step-by-step instructions.  However, if you feel stuck at this point, I can help you with the remaining steps and provide you with your personalized and comprehensive Career Sweet Spot Report.  See below for details.

 

Your Career Sweet Spot Analysis and Detailed Report

I’m happy to review your results and provide you with a comprehensive Career Sweet Spot Report which will allow you to define your ideal career. 

Click here to schedule a private coaching session.  Your personalized Career Sweet Spot Report is included with the session.

In the Career Sweet Spot Report I provide you with the following information:

  • Your Top Professional Competencies
    • Hard Skills
    • Soft Skills
  • Your Professional Passions
  • Your Career Needs
  • Your Predominant Work Style
  • Your Logistical Needs
  • Your Career Dislikes

 

See the below for a sample report.

 

Sample Career Sweet Spot Report

 

Jane Smith

Career Sweet Spot Report

Hard Skills

  • Team Leadership and Development
  • Strategic Planning
  • Client Relations
  • Budgetary Forecasting
  • Developing and Delivering Training Seminars


Soft Skills

  • Interpersonal Communication Skills
  • Leadership Presence
  • Creative Problem Solving
  • Ability to Make and Follow Through on Tough Decisions
  • Positive Attitude

 

Professional Passions

  • Public Health
  • Informational Technology
  • Cross-Cultural Communications

 

Work Style

  • Must Be a Key Decision Maker and Part of the Executive Team
  • Prefer to Work in Teams Rather than Solo
  • Need a Variety of Projects and Work Assignments
  • Prefer to Have Autonomy Over Own Daily Schedule

 

Career Needs

  • Organizational Culture of Teamwork
  • Must Work at a Well-Respected Organization
  • Opportunity for Professional Growth & Advancement
  • Work-Life Balance

 

Logistical Needs

  • Opportunity for Overseas Travel
  • Reasonable Commute – 30 to 45 minutes maximum
  • Ability to Work from Home One to Two Days a Week
  • Nearby Amenities to the Office – Restaurants, Shops, etc.

 

Dislikes

  • Repetitive Work
  • Mundane Administrative Tasks
  • Crisis, Deadline-Driven Atmosphere

 

Own Your Strengths!

Once you’ve identified your top strengths and skills, I encourage you to truly own them.  This is not about being an over-the-top braggart.  Rather, this is about sharing your talents with the world in a relaxed, self-confident manner. 

One thing I know for sure is each of us has special abilities and skills.  It doesn’t do us any good, or the world at-large for that matter, for us to keep our talents hidden.  

Trade in that “deficit model” for an “asset based” view of yourself.  Embrace your gifts and let them shine!  And let them “work” for you.   

 

Still Have Questions?

Do you still have questions on identifying your likes and dislikes and/or creating your Career Sweet Spot report?  No problem, I’m happy to help. 

Simply click here and we’ll schedule a private, one-on-one coaching session during which I’ll personally guide you through the process. 

Now, let’s move on to your Career Success Guide to Discovering a Career that Fits Your Personality

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