You’ve seen all the Pinterest quotes. You’ve screenshot-ed several Instagram stories about it. You’ve puzzled over this idea while also aspiring to embody it: “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” We are constantly told to do what we love. But what if we don’t know what we love?
What no one ever says in all the pressure to “hustle” and be a “girl boss” is: how the heck do you figure out what you’re really good at? And then how do you turn that into a job? A job you could really love?
Here are some tried and true tips, suggestions, exercises and places to start sorting what you’re great at and could turn into a really amazing business or job:
- What are your go-to survival skills? What life skills have been your go-to when things get tough? What skills have gotten you out of jams, helped you excel when you had too much work on your plate in college or a lot of family stress? Those go-to skills are an indicator of what you’re good at. Even if you’ve never had a job that utilized these skills, identify them and start to think about what jobs would tap into these skills that you possess in spades.
- What work comes easiest/do you always tackle first? Think back over to all the work you’ve done so far in your life. Of all the projects you’ve been a part of, all the clients you’ve helped, all the meetings you’ve been in, all the presentations you’ve put together – what do you enjoy the most? We gravitate towards the work we know we can deliver easily because it comes naturally to us. What parts of your work would you do all day if you could? Those are your strengths.
- What work do you wish you never had to do again? Though every job has parts we don’t enjoy, as you think back through all the work you love, it’s just as important to think about work you really would prefer never to do again. Part of figuring out what you’re good at is understanding what you aren’t good at. Hate spreadsheets and accounting? Good to know. Not a fan of data and statistics? That tells you a lot. Terrified when you have to write a brief? Speak in front of a group of peers? These are all indicators of work you don’t want to do and are likely not as good at.
- Do you regularly get a certain compliment and brush it aside? Think back over your life and interactions with others From when you were young all the way up to right now. Is there a through line of the type of complements you receive that you tend to ignore? We brush off complements for things we know we are good at or find unremarkable in ourselves. Whatever those qualities are – we brush them off because they come so easily to us. Figure out what those are and you’ll be closer to knowing what you’re not just good at, but great at.
Many of us have ended up in jobs we don’t love and we aren’t even aware that part of the reason we don’t love our jobs is because we don’t use our strengths on the job. Or we only use a fraction of our strengths. And if we are promoted for the other bits? We end up doing yet more work we don’t love. And once you are at a certain salary and position earning a great living but doing work you don’t love it’s really hard to stop for a moment, listen to yourself, and realize you aren’t happy because you are doing work that is really hard for you as it doesn’t play to your strengths.
So instead of following along with the “find work you love” quotes and theories, I’m a firm believer in sorting what you are really good at first and then using that list to inform the kind of work you want to do for income. Because no one loves a job that forces them to do work all day they struggle with. Excelling at work is a part of “loving” it.
I’ve spent far too much of my career doing high-paid work that I can’t stand. Once I understood my strengths and what I’d really prefer to do all day, it shifted the entire game for me. I want the same for you.
Get out there and figure out your strengths!