The clients in my first Find Your Fit group were predominantly folks who were employed but felt a need for a change. I come across this feeling frequently, but rarely do I find people who are ready to make something happen, to learn about themselves enough to find out what they can actually do to change their circumstances. So right off the bat, you know these folks in the Find Your Fit class were remarkable. They were taking action!
We’ve all heard the Gallup reports that tell us too much of our American workforce is not engaged at work or is even actively disengaged. When I heard this I was just fascinated, because I knew my own experience and couldn’t believe so many other people felt the same way! Why did people stay in a jobs they aren’t interested in? That don’t challenge them? WHY do we stay put when we actually feel significant dissatisfaction?
Well, it turns out that the status quo acts like gravity to keep us in our place. We may not like our place, but we like predictability. We like knowing what will make us angry. We like knowing the pattern of reactions that we ourselves and others will have. The thought of pursuing a change is far more difficult, so we will avoid those changes.
If you are starting to feel like you are ready to take action instead of avoiding change, you might be asking yourself what you actually can do other than what you’ve been doing.
I can remember feeling like I didn’t have any choice but to stay put because all I knew how to do was what I’d been doing.
In the Find Your Fit class with career-transition clients, I used two primary assessments to uncover hidden talents that may have gone unnurtured over the years: YouScience and StrengthsFinder.
Find out what your natural wiring equips you to do.
YouScience is unique in that it measures fourteen scientifically-measured aptitudes as well as six dimensions of interest and overlays them with the government’s occupational database to give the career explorer a sense for their “best fit” occupations. Most of the career counselors who use YouScience work primarily with high school students who are making their first steps toward the world of work, and the information about best-fit careers helps them in choosing high school classes and college majors.
However, I work mostly with second (or third+) career adults toward the middle of their life, and for them the idea of going back to school for 3-7 years is not as attractive or viable an option. In their case, the information from YouScience serves two primary purposes: first, to highlight capabilities they had not fully recognized before, and second, to validate their career choices and interests to date.
If you have a job with good benefits, you might want to stay there just because it pays to do so, but self-awareness allows the explorer to make shifts in their current job description so the job simply fits better, like having a suit tailored to fit you.
It was so much fun when our clients took the YouScience assessment, because they started to give themselves credit for capabilities they hadn’t really given much credence to before. I gave them a series of exercises, then, that helped them understand how their default wiring impacts what they do, how they do it, and how they feel about work. Important work!
We identified the aptitudes they felt the strongest resonance with, the ones they could see they need in order to feel satisfied at work. They also identified skills and knowledge they would like to develop in order to be able to use their aptitudes more frequently and more effectively on the job.
One of our Find Your Fit participants described her experience this way: “When I started the class, was dissatisfied at work (and fearful of losing my job). I’d been doing the same thing for 15 years and I was feeling “stuck.” I knew something was wrong but didn’t know how to fix it. The assessments and exercises helped me to see and take ownership of my natural aptitudes and talents. I started to recognize opportunities to do things that fit my strengths well. Very soon I was changing my approach to opportunities. I eagerly accepted tasks I would not have believed myself capable of before, succeeded at them and enjoyed them. The class gave me confidence in my ability to succeed at new and different work.”
Use common language to describe your capabilities.
The second assessment our clients took is the Clifton StrengthsFinder from Gallup. This one measures some aspects of the types of work a person may enjoy, but even more it measures how a person engages with their job and the elements of work that are most satisfying. The Gallup strengths typically show up in the way a person gets tasks done, the way they influence others or build relationships, and the way they think about what comes next.
The results of a Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment have two unfortunate weaknesses. First, they sound weird. People don’t intuitively understand what these words mean without some training. “My strengths are Input, Connectedness, Relator, Arranger, and Empathy!” If you offer this up in an interview with someone who hasn’t undergone StrengthsFinder training, your interviewer might just decide that your communication skills are lacking, and you don’t want that!
The second weakness totally drives me nuts. The StrengthsFinder assessment does not actually measure or identify strengths, but talents. Bzuh?
Here’s the thing. The good folks at Gallup know the difference between strengths and talents, and they teach this difference in their training courses. They will say up front that their assessment measures talents, not strengths. But the colloquial jargon that even they use for referring to talents is to call them “strengths,” which immediately muddies the waters.
According to Gallup, an actual “strength” comes from combining a talent with skills and knowledge. If your StrengthsFinder results identify that you have a talent for Winning Others Over (the one they call “WOO”—it’s an acronym; get it?), it only becomes a strength if you combine your “WOO” with knowledge about how to conduct an effective sales conversation or seduction, and then you practice it often enough that you become very good at it. The “WOO” talent means you are naturally inclined toward excellence in ‘winning others over,’ but it does not make you instinctively good at it.
I do use the StrengthsFinder assessment because it is a powerful tool for identifying those natural talents. But I encourage my clients to identify the ways in which the talent shows up for them and to talk about their actual strengths — which is how the talent shows up in them when combined with knowledge and skill. I also encourage them to describe their talents using common language rather than Gallup’s words for them.
Personal experience is the best assessment
If you are trying to figure out what you can do other than just what you’ve been doing, you can do like our Find Your Fit class participants and use journaling exercises to explore your past experience. When have you enjoyed yourself most? When have you felt like you were ‘in the zone’? Explore what was going on for you during those times and see what you can learn about what you need to feel good about the work you are doing. It’s going to be different for everyone.
In general, though, I think the biggest benefit class participants experienced came not from the assessments or exercises but from the sense of camaraderie, partnership, and accountability that came from exploring with others.
Toward the end of our class experience, my co-facilitator, Tracy Austin, had a series of amazing experiences. We all knew he was also job-hunting, and we were on the edge of our seats as he fielded first one option then another. (And it was such an inspiration to see a master at work, leveraging his own fantastic strengths to land his dream job.) The story became nail-bitingly suspenseful as he turned down a job offer in hopes that a job he wanted even more would come through with an offer. And they did! As did a completely unexpected cancer diagnosis.
Tracy has turned down the dream job now to focus on his health, and we are all watching and praying as his community rallies around him in support and love.
Trace, thank you for being such a beacon of inspiration, a fabulous model for how to do it, and for keeping it all just so very real. We are with you, my friend!
If you are interested in joining the next Find Your Fit: Career Clarity & Direction course, you can head over to the registration page to learn more. The next class starts January 17.