As a woman who has spent much of her career in male-dominated industries, I’ve often received feedback that compares me with the men around me. All too often, this feedback has been geared toward molding me into the predecessor for my role, rather than angling me toward where my potential lies. Some may recognize this feedback, whether received or delivered, in the form of, “You’re not ___ enough”: not vocal enough, confident enough, senior enough, detail-oriented enough, and the list could go on.
But what happens when enough is enough? By this, I don’t mean failing to progress your skills; rather, one should find out where one’s capabilities are “enough” – where your strengths lie – and identify a career that allows these strengths to shine. This change in perspective can elicit a huge impact and only requires a few steps to get there.
- First, one must self-assess. I’ve always been a huge proponent of self-awareness through personality inventories. There are many out there with ranging scientific validity, but any of them can increase self-awareness. Gallup’s StrengthsFinder is a personal favorite because it focuses solely on your top strengths. It helps test takers see what they are naturally good at and discover their own particular combination of strengths. In other words, what is your personal value proposition?
Once you take a test, or series of tests, spend time reflecting on and sharing your results. My biggest increases in self-awareness came after getting feedback from others and seeing how it differed from my own perception of myself.
- Second, look outward. Think about what kind of role would play to your strengths. Reflect on how your company, job, leadership and community can support you in getting to that role. For example, when I first took the StrengthsFinder assessment, all signs pointed toward “you are in the wrong career” – something I’d suspected for some time. While I didn’t need a test to tell me I needed a change, I did need a guide to get me on the right path.
At the time, that came in the form of a move into product management – a role in which I was able to design solutions that would solve human problems, which hits all my top strengths: strategic, achiever, individualization, futuristic and learner. More recently, this has evolved to managing a team of product managers – a role that allows me to play even more to my strategic and futuristic-thinking strengths.
- Finally, once you’ve discovered and applied your strengths, share and implement this type of exercise with your team. Encourage your teammates to play to their strengths, challenge their strengths and bolster their strengths every day. By encouraging those around you to adopt this practice, you’ll be instrumental in creating a supportive, motivating and engaging community.
Wherever you are on your self-awareness journey, begin it or continue it. I hope it is as effective for you as it was for me in finding a meaningful career and a home at work.
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