By Gary M. Jordan, Ph.D. www.YourTalentAdvantage.com
Most people have a pretty good idea of what they don’t do well. In this culture we get ample feedback about where we don’t measure up. From academic evaluation to job performance reviews, the main focus is on areas in need of improvement not on areas of competence and talent. But it is discovering areas of natural skill, things that people have the innate ability to excel at, that will provide them with meaning, purpose, and passion for life.
Those returning to the workforce or preparing for their first real job are more likely than not to be focused on where they fall short. While it is true that they may have many areas in need of improvement, focusing on these at the beginning is a sure way to sap self-confidence and damage self-esteem.
The challenge is to help people achieve their dream of finding employment that they will be good at and enjoy. Interviewing for a job with confidence and knowledge of what one does naturally well is a great way to start out on the right foot and dramatically improve the chances of being hired.
When people have the opportunity to perform their natural skills on a daily basis as part of what they do they find more satisfaction in their work, bring more energy and enthusiasm to work tasks, and are more effective and productive on the job.
Skills discovery can be a challenge for those not used to thinking about them. As someone preparing people to re-enter the workforce, you can play a vital role in orienting them towards recognizing their strengths by asking them some simple but powerful questions:
1. What is something that you do that others compliment you on that you think is no big deal?
One of the great ironies of our natural skills is that because they come easily to us, we think that everyone is capable of doing them equally as well. This question can easily help people begin to recognize how they are ignoring a skill that is readily available and acknowledged by others. It gently challenges beliefs about value and reframes the concept of natural skills.
2. What is something that you know or do well that others don’t get no matter how many times you explain it to them.
This question gets people to focus on what they are capable of that they uniquely bring to a job. A sure sign you have discovered a natural skill is finding something that you take for granted that others are incapable of doing or do only with great effort. It is so simple for you to do that it is difficult to believe that others can’t. The reason it is “simple” is because it is a natural skill for you and not for them! Understanding it and performing it is part of who you are. It is innate.
3. What are three skills that you would like to use every day?
Those things that we like to do on a daily basis most often give us satisfaction because they are based on one of our natural skills. Find what someone likes to do, and you will find a natural skill at the core. You don’t have to stop at three! The more natural skills people are aware of, the more easily they will be able to know what work they will enjoy doing and to evaluate possible employment positions for a good fit.
As you explore these questions you will change how who you are working with thinks about themselves and their talents and skills. They may find these questions challenging to answer at first, but when they recognize that they already have valuable skills that are distinctively theirs; their ability to find others increases. Skill discovery is an on-going process that becomes easier the more it is practiced.