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The Ideal Career is not just Skills+Strengths-Weaknessess

Photo Credit:  BetterBizIdeas

Back in the day, when I was going through my own search for my ideal career I remember reading career countless books.  I was convinced the books had the answer, if only I found the right one!  At the time I spent a small fortune at the book store.  I keep these books in my office as a reminder of my personal quest to figure it out.

The one thing a lot of these books had in common was to name your skills, strengths and weaknesses.  Usually they would just have a blank page with Strengths and Weaknesses at the top and my job was to merely fill it in. Sounds so simple. At the time I felt like an idiot because I couldn’t do this well, and when I did complete the sheet it wasn’t at all helpful.  All I would have would be a list of random skills that left me more confused. I don’t take issue with asking for skills, strengths and weaknesses…I take issue with just asking me to list them out.  I take issue with the fact that it isn’t that easy to see ourselves, know ourselves and list out our whole being on a sheet of paper.

When I first meet a client the first question I ask them is “so tell me about all your ideas for careers–you know the ones that pop into your mind and then are quickly swallowed with ‘I can’t do that’ ”  Nine times out of ten my client gives me a knowing laugh and begins to list the careers they are thinking of (inevitably followed with all the reasons they can’t do that certain career) Nine times out of ten they have the skill set (or the skill set is easily obtainable through education or training) for the careers they are thinking of.  
Even careers they haven’t thought of that we discover together–come from the clients naming what they are interested in and what they enjoy doing.  Bottom line we enjoy doing stuff we are good at.  So yes, our skills and our strengths and weaknesses are a key to career.  But the concept of just listing them, on demand is overdone, overused and too limiting. Not to mention, REALLY hard to name.  
I had a client a few years ago who came to see me because she wanted to figure out what’s next–she liked her career in sales but she didn’t love it and her job was shifting into areas she didn’t really like.  As we talked about what she enjoyed doing in her spare time and the jobs she had thought of she brought up that frequently her clients would ask her for help in organizing their closets or kitchen spaces and she loved it! She loved taking a mess and making it neat and tidy–to the point where she found herself pretty well known in her circle of friends as ‘the organizer’.  I asked if she ever got paid for it and she responded with a shocked “oh no, who would pay for that it’s so EASY to do” to which I responded “yes, easy for you doesn’t mean it is easy for everyone it is a skill which you could get paid for”.  The amount of times such an example as this has happened in my office is countless.  This client and I then went on to work through her doubts and fears around owning her skills in organizing and getting paid to have such a business.

Bottom line it is too hard to see ourselves for just a set of skills, strengths and weaknesses. We are humans with fears, doubts, interests, and values.  When we are asked to merely list our skills and strengths I believe we lose the complicated wonderful mess that we are.  To find our ideal careers/work we need to look at all of us–our values, interests, energy levels, lifestyle, finances, education, support system, fears, doubts and skills.  We are more than a standardized test.  We are challenging, feeling, exciting, complex beings!  Thank God because that makes it so much more fun 🙂  

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