Reverse Engineer Your Career

Puzzle cubeReverse Engineer Your Career: Focus on Who You Are Then on What You Do

I love this quote. “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” Joseph Campbell

What disappoints me is seeing people, maybe even you, miss a significant opportunity to bring this quote to life by focusing on being who they are outside of work, but not at work. At work you focus on skills, techniques, protocols and procedures, in gaining experience and moving up the organizational chart.

Your work can serve as a laboratory to experiment with how you maximize the best of who you are – your character- through the medium of what you do, sometimes in unexpected ways. It is an opportunity to cultivate the natural strengths you have but don’t always use, either because you don’t see them as the powerful strengths they are, or because there is not an obvious way to use them.

So you under perform. And it is easy to point to underdeveloped skills or a lack of experience as the reason for under performing.

It’s Not Lack of Skill Or Experience That Limits Your Performance  

Most of the time it is not lack of experience or skills that prevents a person from performing at their best. You can develop skills and gain experience. It is whether your innate strengths are well matched to your professional role.

When your natural abilities to perform specific functions, motivational drivers and sense of contribution do not align with your job you will never be a “top -performer”. Nor will you ever be fully engaged with your organization and its success.

That is a drag.

You Have Skills, But Do They Work in The Environment?   

Take my client Ted, he’s in the process of reinventing his career. He has developed valuable skills over the course of his working life. He can make sales. He can bring together a team. He’ll hustle, roll up his sleeves and do what is needed to get the job done. The problem was he was putting his skills to work in environments that simply did not support what is best in him. He felt he as a “wearing a mask”, and that constrained him and limited his thinking about what might be a next career move.

Ted came to coaching thinking “I need to just pick areas (of work) and apply for jobs. This always frustrates me because I feel like there is nothing I fit in.” What he’s come to discover is ”

self-awareness of my (signature) strengths helps to focus the search, because now I believe they are strengths and it’s possible to illustrate these with examples from my work. This will help me shape my next position into something where I can put forward my best freely.”  

Your Best Work Happens When Your Character, Skills and Environment Overlap 

By taking a close look at his character strengths- his personal brand if you like, we’ve been able to name concrete examples of how he’s used these in past positions as a way to for him talk about specific outcomes the results because of what he naturally brings to his work.

    • Forgiveness has helped him be successful in conflict management and team cohesion, he can let bygones by bygones, hold people accountable and that fosters productive relationship with colleagues, staff and customers.
    • His social and emotional intelligence helped repair a rift in a client relationship due to a colleague’s blunder with an important account. By taking the time to sincerely understand the client customer’s point of view and be transparent in his desire to repair the relationship be was able to rebuild trust and ensured continuing repeat business.
    • Love of Learning has lead to him develop a deep knowledge base about a variety of topics and to do the research needed in order to make well considered decisions. The super fast based work environments he was in did not always encourage him to leverage this trait.

The bonus for examining Ted’s strengths with an objective way is now “I’m considering the types of tasks, responsibilities and environment I want, as well as the fields I am interested in.”

As Ted explores possible jobs, he’ll be better positioned to assess which would make a good fit for who he is, as well as, what can do. The company that hires him will be lucky, because they’ll have someone primed to remain engaged for years to come.

Reverse Engineer Your Career: Focus on Who You Are Then on What You Do

In his words, he’s “reverse engineering my career move” by valuing what comes naturally for him in place of going after a job primarily because of the title or salary. He’ll be able to leverage his skills and experience, in addition to his strengths because he will not be wasting time smothering what comes naturally to him. In the meantime he’s using his current position as a place to experiment in maximizing his signature strengths.

So how well matched is your work to your character strengths?

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