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I’ve taken two career aptitude tests in my life.
I took one of them about seven years ago, which said I should be an anthropologist.
Like, fossils and stuff?
I took the second one about three months ago. It turns out the first test was valid–this one also said I should be an anthropologist.
I did take an introductory course to anthropology in college to fulfill a credit. But I remember dreading the class because it was so dull and I had absolutely no interest in the subject matter.
So how in the world can my answers to these career aptitude tests result in this conclusion? I can hardly sit through a 50-minute lecture on the topic, much less devote my life to it!
I’ve now spent 14 years in the professional arena– nine years in marketing and five years in social work. Am I supposed to start over?
After doing a little research, it turns out the answer to that is no. I’m actually already on the right track with my career.
Because while these tests do give you one answer to the question, “What should my career be?” You should really be focusing on the why of the result the test gives you.
When taking these tests, a lot of people are looking for a short-cut to find the perfect career in which they will naturally excel and discover their passion.
And, yes, these tests can offer ideas of possible careers that might align with your strengths–but that is what the test is measuring–your strengths. It’s not always informative about what you should do, but after reading a job description, you will likely understand why you were matched with the profession. The results of these tests can get you to consider how your strengths align with a certain career path and where in the professional world your skills are valued.
All this to say, you need to know what your strengths are to accurately match them with your life’s purpose and long-term goals.
In this article, we are going to look at 5 steps you can take to help find your strengths in life, which will certainly help you correct your path if you feel like your everyday tasks are continuously a struggle to complete.
But first, let’s take a quick look at why it’s important to know your strengths.
What You Will Learn
Why Do You Need to Know Your Strengths?
Understanding your strengths means you can identify how you can uniquely benefit a team and engage in activities that allow you to feel capable, secure, and motivated. Studies have shown that the more often Americans use their strengths every day, the less likely they are to experience negative feelings such as worry, anger, sadness–and even physical pain. And, with 57% of Americans reporting to not spend the bulk of their days exercising their strengths, our population is missing out on self-confidence, productivity, and hope for the future.
What’s more, about two-thirds of American adults don’t know what their natural talents are. Knowing your strengths gives you a sense of self-awareness that helps you appreciate personal traits that you may otherwise undervalue.
When you know your strengths, you’re less likely to compare yourself to others because you recognize that each person has something different to offer, so while one person may be better at doing something than you are, you’re confident that you have traits that make you a valuable part of a team as well.
Once you know your strong suits, you can appropriately align your goals, which increases productivity, motivation, success, and engagement, which will help you continue to thrive.
Let’s take a look at 5 steps you can take to find your strengths in life.
5 Steps to Find Your Strengths in Life
1. Take a Strengths Test
Just like there are career aptitude tests you can take, there are many assessments that can help you find your strengths. These assessments are typically quantitative and are often used by mental health professionals to evaluate someone’s strong suits.
There are a growing number of strengths tests, especially given the ease of accessibility with the internet. But this also means that it can be challenging to determine which strengths tests are reliable and valid–and therefore worth your time. Here are a few of the most popular options:
Hopefully, this brief breakdown of three of the most popular strengths tests helps you identify at least one that you will try. But if none of these are convincing…
2. Take a Personality Test
16 Personalities is a free personality test that will help you learn how your personality affects your life. Like the strengths tests, you will respond on a seven-point Likert scale depending upon how much you agree to statements such as, “Seeing other people cry can easily make you feel like you want to cry too” and “At social events, you rarely try to introduce yourself to new people and mostly talk to the ones you already know.”
At the end, your test results will reveal which one of the following 16 personalities your answers represent the most:
Each of the five letters you’re given after completing the test (INTJ-A, ESTJ-T, etc.) correlates to a certain trait, and each combination represents one specific type group.
Your results can tell you how people who have a specific personality type commonly behave–however, there is not one measured personality type that definitely acts in only a certain manner (i.e. there can be a big difference between two iNTJs).
The information gathered in this test is meant to be a guide to help you understand yourself and potentially evoke some type of growth.
3. Ask People
Ask for feedback from the people that you trust–your friends, family, co-workers, mentors, etc. about what they think your strengths are. Other people might recognize some of your strengths that you haven’t noticed that you have. Perhaps there is something you’re good at doing that you assume everyone is good at doing so you didn’t know it was a strength.
For example, let’s say you’re a great writer, but you work in an industry where writing is a big part of your job and everyone you work with is a talented writer. Therefore, you assume you’re an average writer. But what you may not realize is that, when comparing your skills with a group of everyday people, you’re a fantastic writer. Others who don’t have this skill may be able to remind you of this.
You can also benefit from an outside perspective because many of us think of our strengths strictly in “professional” terms. You may recognize you’re great with time management or prioritizing your tasks–but don’t forget that your strengths aren’t limited to your career. A close friend might note that you’re brave or resilient, or they’ve always admired your ability to find just the right thing to say when someone is upset. These are things that may not surface when you’re at work.
Asking other people about your strengths is a qualitative technique you can use to discover some of your niche talents that don’t show up in a structured environment. Your loved ones may be able to identify some subjective strengths that are only displayed under specific circumstances.
Talking to other people may end up surprising you when you learn that one of your personal qualities is remarkable. Someone may refer to your dependability or generosity after recalling an incident where you dropped what you were doing to help them in an emergency. While this strength may not be highlighted on an average day, that doesn’t mean it’s not a significant part of who you are.
4. Pay Attention
In addition to paying attention to what you enjoy doing, be mindful of times during the day where whatever task you’re doing comes naturally to you. Every time this happens, think about the broad skills that you’re using at that time to complete whatever is at hand and notice any recurring themes. And, with some natural talent in any area, you can grow your strengths in time. Being familiar with some of your natural talents can help you recognize where you’re willing to work just a bit harder to become an expert.
What things do you do that you find yourself enjoying the process and not just the outcome?
For example, if you enjoy writing, you may find that you have a lot of creativity, you’re good at paying attention to detail, and you can communicate in unique–yet effective–ways. These are universal strengths that can be used in any area of your life– both personal and professional–so it would be beneficial to apply these realized strengths to your other tasks.
In this case, if you’re creative and have good attention to detail, you may find that you’re really good at graphic design or another type of creative work that requires a refined sense of imagination that can also showcase these strengths. In this case, knowing your strengths can help you find new activities that you enjoy.
Throughout the day, also pay close attention to how long it takes you to complete each thing on your to-do list, which can clue you in on your levels of focus and productivity as well. Think back on your day to determine times when you were concentrating and engaged and look for common motivators in those situations.
On the other hand, make a list of the tasks that felt like they dragged on and on and depleted your energy. Then you can either try to avoid being in these situations or you can work on those skills. Either way, you will know these activities aren’t where your natural strengths lie.
5. Try New Things
Wouldn’t it be a waste if your greatest strength was doing something that you rarely or never do? Gaining self-awareness about your strengths really depends on your life experiences, so you need to try as many new tasks, hobbies, and activities as you can.
Seek out opportunities for both personal and professional development and be proactive in asking to work on things that are outside of your typical skill set. Take classes, find a hobby, shadow your coworkers, learn new skills, and get involved with new roles. Again, you might be surprised at the strengths you discover by taking risks and trying new things.
And if there is something you don’t like…stop. Or if someone asks you to do something that doesn’t take advantage of your strengths, politely decline. Of course there are some things in life that you have to do, but don’t feel guilty about stopping an elective task or activity. Think about some things you want to give up right now and create a plan to let those activities go.
Final Thoughts on Finding Your Strengths in Life
After discovering your strengths, you may be inclined to push them aside, thinking, “I’ve mastered that!” and move on to trying to improve your weaknesses. But the truth is, while it’s good to work on improving areas that could use some development, focusing on fine-tuning your strengths should always take priority.
Make it a goal to spend some quality time on the tasks and activities that you do well. This is where your potential lies, so this is where your time and effort can be spent to produce great outcomes for the future.
Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.