So, you hate your job. Your career is going nowhere. You sit in your cubicle and think: "There's got to be more to life than this!"
I was there. And I thought the solution to my career woes was to switch careers. And I thought I had a tried and tested method to do so.
When I was a teenager, like a million other teens, I didn't know what I wanted to do when I "grew up". So, I tried to discover that by taking jobs in various industries I was interested in. I started working when I was 16. By the time I was 20, I had already worked as a customer service person, telemarketer, accounts clerk, copywriter and freelance journalist.
Copywriting and journalism was a tie, but in the end I chose journalism because I liked the idea of learning and experiencing new things every day.
I decided to follow the same method when I decided to switch careers. I chose what I thought was a great path for me, but two years into the experiment I had to conclude that this career path was not for me.
Trust me, the trial and error method is expensive and time consuming.
There's a better way: Find out what your strengths are and choose a career path based on that. Translation: Do what you're good at!
The VIA survey
The free VIA survey was developed by Dr. Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness and Flourish, and Dr. Christopher Peterson, author of A Primer in Positive Psychology. It aims to help you discover your character strengths.
My top 5 Character strengths are:
Spirituality: You have strong and coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe. You know where you fit in the larger scheme. Your beliefs shape your actions and are a source of comfort to you.
Love Of Learning: You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn.
Social Intelligence: You are aware of the motives and feelings of other people. You know what to do to fit in to different social situations, and you know what to do to put others at ease.
Humor: You like to laugh and tease. Bringing smiles to other people is important to you. You try to see the light side of all situations.
Leadership: You excel at the tasks of leadership: encouraging a group to get things done and preserving harmony within the group by making everyone feel included. You do a good job organizing activities and seeing that they happen.
Tim Rath of Strengthsfinders 2.0 fame offers a paid one. I bought the e-book, and was e-mailed a special access code. It took me nearly half an hour to complete the Clifton Strengthsfinder but it was worth it.
Learner: People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.
Communication: People who are especially talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.
Restorative: People who are especially talented in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.
Empathy: People who are especially talented in the Empathy theme can sense the feelings of other people by imagining themselves in others’ lives or others’ situations.
Adaptability: People who are especially talented in the Adaptability theme prefer to “go with the flow.” They tend to be “now” people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.
Interestingly, the VIA test and Strengthsfinder test has almost the same results. It's no wonder why journalism was such a good fit for me. Because "Learning" is my primary strength, I loved absorbing massive amounts of information on new topics and thanks to my "Communications" strength, I could translate what I learned into an easy-to-digest, pleasing format. A match made in heaven!
Once you've completed the tests ask yourself these questions:
- Does my current job allow me to use my strengths?
- If no, is there a way to allow me to do so? Perhaps you can transfer to another department or create a part-time business to fulfil that need?
- If you're in a role that you think doesn't allow you to use your strengths, what job do you think fit you better?
- What is the strategy you'd use to get that dream job?
Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton, who wrote the bestselling Now, Discover Your Strengths, believe than in order to be happy at you job and to get ahead, you'd have to
focus on your strengths, not improve on your weaknesses
It makes sense - why swim against the tide when you can run?