Can I tell you a secret? For a long time, I believed there was nothing I was specifically good at. Sure, I knew I liked to read and that I was okay with a pen, but I just didn’t have confidence in my ability to be better than most people at something. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that I do have innate talents and unique skills. And it wasn’t until I started using them that I realized how powerful they are to build a career you love. I know I’m not alone. Judging by the dozens of emails on the topic in my inbox, many of you are in the same boat as I was many months ago. So the question remains: how do you find out what you’re unique good at so you can use those skills to make a living doing what you love? Well, there are many ways to do just that.
The Two Types of Skills You Can HaveYou probably already know that there are two types of skills:
- Hard skills: Skills that are tangible. You can see hard skills play out (like playing a game of tennis).
- Soft skills: Skills you can’t touch or see. Skills like being a great listener.
6 Steps to Finding Out What Your Soft Skills AreNote: skills and personality traits are not one and the same. Personality traits are things like:
1. Take an AssessmentWhen I was starting a new job, I had to take an assessment which was designed to tell my new employer about my work personality. The assessment was very accurate and confirmed what I’d heard my entire adult life about my skills: I’m great at persuasion and influencing people, and not so great at having unpopular opinions and not being liked, in that these things make me very uncomfortable. Seeing the assessment brought it all together. When I finally owned what I am good at, I combined those soft skills with a hard skill (writing) and something I really care about (doing meaningful work) to start Unsettle, where I: Influence people through writing to do meaningful work.
2. Stop Looking WithinLooking within is great. It builds up our self awareness, and helps us get to know ourselves. But it’s not great when you don’t know what you’re skilled at. So stop looking within and start asking around. Who do you spend the most time with? Ask those few people who know you inside and out what they think your skills are. Just like a writer who has difficulty seeing the mistakes in their own work, we tend to have blind spots in our own skill sets.
3. Look Back in TimeThe answers you are looking for are probably right there in front of you. In #1, I told you about how I took an assessment for a new job and it confirmed what I’d already heard over and over again in other aspects of my life. When I saw the words “influence” and “persuasive” on my assessment, it brought me back to comments that people had made in greeting cards, conversation, and performance reviews which said the same. So go through your old performance reviews, letters, feedback reports, and even report cards from school. Usually our skills don’t go away – they only get stronger with practice – so don’t be afraid to look farther back.
4. Imagine You Were Given a ProjectMaybe it’s a work project or something in your personal life. Imagine you were responsible for the entire project:
- The idea phase
- Mapping it out
- Putting it together
- Working on it
- Executing it
- Measuring results.
5. What Comes Naturally to You?This may come as a surprise to you, but what comes naturally to you doesn’t come naturally to everybody. For instance, I have a friend that can make friends with everybody and anybody. It isn’t something she has practiced or tried to improve, it’s just something she has always been good at. I’m not that way. I have fewer, closer friends. So take a moment and think: what is easy for you that might not be for others?
6. What Are your Hard Skills?Often, it’s easier for us to identify our hard skills. Are you good at acting? Crafting? Public speaking? Now look at the soft skills behind these hard skills. For instance, say you are really good at playing the guitar. Precision is a soft skill required by guitar players, as is focus and the ability to listen.
4 Steps for Discovering Your Hard SkillsWhen you think of hard skills, you think of talents. Communicating with others, knitting, singing, math. These things are things that you’re good at doing. Hard skills are an excellent place to start when you’re trying to choose a blog topic, so you can start a blog that will come naturally to you (and will also be profitable). But sometimes, we come up against mental blocks so we have a hard time thinking about what we’re good at. Here are a few helpful hints:
7. Discover What You Don’t Already KnowYou could be the best underwater basket weaver in the entire world. But if you’ve never tried underwater basket weaving, you’ll never know whether it’s a skill of yours. So try your hand at different activities and skills and see what you enjoy doing. If you enjoy doing it, and you’re not good just yet, you can always become good…
8…But Don’t Stop If You Don’t Love it Right AwayYou love to do what you’re good at. And you’re good at what you practice. So don’t stop everything you aren’t immediately in love with. Practice a little first, improve, and make a habit out of doing it. Make a schedule and show up. And if it doesn’t feel natural even after you improve? It’s probably not right for you. Which brings me to the next question..
9. What do you love to do?We’ve already established that you tend to love what you’re good at. So let’s look at those things you already love to do:
- If you love to write, you’re probably good (or becoming good) at writing
- If you’ve always loved making crafts, you’re probably pretty good at it
- If you’ve always loved debating with others, you’re probably good at structuring arguments.