(Last Updated On: 21/03/2017)

Embarking on a job search can be agonizing, even more so if you have no idea of what you are good at. Maybe it’s your first time out of the gate, and you have no idea where to start. Or perhaps you’ve been out in the ‘real world’ for years, and you find yourself burned out and unsure of who you really are. Either way, figuring out what you’re good at can sometimes be a challenge. But it doesn’t have to be. Often times all that’s required is a little bit of digging. (Grab a pen, a notebook and a favorite beverage for this one….questions abound!)

Where Do You Spend Your Time?

Career paths can often be grouped into one of three main areas: PEOPLE, THINGS OR DATA. In order to find out what you’re good at, a place to start is to figure out where you spend the majority of your time.

People

Are you a social butterfly? Do you gain energy from being around others? When you’re with people, what are you doing? Are you listening or counseling them? Debating politics? Persuading them to see your point of view? If you enjoy being with or around people, what sorts of feedback do you get from them? Are you able to easily influence? Comfort? Communicate difficult or complicated messages? If you are happiest working with others, consider researching career fields focused on people.

Things

This is the ‘hands-on’ category. If you’re good at working with things, it generally means you enjoy working with tangible objects, and aren’t as worried about interacting with people. Do you spend most of your weekend time puttering in the garage fixing cars or in the kitchen baking double layer cakes? Maybe you enjoy designing logos, playing with software or creating works of art. If you find yourself lost in the work that you are doing with time flying by, chances are your preference is to work with things.

Data

If the idea of calculating just how many miles to the gallon you got on that last tank of gas gives you a feeling of excitement, you may fall into this last category. People good at data generally enjoy dealing with information in a variety of ways. Are you the person that volunteers to do Aunt Edna’s taxes because you like the process of sitting in front of a computer calculating numbers and gathering facts? Have you done budget forecasts for your daughter’s lemonade stand? Do you get almost as much satisfaction out of researching a vacation destination as actually visiting the city? You may be particularly good at data.

What Do Other People Ask You For?

Another way to figure out what you’re good at is to pay attention to the areas in which people turn to you for help. Often times we can’t see ‘the forest for the trees’ and this is one way to gain that important perspective. Does your family look to you to plan and organize all the social events and reunions? Perhaps your niece has asked you for help in catering her wedding and you jumped at the chance. Or, a neighbor is thinking about investing in the stock market and you excitedly spend your Thursday night gathering prospectuses for him. Pay attention to areas in which you help those around you, as these clues are usually right under our noses!

How Have You Succeeded in the Past?

Take a quiet afternoon with that pen and notebook, and think about the things you are most proud of accomplishing in your life so far. What were the steps you took to get there? What were the most enjoyable parts of the process? Chances are you succeeded because you used your natural strengths. Don’t discriminate in your thinking here…remember that success stories can be large or small. Figuring out what you’re good at is a lifelong endeavor, enjoy the process!

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Erika is a career development professional with over 15 years of experience in both corporate and higher education settings. Her current role is Assistant Director of Career Education at a private university in Chicago, Illinois. She also works with individuals on strengths discovery, interviewing skills and networking. She can be reached at careerplayground (at) gmail.com

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