This is the first post of a blog series by guest blogger Laura Sly.
There’s a missing piece in most people’s strategy for finding work they will love.
Briefly put, many of us (particularly in the not-for-profit sector) feel that our work needs to “mean something”. We need to believe that what we’re doing is making a difference and improving people’s lives. Many of us prioritise this over choosing a job where the main or only real reward is financial. This is good news. Martin Seligman (in his book Flourish) is amongst many in the field of Positive Psychology who recognise that one of the prerequisites for happiness is “meaning”. We need to feel attached to something bigger than ourselves, some sort of “cause”.
Whether we have been at work for 20 years or 6 months most of us also know that to enjoy it we need to be good at the role we’ve chosen. Most organisations use competency frameworks to clarify the connection between their overall aim and our place in achieving it. What is it we need to do, and to what standard? Performance appraisals and ongoing supervision help us to identify where things are going well and where we need to develop further in order that we are “good at” our job.
So, if most of us have attached ourselves to a cause that has meaning for us, and we are pretty good at our role, why don’t we love it? And why do we get so tired or bored or overwhelmed or ill? Why doesn’t it love us back?
The missing piece is identifying and using our “strengths”. Strengths are unlike skills and competencies because they are a part of our personality – they haven’t been “stuck on” to the outside of us through training or experience! They are within us. When we use our strengths we feel energised and replenished; we feel we are in “flow” and we enjoy getting things done this way. When we are using our strengths in the best way possible, what we do can appear effortless to others and we might receive comments such as “you’re a natural!”
Some examples of strengths are: compassion, optimism, critical thinking, and results focus. There are many more, but these are just to get you thinking: does anyone spring to mind (maybe it’s you?) that gets really focused and energised when they’re in one of these modes? Currently, do they (or you?) get many opportunities to use this energy and focus, or does it seem a little untapped?
The “flip-side” is that if we are required to use one of these frequently at work and it is a non-strength or even a “weakener” for us, we are likely to become drained as it will demand energy from us without replenishing it. We might be able to perform well enough (we have the skills and are competent), but it will come at a cost.
I’ll be sharing more soon about how identifying and using your strengths can transform your experience of your current role or finding a new one. In the meantime, see if you can pay attention to what truly energises you at work, rather than just what you are “good at”. Ask yourself “What am I good at that is good for me?”
Laura Sly works with individuals and organisations to help them improve wellbeing as well as performance. One way she does this is by sharing simple tools (including Strengthscope®) that identify people’s strengths, and exploring ways to use them more effectively.
Twitter: @lausly Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.ylsltd.com
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