This is the third blog post of a series written by our guest blogger Laura Sly.
In the first part of this series, I described the “missing piece” for most people when they’re thinking about how to feel happier at work, or looking for a new job. I called the post How to Find a Job you’ll Love (that will love you back). This missing piece is knowing your “strengths”. Knowing your strengths means that you are better equipped to enjoy your current role more; or to make a wise choice about your next one.
To recap, strengths are more than what you are simply good at (I’m sure you can think of things you are good at that bring you little joy!).When you’re using your strengths you feel good. “Good at and good for you” is an easy way to remember this. They are integral to your personality and so work differently to skills you have learned along the way. They are part of who you are, and energise you when you use them effectively.
We looked at compassion last time. Let’s use the strength of optimism this time to explore how knowing and managing your strengths equips you to love your job more (and how it will show you more love in return):
If optimism is one of your significant strengths you will be energised by situations where you can show how you remain positive about the future and how you can influence it to your (or your team’s /organisation’s) advantage. When there is uncertainty around the corner, or change to prepare for, you come into your own, and the more energised you become.
Chances are that if optimism is one of your key strengths, you will also spend some time contemplating how other people seem so fearful or despondent or negative; and don’t seem to see the opportunities the future presents.
You feel good about yourself when you’re using your optimism strength. This is useful to know.
It might be helpful to remember that whilst many not-for-profits have their very foundations in optimism and the belief that things can get better, your day-to-day experience of work is likely to bring you into contact with people who struggle to remain positive or tend to focus on risks and negative outcomes when presented with a new situation or idea. Look for opportunities to use your optimism strength regularly. You could champion the benefits of a new course of action when others in your team are focusing on the downsides. You could take on a piece of work that others might feel is unlikely to succeed, because your optimism will give you energy to see it through despite the obstacles that are putting other people off. You could pair up with a colleague for whom optimism isn’t a strength so that you both gain a more balanced view by hearing each other’s perspective.
You can’t be too optimistic, right? Well…from what we know about strengths, you can! Effective use of strengths so that they work for you and others includes knowing when enough is enough. Because our strengths often become our “default” setting, we often overuse them – too intensely and/or in the wrong situation.
Let’s see how this could play out with optimism. The downside to not seeing the downside is that you can be unrealistically positive in some situations. You might miss the risks so neglect planning to mitigate them; or act in a manner that other people see as naive or lacking realism. Being overly-optimistic might make others feel “jittery” as they feel you’re missing something and racing ahead without examining pitfalls.
The good news is that keeping any eye on how, when, and why you are using your strengths means that you can get the balance right. When are they working for you and others – and what are your warning signs that it’s all out of whack? Learning to use your strengths mindfully and effectively will have an immediate impact on how much you love your job (and how much it loves you back). Try it! Try it in your current role; or look for a new role which gives you greater opportunities to use your strengths.
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. Her “significant 7” strengths are: Compassion, Detail Orientation, Developing Others, Emotional Control, Empathy, Self Improvement, Strategic Mindedness
firstname.lastname@example.org @lausly www.ylsltd.com
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