Figuring Out What You’re Good At

For one reason or another, I’ve continually been hired for jobs that are outside of my talents for the last eight years or so. My time in the military has provided me with the ability to adapt myself to positions that are not necessarily natural to me, and that has allowed me to be somewhat successful in these roles, but one of the biggest demands from my employers is something I have always struggled with: attention to detail. Thus far I have been able to make things work, but I have personally reached the limit of where my ability to adapt to something I’m not good at can progress.

There are many reasons that I struggle with this, but mostly it is my impatience that causes me to have a hard time with detail oriented jobs. As one of the first in the millennial “instant gratification” generation, I straddle the line between the old way of doing things and the new. I was brought up with traditional work values, but my attention deficit makes it difficult to function effectively in that sphere. It is only because the discipline I learned as a Marine that I’m able to push through it.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I am currently staring at this massive blank wall of uncertainty regarding my career. The end of the road of my current path appears to be approaching and I am uncertain of what to do next. I don’t particularly wish to continue trying to push that wall further down the path, adding more and more of the things I’m not good at to my day. My hope is to find another path that branches off of the road I’m on now that takes me toward something that I’m not only talented at, but also provides me with a sense of meaning.

So what does all of this have to do with you, dear reader? Partly it is to share something that most of us either don’t think about or are afraid to admit. No one wants to think that they aren’t good at their job. I would imagine that most people come into work every day doing jobs they don’t like and convince themselves that they do it because they can’t do anything else. We don’t realize that we’re not any good at what we do; we just barely scrape by. There is no satisfaction in that sort of work.

The other part is to help us to start to recognize this toxic thought process and to start really looking at ourselves from a different angle. Every one of us has something that we’re predisposed toward doing. The hard part is figuring out what that is. It requires trying different things until we find something that just clicks for us. After that it’s as easy as looking for opportunities to turn that into a career.

The hard part is that the longer you take to figure that out, the harder it is to get into the career you want. As you age, it becomes harder and harder to shift gears into something else. It might be the salary requirement that you’ve built up over the years after buying a house and a car and establishing a lifestyle you want. It could be children that require your support and you just can’t afford to start over. For many, a big hurdle could be your age, because most employers aren’t looking to hire people in their mid life to come into entry level positions.

All of these are reasons that I have that make it difficult for me to get into something new. I can’t really afford to take a pay cut, my kids need my help, and I’m old enough now that employers will view me as more of a liability in a new career than an asset. This means then that if I’m to have any real chance of moving into something more suited to my individual talents, I’m going to have to find a way to do it on my own. It will likely mean starting my own business. But what kind of business? What am I good at that people will buy?

Unfortunately for me, figuring that out will be a full time job all on its own, in addition to whatever day job I’m doing. I’ve never been good at doing more work than what I have to, but it’s finally reached the point where I don’t have much of a choice anymore. I’m going to have to start trying different things until I find that thing which makes me feel like I can make a life out of it. As I’ve stated before, I really hope it’s writing.

What are you good at? Do you know, or are you still figuring it out? What steps can you take today to start down the path of learning what your talents are? It’s one of the hardest things to do, but if you can learn to take your natural abilities and turn them into a valuable service, you will not only provide a life for yourself and your family, but you will also find the satisfaction in your work that so many of us are desperately searching for.

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