If you don’t know what you’re good at, how can you possibly become exceptional at it?
We all want to be successful, but if we don’t know where to target our efforts, it’s unlikely we’ll reach our full potential.
If you “sort of know” what you’re “kind of alright at”, that’s also not going to cut it. A prerequisite to your success is confidence in your abilities, so let’s take a step back and figure out what they are.
Defining Soft and Hard Skills
Yes, there are two types of skills. Soft skills are the characteristics which define how well you interact with people, for example:
Ability to work as a team
Note these are not personality traits, as they are all things you can get better at without changing your personality. If you want to pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses in terms of soft skills, MindTools offers a short test which you can take here.
Pinpoint Your Hard Skills
Hard skills on the other hand are specific skills which may be required for a particular job, for example computer programming, accounting, biology or math. These are all skills which can be learnt, but ideally you don’t want to go study something you don’t already have a bit of a natural flair for.
Let’s get started. To get the most out of this exercise you may want to grab a piece of paper and write your answers down, then come back to it again in a couple of days, as you might think of more to add.
1. What do you do easily that other people struggle with?
It could be that you’re the first person people call when their computer has a seizure, or when they’re trying to choose between 10 different shades of white paint for their living room. Don’t be humble. If you throw the best dinner parties, or know how to make pink and red look good together, write it down.
2. What things make you feel drained? What things make you feel energized?
If planning your vegetable patch makes you hop and skip with excitement, write it down. If solving mathematical problems makes your toes curl, make a note of that too. Generally when we engage in activities that match our strengths we feel energized, firstly because we’re enjoying what we’re doing, and secondly because we’re succeeding at it.
3. What were you like as a kid?
Little kids are uninhibited, they say what they think, and do what they feel. What did you love to do as a kid? What did your school report cards say about you? What competitions did you win? It might be a long time ago, but you are still you, and this might offer you some clues.
4. What compliments do people give you?
Sometimes we’re blind to our own gifts, or we take our skills for granted, and don’t even see them as gifts. Not everyone can do what you do.
5. Try something that interests you
The final test to see if you’re talented in a specific area is to go ahead and try it for yourself. Don’t just try it once, give it a fair shot. See if you enjoy it, see if you’re interested in taking the next step, and learning more about it. Who knows, you might become the best balloon sculpture artist the world has ever seen. For short 6 week and full semester positions in virtually every field, take a look at our placements page.
6. Ask for advice from near and far
Ask your mom, dad or grandma, “if my happiness was in your hands, and you had to choose my career, what would it be?” Their answers might surprise you. Next step is to take it a little further afield and make an appointment with your college career center, and/or email one of our career advisers, but whatever you do, make sure you seek outside advice.
You have talents and you have skills, it’s all a matter of identifying them, and then working to improve them. Now go “Be Exceptional” at whatever you’re good at!