A quandary I find many people have is identifying their natural talents.
They can tell you all about the skills that have acquired. We are paid to exercise our skills, which may or may not be built on top of our natural talents.
If you are not sure of the difference between talents and skills read my post Talents versus Skills – Do you know the difference?
I have been taking myself through a few exercises. I have found it quite interesting and thought-provoking.
What did you love to do as a kid?
Reflect back on your childhood and what did you do that once you got started you could not stop. It may not be something you did very often but it was intoxicating once you got started.
It took me a while but the one thing I could do for hours and hours as a child was to assemble jigsaw puzzles. My mother did not buy them very often. When she did they were very addictive.
Dig out a piece of paper and ruminate on this for a while.
I developed a method for solving jigsaw puzzles. The borders came first and then I would find distinctive patterns in different sections of the puzzle to work on. Slowly but surely the sections would start to flow together or attach to the edges. I am a natural with patterns.
I now can see that whenever I had manageable puzzles to solve in my career I was successful.
By the way, I wanted to solve the entire puzzle and not just one piece!
What did you love to do as a kid?
What do love to do as an adult?
You may have to go back to when you first became an adult. Look for a common theme in your career when you have been really happy. What was really enjoyable?
Dig out that piece of paper and ruminate again. This might even take you longer!
The common theme for myself is helping people. Whether it was running a help desk for mechanical engineers, developing and delivering technology training, presenting product plans to customers, teaching Algebra to high school students or providing career direction to baby boomers, it has always been around teaching, training or coaching.
An exercise I have my clients work on is to ask 3 people you know from work and 3 people you know in your personal life and ask: “Please give me 3-5 words or phrases that describe me.” You may also want to ask, “What am I good at?”
You will have to listen to their responses and differentiate between talents versus skills. Most of the time they will tell you about your skills.
What are your natural talents?
What skills have you acquired to complement your talents?
For many of us, we acquired a lot of skills that did not complement our natural talents. I know how to program in a lot of different programming languages. All of those skills, although valuable, I have not exercised in years and really do not want to use. I was paid very well early in my career for those skills but quickly burned out.
Programming requires working intensely for long periods of time but I have a very short attention span. I can do that but …. it sucks the life out of me.
Just because you CAN do something does not mean you SHOULD do something!
I have acquired a lot of skills in the area of training development and delivery and I am excellent in both. However, developing training is much more aligned with my natural talents than delivering the same training.
I am an excellent presenter and trainer but it does not come naturally. I am a closet introvert.
My full-time job for IBM for almost 10 years was as a public speaker and trainer. I honed that skill such that I spoke to audiences of all sizes 100-200 times a year.
I can now see that when I made a career pivot to be a high school math teaching in my late forties it was ordained that I would eventually burn out. My teaching skills are not tied to my natural talents. I was phenomenally good at it and it was incredibly rewarding but it sucked the life out of me.
What are your skills? Take out that piece of paper again.
Once you have completed the list answer the following question.
Which of those skills complement your natural talents.
I previously wrote a blog post titled – Larry Bird, Winners, Talents and Skills
I quoted the great basketball player, Larry Bird – A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals
What goals have you attained in this manner?
What skills do you have that are not aligned with your natural talents?
Which of these skills do you want to leave behind in your 2nd half of life? If you are not sure, please read What Skills Will You Use in the 2nd Half of Life?Marc Miller
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Judy Anderson says
These are two very good articles! Well said.
Judy Anderson, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
The talent versus skills is the most read post on my website. I will be writing a post on when your skills and talents are misaligned in the coming weeks.
Hey Marc, nice post on finding your natural talents. When I think about it, I always liked numbers. Now, as an adult, I am talking my CPA certification exam soon and this really makes me feel like I’m doing something I’m meant to do. Thanks for the great thought provoking questions to head my career in the right direction.
Congratulations on following through on getting your CPA.