“I don’t know what I’m good at”

Do you know what you are good at? And I don’t mean “kinda” good at or “sorta” good at. I am also not referring to the things you “think” you are good at (like driving) when in reality, you are merely average (sorry to break it to you – your driving isn’t really that good). I’m referring to what you are really good at. I’m talking about those abilities or skills that you possess that are rooted in your hard-wiring giftedness and your hard work – that wonderful combination of talents and time translating into what we call strengths. More importantly, are you using the things you are good at (your strengths and talents) at your job?

Strengths matter. If we know what it is we are good at and we use those abilities every day, in addition to leading to greater success, it also leads to greater efficiency and greater enjoyment of what we do. Work feels “easy.” In other words, if you ever want satisfaction on the job AND work / life balance, you can’t get there without knowing and maximizing your strengths.

Over the next month, we’ll be tackling the following big questions as it relates to discovering one’s strengths:

  • Are you using your strengths at your job? What are the signs?
  • Do you know what your strengths are? How do you find your strengths?
  • How do you plan your work and your life based on your strengths?

Over the years of working with thousands of individuals in both clinical and professional settings, what’s become clear to me are the following:

  1. Everyone has talents and most of us have discovered some our talents and translated those into strengths (through time, effort and hard work) but few of us have discovered all of our talents
  2. Most people aren’t consciously aware of or able to label their talents and strengths. We use them, but we are largely unaware of their presence and never call them out by name
  3. Most people don’t use their strengths on the job
  4. As a result of #2 and #3, many of us take jobs, or worse, get promoted into jobs that actually prohibit us from using our strengths (the roles require daily tasks that aren’t our strengths)
  5. Work doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it if we intentionally use our strengths every day

So, get your thinking caps on. Discovering and maximizing the usage of your strengths is a tough but worthy puzzle to attempt to solve. After all, who doesn’t want happiness, enjoyment, fulfillment, efficiency and work / life balance? If you answered “No” to that question, we’ve got bigger problems on our hands.

A note from Brandon
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  1. Brandon Smith says:

    Getting to $40K immediately without experience in a field or a degree may be tricky. That being said, here are some options:

    – Car sales – in the right environment, a degree may not be required and if good, you could make good money quickly
    – Luxury retail – working at a higher-end luxury retailer that has a solid commission plan could easily net you $40K… if you are good
    – Home services – jobs like pest control, heating and air maintenance, etc… can pay well (admittedly I don’t know if they hit the $40K threshold), don’t typically require college degrees but may require some training or certification
    – Other options – anything that has a degree of danger (as you found with the oil fields) or is unionized will also tend to start you off at $40K. Also consider starting your own business. Home service businesses (lawn care, landscaping, maintenance, pool cleaning services, etc…) could be easy to start with a little capital and after a few years of growing your customer base could bring home more than $40K.

    Now, depending on your risk tolerance, if you want more stability, investing in training and/or a degree could get you and of the following jobs that would clear $40K:
    – Electrician
    – Plumber
    – Medical technician
    – Teacher
    – Etc…

    I hope that helps. Let me know what you ended up choosing and good luck!


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  3. micah says:

    I am 30 years old, and I have no idea what I’m good at. I have some college under me, planning on finishing an associates in graphic design, and I’m not even sure that’s what I wanna do.
    One thing I know I’m interested in is weather, or meteorology. I could study that, but that’s a LOT of money at a university, and I don’t really know how much opportunity there is out there for that field other than the weatherman who stands in front of the camera on the news, and I don’t think that’s me. I would want to do more field work, actually physically be out there monitoring storms and what not. Unfortunately, most people who do that do it as a hobby, and make no money at it, unless you’re super smart.
    I am interested in graphic design, but I don’t know how much, or if i’ll be that good at it. I’ve already wasted a lot of money $30k+ on college that I haven’t finished, taking prerequisites and some design classes.
    I like to write for fun, but I dont really know how to go about pursuing a career field in it. I mean, how do I just sit down and write a book? I could write articles, but how realistic is that anymore?
    I’ve been really depressed over this for a while now. I’m 30, have a wife and 2 young kids. My wife’s passion is the medical field, she has two amazing jobs, one at a hospital and at a dialysis place right in front of the hospital, and all she has is her CNA! She is going for her RN as well. I’m very proud of her.
    I just want to find what I’m good at, and make money at it.
    Other random facts about me is I currently work at Sprint, I’m a phone technician, and repair phones, which I love. It just doesn’t pay well. I’ve thought about repairing iPhones on the side. I also am way into paintballing. I’ve toyed with the idea of opening a field, but not sure how well it would do.
    Anyway I’d really appreciate your thoughts and any advice you may have.

  4. Chelsea Hessels says:

    I am 16 teenager girl. I love art and bake. I like with children. my job is cleaning and I don’t really like. I don’t know what I good at but my parents thought I am goo at cleaning. what should do

  5. Day-Z says:

    Dear MIcah,

    Why are you getting a degree in Graphic Design? It doesn’t sound like you are too enthused about it. Is it something that you, like me, did to please someone else? (Both my parents were artists.) Also, is your interest in meteorology fanciful, or is there some aspect of the weather that intrigues you, and why? You have a job, which you love. BINGO! Not many people can say that. You can repair things! And you understand technology! These two things should land you a higher paying job. Try an Apple store. Maybe they pay better. The paintball anecdote confirms that you like using your hands and being physical. Maybe the grahic art major is too free-form for you, since you largely define your own parameters. I know it was for me. I work better when there are clearly defined limits.
    Hope this helps.



  6. Raymond says:

    Hello, I think I know what I’m good at but I’m not sure which job is the best place to apply those skills. Below is a list of things that tests and myself think I’m good at:
    – Analyzing
    – Creative solutions
    – Creating systems e.g. a system that simplifies grammar explanations for language learners
    – Organization

    Any ideas on specific jobs where I can apply these skills?

    Thank you,

  7. Rachael says:

    I know you’ll probably never read this, but I honestly have no idea what to do with my life. I am married to my loving husband who is finishing up a degree in electronics engineering (which he loves) and we are currently making ends meet with bills, etc. I am “in training” to be an assistant manager at a local coffee shop, but the training and accompanying pay raise never seem to manifest. I have a BA in Microbiology, but I realized about a quarter of the way through my senior year that I didn’t really care about it. I mean, it was interesting, but I got the degree because my parents wanted me to get a science degree. I used to be really good at a lot of things (art, accounting, etc), but I put them aside because I never thought I would be able to get a job doing it. Now here I am, a college graduate barely making above minimum wage with absolutely NO idea what I want to do. (P.S.–I now realize that I should have just done accounting as my degree in school, but I still want to really think about my options before I go take more classes anywhere).

    I’ve thought about things I am good at:
    -Numbers (I do order totals in my head and change before the system as a way to keep myself entertained at work)

    – Proficient in word processing, number processing, and presentation programs (Microsoft Office, Apple Office Suite)
    – I am a very, very quick learner
    – Customer service

    What I want:
    – Ultimately, I want to help people, but I’m tired of taking their crap at every turn in customer service. I want to be respected *and* help people if I can.

    Any insight?

  8. Brandon Smith says:

    Hey Rachael,
    I think you have more insight and answers than you realize. Your list of things you are both good at and have skills in not only align, but they complement each other nicely. The small but critical detail you mentioned was at the very end of your note: “Ultimately I want to help people,… I want to be respected *and* help people if I can. That small detail is an important one. Here’s why. If you didn’t care about the respect part or even seeing the direct benefit of your work on the people you serve, I would have recommended a nice comfortable accounting job (yes, my accounting friends. I know accounting isn’t always “comfortable”) inside an accounting department in a company doing accounts payable and accounts receivable. However, your desire to be respected and directly help people throws that out the window. What I’m seeing for you is more of an advisor role. So, consider the following financial advisor related roles:

    – A CPA helping people and/or small business owners with their taxes (and in the case of small businesses this can broaden to lots of things like payroll, etc…). My accountant I use is awesome. She helps me tremendously, advises me, gets my respect and has a very flexible life (she can work out of her home if she chooses).
    – A personal financial advisor helping people with their financial planning. This can be an independent job you do on your own (with proper licensing of course), work for a small firm or work for a bank. You get the benefit of guiding and advising people on life decisions from investing and saving to buying a house. You get their respect and you get the benefit of impacting their lives positively.
    – A loan officer helping people who are looking for a loan (for a house, a car, a small business, etc…). You can do this job working for a bank or a credit union depending on who you want to help or serve ultimately helping people qualify for a loan to realize their dreams.

    So, my recommendation to you is that you consider those options I’ve laid out for you and do some research. In my mind, you are about 80-90% there. All you need to move forward next is a bit more clarity on your purpose, a does of courage and a fistful of faith. Go for it!


    P.S. I do read these comments. 🙂

  9. Kitrick says:

    Finding my professional niche has been a point of endless frustration for me for a few years now. I was in the wine business for 20 years and I enjoyed the wine aspect – especially how food and wine – in moderation – brought people together. I love seeing people truly connect as they sit down to eat and drink together and yet I would never want to be a restaurant server. At 51 I’m just too old and would not feel uncomfortable. I was known in the business for my knowledge, eloquence , and palette but never referred to as a snob. What I didn’t like was the sales aspect and I absolutely hate stress including sales goals and commission dependency. Further, when technology became a larger portion of the business I was unable to adapt – am not good with technology at all. I have a hard time grasping systems but I have remarkable mental focus and can master a topic in a fairly short amount of time when interested. These topics usually involve things that of been around for a very very long time such as a wine, old books, history, etc. I enjoy research but I only have an online bachelors degree in social science I know I need to be around people yet not all the time. A positive work environment is extremely important to me.
    Do you have any ideas or insight?

  10. Brandon Smith says:

    The big question is “how much money do you need to make?” If making a large sum of money is of less importance, taking a “foodie” position where you are an “expert” would be the best fit. People would come to you for recommendations and guidance (you don’t have to sell). You can enlighten them on different options related to finer cuisine. Roles in this space can range from sommelier (which, as I’m sure you are aware, require extensive training) to manager of a wine department at a Whole Foods / Wine Shop. If money is of no importance, you need to start your own blog so you can write and post your thoughts. I know you said, technology is a challenge for you, but there are plenty of ways to make that “plug and play.” Again, it would be a way for you to share your knowledge with others (and get a following).

    Now, if we were to go creative in our ideas, you could consider leading international or domestic wine tours. With your affinity and knowledge of wine coupled with your history background, this could be a good match. Depending on your “people tolerance,” this could be a trip for retirees to the wine country of France for a few weeks or simply a 2 hour tour that you lead at a winery (assuming you can find one close to your home). And we could come up with even more spin-offs from this “tour guide” idea. Again, another “expert” role.

    On the other hand, if money is a major need, you may be in a pickle. Sales is the quickest way to higher salary and given your background, it would be a natural fit.

    So, which path is more important to you at the moment?

  11. Sheena says:

    At 31 yrs. old, I have no clue what I would like to do for a living. Currently, I work at a law office as an administrative assistant/paralegal. I do not think this is the job for me. I do not think my personality fits a law office. I got this position through a friend. The person before me left without notice, so they needed someone desperately. Desperately, I wanted out of my old job. I felt like it was time for me to get a “real” job because I have a bachelor’s degree. I worked in a grocery store as a customer service sales assistant for 4 yrs.. I was working part-time and not making very much (I do not make much now, but it is full time.) At my new job, originally my title was to be administrator/office manager. They quickly realize I needed less responsibility so my co-worker was given the position of administrator/office manager because she was more familiar how the office works and the software programs we use. Working in a grocery store is completely different than working in a law office. There were and are, for that matter, a lot of things I am not familiar with. Counting myself there are 4 people that work in the office, 2 attorneys, 1 office mgr, and myself. The other attorney has been an attorney for over 30 yrs. She can be abrasive at times. I know I know I do not know what I am doing. I try my best, but I do not feel like this is a good fit for me. To be honest, I am waiting to be fired. I try to be optimistic about this job because I have only been there for a little over a month. I have taken a few personality assessment recently. I found out that I am an analyzer and I like to be in a supportive role. I know that I have strong customer service skills. Also, I know some of my weakness, which are passive-aggressive tendencies, neglect myself to help others, hate confrontation or making a complaint, hate vague sudden changes, and I do not plan well.

  12. Cathy says:

    I am a 50 year old woman. I feel that I have nothing to give and finding it hard to decide what job I would fit for the next 20 years for my life. I have been in hospitality, airlines ne, banking. Have a teaching degree and now work with people with disabilities. I don’t feel as though this fits though. I don’t feel as though it have any skill skills that are relevant today. I’ like helping people and am good at customer service. Please help

  13. Brandon Smith says:

    Hi Cathy,
    I hear you and you are not alone. About once a week I get a note from an experienced professional with a varied career looking for “what’s next.” What might help you is to consider the following. First, who do you want your customers to be? Who do you want to help or serve? Find the group that you most resonate with is a good first step. Second, what need do they have that you want to meet? How can you make their lives a little bit better? Hopefully those two questions can spark something for you. Good luck and keep in touch!

  14. Ann says:

    I am a 53 year old woman. Work for the federal gov for 15 years, before I was fired by an unliked sup. Now a substitute teacher. School will be ending soon.I like working with people. Have a BBA in Business. Admin. . I need a job . Please help

  15. Brandon Smith says:

    Your best starting place is to begin with your network. Start to float your need with your family, friends and other acquaintances. Since 2008, the majority of work opportunities are coming from “who you know” and not “what you know” (and definitely not by posting online). Second, get your LinkedIn profile built out. That is your “resume.” People are going to go there to see who you are and what you can do.

    Notice that I didn’t talk about what you “want to do.” Based on your note, it appears that getting a job is trumping finding the right job at the moment. I get it. However, when the time is right, download my e-book on “Right Job” (it’s a “pay what you want” e-book. In other words, you don’t have to pay anything at all!) and walk through those exercises. They will be tremendously helpful to you. Good luck!

  16. Delaney says:

    Hi, I’m Delaney, a teen girl. For my whole life I’ve been told I am very bright. Teachers and tests have said I am incredibly well-rounded, but that means there isn’t a certain thing that I excel at, which really bothers me. One of my sister’s is the ‘artsy one’. She is very talented at anything crafts and even sells the things she makes for good money. My friend is extremely good at drawing, and is really popular on in different websites where she posts her artwork. Meanwhile, when I try to do anything, I almost always mess it up in some way or another. I want to find my ‘thing’ and be able to put it to good use by helping others, etc.

  17. David says:

    Hi, I’m Dave. I’m 44 years old with a wife and 2 young children… and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. In the past 3 years I’ve had 4 jobs, and I’ve never been more miserable than I am now. I’m in an industry that is dominated by young professionals and for the most part they are able to do the same job better than I. I don’t have an education nor a hefty bank account to fall back on. I feel that anyone that hires me sees that there maybe is some potential for an older guy with experience, and if I work really really hard then it will be a good investment by the company…at least until we get more heads. The thought that I will never amount to anything more than what our entry level people are being trained to do…is crushing. It makes me think that if I look for another role anywhere that I’ll no longer have a family (and it’s already been confirmed)…but at the same time I’m dying quietly, sitting in front of my monitors wishing I knew what I was/am truly gifted at and if there is anyone that can help point me in the right direction. I feel like a tree in a forest…

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