It’s one thing to know your strengths. It is a whole other thing to actually plan your career in a way that intentionally uses those strengths on a daily basis. Self awareness is overrated. There comes a time for action and that time is now. But don’t misunderstand me. Action is hard, and change is hard. As a good mentor of mine would say, “Change is hard. Make it as easy as possible.” So, that’s what I’m going to attempt to do – help you plan to use your strengths more consistently in your career and life. In essence, I’m gonna try to talk you into action (how ironic). Wish me luck.

Quantity AND Quality – Before we start the planning process, let’s set up a good litmus test for an ideal strength-based role. While the goal is to use your strengths as often as possible, no job is going to allow you to use your strengths ALL of the time. You’re always going to have do some dirty laundry in any job. A good ratio to start might be to look for roles that allow you to use your strengths 50% of the time. Move to 80% of your time and you’ve hit the pinnacle of efficiency. Beyond that and you are likely not doing stuff that you should be.

Identify Strength-Heavy Roles – Next, begin to search actively for roles and jobs that would allow you to use most if not all of your strengths at a high frequency. For this step, don’t think practically. It’s o.k. to dream big. The goal of this step is to create a list of ideal targets. Our next step will be to figure out how to get there.

Put a Timeline to Your Move – Step back and look at your current role and your desired role(s). How far is the gap? Maybe you just need to move to a different seat in your current department. No sweat. Tack on a year for that move on your timeline. Or perhaps you are an accountant and you want to teach math to high school students. Hmm… A bigger move. Tack on three years to give you time to prepare. You get the idea. Once you’ve got your timeline, fill in what you need to be accomplishing every 6 months along your timeline and stay focused.

Say “No” to Non-Strength Opportunities – Speaking of staying focused, be prepared to turn down opportunities that are not in your strength wheelhouse. This is one of the most difficult things to do in your career so be careful. The new role may look shiny, but if you aren’t using your strengths, you’ll be doomed to fail. This happened to Judy. Judy was a career counselor at a college and loved what she did. She used her strengths every day meeting with students and advising them. One day, Judy was offered the position of Dean of Students. What an honor. She never in her wildest dreams thought she would have such an opportunity. She happily accepted. A year later, she was miserable. 95% of her time was spent in meetings doing administrative tasks – after all, she was now a college administrator. She was failing miserably and eventually opted to step down from her shiny role. Saying “No” is hard, but critical to your long-term success.

Consider Strength-Based Hobbies – Finally, whether you desire to leverage your strengths more intentionally in your free time or you simply can’t make the moves you want to in your career today (obligations, fear, excuses, fear, fear, fear, I think you see where I’m going), consider choosing hobbies that will more actively allow you to use your strengths. Who knows? You may become so good at your hobby that it morphs into a career.

In the end, self-awareness is all talk. This post may be short, but don’t underestimate its importance, power or difficulty in executing. If you are still stuck, consider these posts on overcoming fear and making the changes in your life you’ve always wanted to make. Get planning and get moving! And as always, you’re not alone. I’m right here to give you a word of encouragement or a kick in the pants – or both. Regardless, it is time…