For the past ten years I’ve had the enjoyable, enlightening, and often humbling experience of teaching a course in alternative career paths for LIS students and professionals as part of the University of Denver’s MLIS program. Without a doubt, I learn as much from the students as they learn from me.
Throughout all ten years of classes and students, my overriding goal has been to find ways to help people create careers that feed their souls, intellects – and income streams. In order to do that, we consider what career paths exist (or can be created) for LIS professionals; what constitutes meaningful, rewarding and authentic work for individual students; and how to connect the two.
As part of that examination, we also consider innate skills and aptitudes. Recently I caught up with a series of books that address this issue in a highly practical and actionable way. They’ve been around for quite awhile so you may already be aware of them, but if not, you may want to consider the “Strengths” series of books as another way to help understand what work aligns with your unique value, and allows you to build your strengths to a point of excellence.
The basic premise of these books First, Break All the Rules, (Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, Simon & Schuster, 1999), Now, Discover Your Strengths (Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Free Press, 2001), and Go Put Your Strengths to Work (Marcus Buckingham, Free Press, 2007) is that both organizations and individuals tend to focus energy and efforts on fixing peoples’ weaknesses rather than on investing in further developing their strengths.
This is a lose-lose proposition, according to the authors, because trying to “fix” your weaknesses not only provides damage control at best, it more importantly takes time away from building your strengths to excellence.
Makes sense, but many of us have no clue what our strengths are. You may have fallen into a job where you developed a level of expertise that you can confuse with a strength, or you fail to realize the strengths you possess because we tend to take our own strengths for granted – if they’re easy for you to do, then they must not be so very special, right? Wrong.
If you’re not sure what your strengths are, consider checking out a copy of Now, Discover Your Strengths, which has assessment tools for identifying where your strongest areas lie. And then see how this aligns with the work you’re doing, or had planned on pursuing. If there’s a fit, terrific; you are perfectly positioned to continue to build on your strengths in a supportive environment.
If you’re in a job that’s a non-fit, however, at least now you know why you’ve been 1) unhappy, 2) uninterested, 3) unsuccessful, or 4) all of the above. You may be able to adapt your job for your maximum contribution (your strengths), or you may decide it’s time to start considering a different job, work environment, or career path.