Strengths: The keys to an enjoyable, versatile, resilient career

Follow your passion. Do what you love. Go where the need is.

These are some typical tips a young graduate or someone looking for a change will hear when it comes to figuring out what kind of career to pursue.

While these can be helpful for exploring options, what seems to be the key for a career that’s both enjoyable and can withstand changes is to step into your strengths.

Our passions can come in strong but then fade away. Many people who turn a hobby they love into a job end up not enjoying it once the pressure is on to do that activity every day, under pressure and for money. Responding to in-demand skills might give you five or 10 years, but then the job market changes. And with how fast technology is changing, it might be less time than that.

For a career that’s got staying power, look to your strengths. Stepping into your strengths is where your superpowers lie. They are your unique recipe of your traits and talents. They will not fade away like a passion will. They aren’t tied specifically to an activity or hobby and certainly aren’t tied to trending skills (something like AI prompting for instance).

How do you know what your strengths are?

Strengths are the way we naturally operate as we move through life. They are so ingrained that it’s often hard to see them ourselves. We need some way to read the label from inside the jar. Assessments are the easiest way to do that. The ones I recommend to my coaching clients are:

As I work with my clients, I see the CliftonStrengths as being the most versatile. They have identified 36 different strengths and their basic assessment provides your top five. The way these top five strengths integrate with each other and express themselves in your life and work are unique to you. It’s very rare to find someone else who has the same five and in the same order.

I see the Clifton assessment as being the most versatile because of that ‘recipe’ and because five strengths give us room to fluctuate a bit more than just the two we receive from the other assessments.

How can we apply our strengths across a career?

Instead of rehashing strengths-based theories and frameworks here, let’s get really specific at my own strengths and how they’ve been applied in a few career phases. (If you would like details on the theories and frameworks, check out Clifton here)

My CliftonStrengths are learner, arranger, positivity, connectedness and maximizer. Here’s a quick description of each:

Learner: strong desire for continuous improvement

Arranger: driven to be organized yet flexible

Positivity: ability to see the positive side in every situation

Connectedness: strong belief in the link between all things and all people

Maximizer: driven to take things from strong to superb

Now let’s take a look at how these have been expressed in a few roles and jobs I’ve had over the past 30-plus years.

Graphic Designer

The first dozen or so years of my career I designed visual communications for businesses, large and small. I see ‘designing’ as another way to say ‘arranging.’ The projects needed to convey a certain look, feel and message. It was my job to use various elements in a way which invoked the style and conveyed the message. I arranged the elements.

I was also using my connectedness as I created a cohesive feel between various elements – within a specific communications piece and within a larger corporate brand and/or campaign. I linked elements together and with purpose.

Maximizer also came into play as I continuously found ways to improve the designs in each round of revisions.

My learner strength showed up in my eagerness to study award-winning campaigns to understand techniques and trends, as well as the deep interest I had in learning the latest software and tech tools.

Creative Services Manager

In my 30s, I started a management role. I really enjoyed leading a team and guiding them as they grew in their own roles and careers. About a third of my time was spent managing people, another third managing projects and the other third creating (designing and writing). Moving from worker bee to management was certainly a big shift in my career, yet my strengths were still being used, just expressed in a different way.

Managing people and projects showcased a deeper aspect of my arranger traits. The ability to effectively and efficiently move projects and tasks around on the fly came naturally to me and I really enjoyed it.

My connectedness strength also really kicked in as I managed people and as I became more involved with how the department connected with other groups.

Leadership/Career Coach

Another big shift in my career was to move away from advertising & marketing to leadership & personal development. My daily activities are completely different from what I was doing a dozen years ago, yet I see those same strengths being used.

Learner and connectedness are the ones I use more frequently in this role. I love learning about my clients—learning what makes them tick, their challenges, their goals. My clients have told me they really appreciate the way I’m able to help them see their situations in a different light—to make connections between various scenarios, patterns and habits. These connections help them assess their challenges and find a meaningful path forward toward their goals.

How do our strengths improve a career?

As you can see from my own examples, strengths are a great way to explore a variety of roles. These roles use very different skills, which I’ve enjoyed in varying degrees, but what has made each of these roles more satisfying is being able to use and express my strengths.

I also see this in my clients who are looking to pivot their career path. As they look for different industries or roles, they keep their strengths at the forefront. They look for ways to use those as a way to discern how satisfied, how happy they’ll be, in that role.

Are you looking to improve your career? Step into your strengths to create the impact you crave!

Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown fell in love with credit unions in 2005 when hired to start up an in-house advertising agency at one of the nation’s top 30 credit unions. With ... Web: Details