As of 2019, there are an estimated 7.7 billion people in the world. That's a lot of people, and of course, there are many people you share commonalities with, whether its affinity- or identity-based, peer groups, skills and talents, DNA … you name it.
Here's the clincher though: There is nobody, not one single person, amongst the 7.7 billion people out there that has your unique blend of lived experience, values, motivations, strengths, skills and interests. You’re the only one with this exclusive combination of gifts.
"You are the perfect design. The key to your life [and career] is knowing that you have an instruction manual. It's all there, and just a matter of seeing it and believing it as truth."
Let's start by defining how this unique blend of gifts are categorized and what they can tell you about your authentic brand, and what conditions are most important in a career to leverage you, just the way you are.
This is your origin story and all the many experiences - be them positive or challenging - you've had throughout your life. These experiences matter and have shaped your unique lens and perspective. Leveraging your unique lens and perspective gives you the gift of sight that others may not have. This is especially true for Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) and other identities who don't look like the white, male, middle-class, straight, cys-gender, able-bodied, and Christian archetype.
Reflection exercise for you: What’s your unique lens that’s based on your lived experience? You can use these prompts for some additional structure:
1. Where do you call home?
2. How would you describe your family or community's values?
3. What color is your skin?
4. What language does your family or community speak?
5. What food is around the table now?
6. What gender do you identify as?
7. Who did you/do you pray to?
These are your set of principles or standards of behavior that give your life meaning. Your values were developed as you grew up and likely informed many of the decisions you made. They are core to who you are and your identity. Values have significance in our career decisions and the type of career we choose.
For me, social justice has always been a core value, which has led me down a career path in the social impact sector for the last 20 years. Other values of mine include: freedom, adventure, integrity, and growth. When I think about major decisions I've made in my life, I can map each one to one or more of these values.
Reflection exercise for you: What are your top five values? Check out this worksheet I use with my client to help narrow down values.
Motivation is what gives you the drive to behave in certain ways. Similar to values, but with a subtle difference, motivation is the drive to do something based on desires or needs, while value is the drive to do something based on what you believe is most important.
As an example, I may be motivated to make $150,000 annually because I desire that money. However, financial security is not one of my core values. We have intrinsic motivations: The things we want to do because we feel good when doing them. We also have identified motivations: The things we do because they’re aligned with our goals and desires. These are important to know about yourself so you can align your intrinsic motivations (the behaviors that make you happiest, such as autonomy or collaboration, extraversion or introversion, stability or dynamism, structure or flexibility, etc.) and the identified motivations (salary and benefits, position status, title, work/life balance, type of work setting, etc.).
Reflection exercise for you: What are your intrinsic and identified motivations? List them all out.
Knowing your strengths is one of the key foundations of self-confidence, and is critical in advancing your career. With clarity of your strengths and how they fit together, you can leverage yourself by picking the positions and organization/company that will focus on your sweet spot so you can add the most value. One way to identify your strengths is to notice your emotions when doing certain types of work. When do you feel energized and alive? When do you feel good? When do you feel like time doesn't exist because you’re in your flow? Answering these questions will indicate strengths. You can also seek outside validation and ask others what they think you do best. I use a psychometric tool called Strengthsfinder with my clients to help identify key strengths.
Reflection exercise for you: What do you do best? You can use these prompts for additional structure:
1. What are you doing when you feel best at work?
2. What do others consistently give you positive feedback around?
SKILLS AND INTERESTS
Chances are, by now you have acquired thousands of skills enabling you to do things well, whether it's leading groups, analyzing financial statements, designing products, writing and editing, project management, writing and editing, and more. All of these skills showcase what you can do. Start indexing your skills by making a list of your most valuable skills and categorize them for sense making - as well as your interests.
Reflection exercise for you: What are your top skills and interests? You can use these prompts for additional structure:
1. What have you learned how to do well? Tactical and strategic
2. What issue areas or bodies of work interest you?
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
All these categories above – lived experience, values, motivations, strengths, and skills/interests – are data points showing you your career’s "North Star." They literally become your checklist of conditions that need to be present for you to be optimized and leverage for your unique and authentic assets. (This is also the foundation of your professional brand, and the more you make sense out of this data, synthesize and craft concise and compelling narrative out of it, you’ll be able to showcase your brand to your network and potential employers or clients.) When most of these conditions are aligned with your career, you'll feel confident, clear, creative, connected, and courageous. And when there is a mass amount of these feelings present, your performance will skyrocket, you'll meet whatever goals you set for yourself, your stress will decrease, and you'll likely be a much happier human.
Want to learn more? Visit my website for free resources, guides, and tips to make your career more satisfying and purposeful. www.careerandleadershipcoaching.com