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Discovering Your Strengths

Do you know what you’re good at? If you do, do you know what those around you are good at? Your family, friends, and coworkers? If you are aware of your own strengths, you will begin to value your contributions. Even better, if you are aware of those around you, you can help others grow and contribute more meaningfully.

Am I Good at Anything?

I spent most of my life assuming I did not have substantial strengths. I thought myself pretty average and moderately good at a few things but no huge standouts. In college, I took the StrengthsFinder assessment and that was the first time I realized a few personal strengths that I bring to the table. I’ll discuss a couple of those, but it was also extremely beneficial to see the strengths of the team I was a part of and directly see how we contribute to one another.

Two of my stand out strengths, previously overlooked by me, were adaptability and empathy. It seems silly now, but I assumed these were things that everyone should have and expected others to act accordingly. So, when others were less adaptable or less empathetic, I would be upset and confused. How could they not see the issue here, I would think? Why were all of these people so angry or afraid of change? How could they not understand the emotional depth of these situations?

Can I Contribute?

This was just the beginning of seeing the ways I contribute to teams and my environment. After these realizations, I valued what I brought to the table. I looked for ways where I could fill gaps, and best contribute. I also looked for ways I could enhance my strengths to make them better. After seeing my strengths clearly, I could now practice, grow, and learn in those areas, similar to using an instrument.

These same principles allow me to appreciate others that are different from me. Some may not be as adaptable but were able to establish a solid foundation or structure where I could not. Some may not excel at empathy but would not be overcome or crippled by emotion, where I found myself often. At times, it was the less empathetic people that could set me back on course to enable me to be empathetic again. It was other people that established structures that allowed me to “go with the flow” and be adaptable.

In any organization, I saw great value in acknowledging the differences of others and how we could best suit one another and help each other grow and create.

Knowing Your Strengths

You have to know your strengths to use them effectively. I highly recommend Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment as one helpful tool. It provides you with your top five strengths and how those affect different spheres of your life. Like most of these assessments, it is not all-defining nor perfect; it is a tool to assist you in being self-aware. So, use the results as seem most appropriate.

Look for ways your strengths can assist you in relationships, in your job, or in other commitments. After you become more self-aware, you can begin to see the strengths in the differences of others. It helps you understand other people, accept them, and not be easily frustrated or intimidated by them. I have countless examples where things that once annoyed, or even hurt me, become endearing as I saw those as real qualities in other people.

Take That Next Step

This path of self-discovery (and the discovery of others) is a lifelong one. It takes courage, and a heck of a lot of patience. But it is extremely rewarding. Not only do you begin to properly value yourself, but you begin to bring out the value and the strengths of those that are around you. I don’t see a much better purpose in life than to help others grow into their full selves. It’s worth the effort.

James Abyad is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. He lives in Alexandria, VA, and loves people, food, music, geography, languages, and Tolkien. His full-time job is just another basic federal employee, specifically a contracting officer, while fully enjoying the Washington, D.C., region. After studying International Relations and Arabic at American University, he aspired to work in diplomacy or a related non-profit; yet, like most millennials, he is trying to pay his student loans off first. So, in the meantime, you can find him investing time in family, friends, community, church, spin, and eating. You can read his posts here.

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Avatar photo Blake Martin

Great piece, James, and so valuable for those folks entering into evaluations this time of year. I too am a big fan of the StrengthsFinder assessment (we use it here at GovLoop!) – its so important to know your own skills and inherent value so that you can contribute fully using your own unique skillset. These are the very ways we begin to set ourselves apart from our peers and climb that career ladder!

James Abyad

Thanks, Blake! Yea, it provides some helpful clarity so you can at least pick up some traction. Even if in a career field you may not be crazy passionate about, it helps you find a groove. I’m glad to know GovLoop uses it too! It’s a great tool when used well.