Key to Career Success: Knowing What You Do Really Well

Focus on GoodThere are many reasons you may struggle with being taking credit for what you do really, really well.

Maybe you were taught it isn’t polite to brag when you were a kid. Perhaps it is because most feedback related to performance is based on corrective action; improving what you can work on instead of acknowledging what you’re good at. Or, you may have never been coached to identify and strengthen your performance assets.

As well, maybe you have some personal baggage or limiting beliefs that make you think you’re not good enough, perfect enough, or competent enough to make these statements. (Let me assure you right now, you are!)

Finally we often view our greatest strengths as commodities. That is to say, we think everyone else has those strengths too. And when you view what you have as a commodity, you lose the sense of special-ness about what you offer.

As a professional, it’s your responsibility to know what you’re good at, as much as it is to know what you need to work on.

So, question for you…

Can you write a document, filled with sentences that begin with “I am really good at…”?

If not, it’s something I want you to work on as a sound professional career management practice. Why? Because to leverage the value you bring to an organization – or to a prospective employer – and to feel good about the work you do each day and the purpose behind it – you must be able to articulate your conditions of greatness. Plus, it’s good for you!

“When we build on our strengths and daily successes — instead of focusing on failures — we simply learn more.”

― Tom Rath

Here’s how you can get started on your “I’m really good at…” list:

Review the Feedback You Already Have

Look at every performance review you’ve already received, emails of appreciation, any 360 reviews you have or any feedback about your work. If you’re like me, you’re probably an expert at picking out all the negative comments, and glossing over the good stuff. In fact, the good stuff used to be incredibly hard for me to read.

Do it anyway. These reviews contain the nuggets you need to get started.

Ask Ten People

If you’re really stuck about what you’re good at, ask ten people who know you really well. No, your mom doesn’t’ count. Ask former managers, colleagues and mentors.

Have them tell you what you’re really good at. Don’t argue with them. Don’t judge. Don’t protest their compliments. Just listen and write down what they say. Start your list there, even if you don’t agree. Look for validation of what that are telling you, rather than trying to refute it.

Cut Back on the Negative Self-talk

If I asked you to name 5 things you suck at, how hard would that be? Chances are you could rattle those off quickly, right? “I really suck at…”

So, in the next two weeks, every time you think a negative, self-critical thought, compensate with one that starts with “I am really good at…”

If you’re going to criticize yourself so easily, then you also need to become equally as good at taking inventory of your greatness.

Take Assessments

If you haven’t taken the classic career inventory assessments, go directly to your alumni career center and see what assessments they offer. Many offer students and alumni a variety of interest, strengths, and typology testing at a free or reduced rate. Once you do the assessments, see how what you learn shows up in your life, and then start writing your “I am really good at” sentences.

If your alma mater can’t help you, find a career counselor who can. Or go online where there are many assessments to choose from.

Start Writing!

Get out a notebook or pull out your device… and start writing!

Write about your best life experiences. Write about your best achievements. Write about when you really helped someone, when you did great work that you really enjoyed and where people said you did a great job.

Somewhere in there are things you do really well.

Keep writing and see what emerges for you. Then talk it over with someone whose insight you trust and appreciate. Get their first impressions. Does what you wrote match their perception of you? Can it be more concisely written? Maybe a few less adjectives and a lot fewer clichés?

When you get your first 5 sentences written, leave a comment below or send them to me. I’d love to see what you do really well. Then, keep noticing what you do well, and keep focusing on exactly that. Because your future, your happiness, your overall well-being lies in the conditions of your greatness.

But they can’t help you at all if you don’t know – or aren’t willing to admit and are too afraid to sell – what they are.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Degrees of Transition!


Degrees of Transition


Lea McLeodAbout the Author: Lea McLeod is author of the Resume Coloring Book. Check it out if you are struggling with writing your resume in today’s job market. She’s also founder of the Job Success Lab so that you can GO PRO in any job! Follow her on Twitter and her blog:



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