Working to My Strengths

After years of learning about myself in various jobs I began to have a greater understanding of what kinds of work really interested me. Following the advise and conclusions I reached from reading Paul Graham’s “How to Do What You Love” I began to seek ways to focus more on doing what I was good at in my work than those things that were mundane or tedious for me.

Interestingly the first real breakthrough for me came when I gave myself permission to dislike my job. Not that I was actively trying to dislike my job but that I relinquished the burden that came with the assumption that I must like my work. Related to that, I stopped worrying about how others might perceive my efforts at work. I abandoned the pretense that I must stay at work longer to make sure I got the minimum number of expected hours at times when I could not do anything effective with the time. Previously I stayed longer so that nobody could question my effort as a way to compensate for the fact that I had not been connecting with the current work and thus was not able to use the time effectively.

When I no longer wasted energy being disappointed with myself when I had finished a day that left me unhappy with my occupation I soon found that I was doing better work and doing more of what I was good at because I had more energy. I also had more energy at work because I no longer sat in a vegetative state at my desk to maintain an image of being committed to work during those times when I was unable to effectively make any progress on my work.

I soon found that the result of giving myself permission to dislike my job was that I was enjoying my job more than I had previously – all without changing jobs. On top of that I began to discover what things about my job I really enjoyed and it was not exactly the same set of things I would have predicted. Specifically the things I enjoyed about my job were not all the same things that I had expected to enjoy about my job when I took the job in the first place.

As I grew in my understanding of myself and felt more energized in my work I began to do better work for my employer and I began to be a little more assertive in taking on new projects and that I hoped would fit my talents. I felt much better about what I was doing and knew that I was providing more value to my employer even in weeks where I did not put in a full forty hours than I had been providing before when I was putting in forty-five hours less productively. (Feeling disconnected from my job as I previously had there was no way I’d have been induced to work over forty-five hours in a week before my work began to improve.)

As I began to proactively take on new tasks and make use of my talents I came to a conclusion within a few months that was now unwelcome to me – my employer would not have the ability to keep me busy with the kind of work I was thriving on in my then-current position. When I saw that fact I began to keep my eyes open for another opportunity with my same employer where they would be able to provide enough of the kind of work that worked for me so that I could stay engaged. Not very long later I saw an internal posting for a position that sounded promising but before I could apply for the position it was closed. As far as I could tell it had not been filled but perhaps was going to be reposted with updated requirements. That is where providence stepped in.

I started paying closer attention to the internal postings in hopes of finding another promising sounding position. After a number of weeks I saw a posting that appeared to be the same position I had missed out on before. Needless to say, I did not wait to apply for that position – after all, I had made sure my resume was up to date when I had encountered the previous posting for the position. A couple of weeks passed without any feedback but considering the size and culture of our organization I knew that they were unlikely to rush into interviewing anyone the moment that they received an application. Then one day I got an unexpected email from a recruiter at a nearby organization. He asked if I might be interested in considering a position he was trying to fill. Knowing that I needed to find something, I took the opportunity to learn more about the position that he had in mind but I was not anxious to leave my employer. Over the course of a couple of interviews and a number of questions I discovered that the position they had in mind was focused on the most important characteristic I was looking for in a job. I was hesitant not only to leave my existing employer but also because the position was also heavily centered on one characteristic that I had concluded that I was not looking for in a position.

I finally concluded that the most important characteristic was more important that the potential for the characteristic I did not think I was interested in and I accepted their offer. Practically on the first day of my new job I was given a copy of Strengths Finder 2.0 which virtually revolves around the question “Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?” I knew then why I had been attracted to this new team and I felt assured that I would thrive in this new position.

Late in my second week on the new job I was called by my previous employer regarding the position I had applied for months earlier but by then I was not looking back. Now, after only three weeks I can see clearly that the job characteristic that I thought I would not like was actually not a problem for me, I had simply conflated it with other characteristics that did not work for me. I am loving this – both the new job, and the personal transformation that prepared me for it.

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About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.

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