Bill was an IT Project Manager, very passionate about his work, and life in general. His mother was sick and in the hospital, and he wasn’t sure what was going to happen. He went to work every day during this time, because the project he led for over a year was nearing completion. As is often the case at the end of a project, there were unexpected problems to be solved. Elisabeth, his boss, called him into her office first thing one morning, demanding an update on the latest problems. At this point, Bill hit his limit of frustration and snapped at Elisabeth. He told her he was doing everything that needed be done, and she needed to be patient and wait. Elisabeth went silent, and stared at Bill for a few minutes. Then she said to him, “Bill, you need to pull it together. I know you have things going on at home, but you can’t be emotional here. This is work.” Bill took a deep breath, taking in what she’d just said. He then responded, “Elisabeth, exactly which part of me would you like me to leave at home? I’m a person, I don’t come in pieces.” At this point, it was Elisabeth’s turn to pause and take a deep breath. She realized Bill was right, you don’t bring part of you with you to work, and part of you to play, and leave another part at home. You bring all of you with you, wherever you go.
When people ask me how they can possibly consider changing careers, after investing all this time in the one they have. They’d have to start at the beginning again. All their hard earned experience in their current career would be wasted. I ask them, “Which of your strengths and skills would you leave behind if you left this career?” They look puzzled, then smile as they realize their strengths and skills are theirs, and are with them wherever they are. They may not all be in use at every place, but they are all there, readily available and accessible. That’s when I smile, too. Their strengths and skills which they have developed over time belong to the person, not a career or a company.
If you are not yet convinced, I encourage you to do this exercise. Choose 3-5 people you trust to speak the truth to you. Ask them to list your top 3 Strengths (your innate talents), your top 3 Skills (things you’ve learned), and a description of your impact on others. Most people are surprised to see the themes that show up. Your strengths, your skills, are with you all the time, in everything you do. You can leverage them in whatever career or job you choose next. They are what you bring that makes you uniquely qualified to do the job.
When I first realized this, it caused me to look at my own career in a new way. It caused me to look at my value and worth to potential employers or clients with a new perspective. My strengths and skills which I was born with, which I developed and honed over years of my life, those are part of what makes me uniquely valuable in whatever career I choose, in every job I do.
What is your unique set of strengths and skills? What do you bring to the table, no matter where that table is?