Whether you are thinking of getting a promotion, changing your career, finding a new job or starting up your own business, it is of utmost importance that you understand what your talents are.
Why? Not using your talents might mean that you are employing weaknesses at work. This can drain your energy and deprive you of self-confidence.
On the other hand, knowing your talents means that you will make conscious choices and let others know (your manager, hiring manager or recruiter) what your core strengths are and why they should choose you above others.
Let’s focus for a moment on what talent actually is. I found these two great definitions:
› “An innate, personal gift. In essence, an ability to excel in certain things.”
› “Each repetitive pattern of thinking, feeling or acting that can be used in a productive way.”
How talent is formed
Donald O. Clifton and Marcus Buckingham in their book Now, discover your strengths explain why and how talent works. When we are born, we have approximately 100 billion neurons (brain cells) and until we reach our third year, each of these neurons creates 15.000 connections.
Can you imagine how many connections there are in total? Trillions! A connection between two neurons is called a synapse. Synapses form wires out of which our behaviour is woven.
Thus, our behaviour depends on the existence and strengths of these connections. In effect, synapses make our talents and a lack of them points in the direction of our weaknesses.
As we grow, an interesting thing happens: between the ages of three and 16 years, half of this network disappears, mostly irreparably, as unused connections are destroyed in order to make others stronger.
Essentially, our talent is making use of the strongest and therefore fastest connections in our brain. Which connections stay and which are destroyed is mainly decided by our genetic material, but also by our experiences in our early years.
The process of growing up is focused on strengthening and speeding connections. Why? In our lives we make thousands of decisions daily. If these connections were not strong enough, we would not be able to make any decisions.
Nature makes sure that our strongest connections survive and are used. And these strongest connections are our talents.
How to determine you talents
Many people believe that talented people are the ones who can paint, sing or act. These are, of course, obviously talents.
However, we all possess different types of talents. The difficult part is that they can be so natural to us that we do not consider them talents. We believe that everyone can do the same thing. This is not true!
Ways to find your talents
So how we can uncover our talents? Below are the three most effective ways to do so.
1. Ask for feedback
Ask 10 people around you for your top five talents. Select a mix of friends, family and colleagues (peers and/or boss). In this way, you will get feedback on your talents in different areas.
2. Research your childhood
Our talents manifest themselves very early in our lives. That is when our talent is still pure and unspoiled by the outside influence of schools, teachers and educators, etc.
If you do not remember well what you excelled in as a child, ask your parents, grandparents or other relevant people in your life for their feedback.
You could also consider the following questions:
› What were you often busy with as a child?
› When growing up, what did people tell you that you had a talent for?
› What were you particular good at as a child?
3. Look for patterns in your behaviour
This method might be the most work intense, but I believe is one of the best ways to discover your unique strengths:
› Write down at minimum five stories from your private and professional life where you had to overcome a difficulty that ended with a success.
› Then, underline the action words that you used to solve each difficult situation.
› Look for patterns in your behaviour. I guarantee you that you will find them, because these patterns are your talents!
Talents & Careers
At the end, make a list of the above re-discovered talents. Also, think about which of them you use most of the time, which of them give you most pleasure and which of them you want to use more.
Finally, try to invent ways to use those more often in your current job!