"Should my talents inform what kind of work I do?"
This is one the most frequent questions I get as a Strengths coach; particularly from first-time clients or workshop participants. It is also a question that many may be contemplating in light of recent furloughs and firings; especially if you weren't happy or engaged with your work before the crisis.
If you're one whose contemplating leaving your profession behind, take a breath, and consider these three ideas first.
Talents are HOW we work
Talents, by their definition, are the innate ways we think, feel, and behave. Our talents become Strengths only when we consciously practice combining them with relevant skills and knowledge. This means that your talent(s) (or talent theme) could be combined with any number of skills and knowledge bases to work in one profession or another.
Therefore, it is more important to understand how to use your innate talents to achieve your desired goals; regardless of your professional line of work or business sector.
Is it your profession that you don't feel fits your talents, or is it your work environment? It's an important distinction as you consider your future options. The following example highlights the difference.
A past workshop participant had the following talent themes: Learner, Ideation, Activation, Command and Individualization. He loved exploring new ideas and then taking charge to bring them to life. At work, he felt "burned out" and ready to leave. Upon further questioning, they shared that they worked on an R&D team that had to comply with some of the most rigorous national regulatory landscapes imaginable. In this case, they were burning out because the environment (company practices + regulations) essentially boxed in his natural inclination to explore new ways to achieve goals.
By contrast, those same talent themes hold immense potential for any other R&D team looking to revolutionize a product or service. Their Learner talents could help them understand existing challenges or methods. Their Ideation talents can pose "out of the box" solutions and their Activator themes help push their team to begin experimenting.
So before you leave your profession, consider whether a new potential employer's practices will help or hinder your ability to fully offer and contribute your talents.
Tweaks Can Go a Long Way
Sometimes you can start to feel like you need to do different work because your talents feel mismatched to what's expected of you.
You might have Consistency talents but your job description includes the critical task of, "think of ways to improve how tasks are completed". Your desire for regularity is rubbing against the expectation for change.
Or maybe you possess WOO or Relator talents but are constantly required to review or proof large data sets. Your innate ability to connect with people is diminished while tending to the solitary task of making sense of big data.
In these situations, leaving doesn't have to be your only option; especially if you already love the grander vision and mission of your organization.
Instead, have a conversation with your team or organizational leader, or even your whole team, about trading some of your responsibilities & tasks. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that the tasks you despise actually energize someone else...and vice versa. Ongoing research by Marcus Buckingham, Gallup and others makes the case that it might be time to retire the one-size-fits-all job role description and instead personalize each role based on the talents of the people you hire.
Our new world of work is going to need everyone to be involved and contributing their best. Before you leave (or find) organizations with missions you love, take a moment to consider how you can be offering your best.