26- Success is finding your superpower
Finding a job you do well, and that you enjoy, can be much like putting an old puzzle together. It makes a beautiful picture, but every so often, you wonder if you are missing a piece.
Unless you work for yourself, it is likely that you have a job description. You interviewed, were hired, and are reviewed based on it. If you are an entry-level programmer, your job description might include objectives such as coding in a specified language, and preparing reference material by documenting the code. If you are like me, you enjoy checking off boxes and moving to the next goal. While you will progress in your career by meeting your assigned goals, you will eventually find yourself at a dead end. This may be as simple as you maintaining the same role in your company, but not advancing, or worse, finding that you are no longer satisfied with your career. As a leader, you need to strive to exceed expectations on a consistent basis.
If you are not the type of person who is satisfied with the “status quo,” use the three steps below to find and engage in a specialty that you enjoy building your career. I call this your superpower.
Step 1: Try a lot of different things.
This can be difficult if you don’t like to take on tasks that you are not already comfortable with. However, the reward is worth it.
Think of your favorite food. Now think about why it is your favorite food. Do you like the way it smells? Do you like the way it tastes? Does it remind you of a happy moment in your life? There are many reasons that a specific food becomes your favorite, but in almost all cases, you tried many different foods before identifying the one that is your favorite. Identifying your career superpower is the same. You need to try different things in an effort to identify the one you like the most.
So, how do you go about finding the different things to try? Ask yourself, “Is there a need in your work group, company, or industry that is not being met?” A few years ago I worked with the Green Building Committee for the Associated Builders and Contractors in the DC-metro region. One of the concerns that the committee heard was that construction workers were often using non-approved materials. We identified a need for education on green topics, and developed weekly green “tool-box” talks for jobsites in an effort to educate workers on green project practices.
If you don’t want to go outside of your company, think about what needs are not being met internally for your group. For example, if you work in a construction company, are there case studies about completed projects? If not, you might take that new task on, even though it is not part of your job description, and the work would help build customer relationships.
If you still can’t think of enough things to try, ask your manager, co-workers, or other professionals in your industry. When you hear about a task where there is so much to do, but so little time to get it completed, you should try it.
Step 2: Find a rare skill that you are passionate about and make it your superpower.
“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” Maya Angelou
Once you’ve tried a few different things, focus on in demand skills that you enjoy. For example, if your company wants to use a new computer program, and you enjoy working on computers, spend your time becoming an expert at using it. Although you may not be the only person using it, you will be the go-to person when others have questions.
By becoming a key person in your company, you will be a more valuable employee and are more likely to advance in your career. Additionally, when you are emotionally engaged in the work you are doing, you will do it better and enjoy it more.
Step 3: Don’t be afraid to change your superpower.
Just as kids outgrow their shoes, you can outgrow your superpower. You may find that you love that rare skill that you are an expert in for a long time. However, if it starts to become lack-luster, it is time to start looking for another skill to replace it. For some people, it can be difficult to be passionate about the same thing for a long time. Personally, I find that after three years, I need to upgrade my superpower skill. For example, a few years ago I became very interested in green buildings and LEED. I studied and consumed all the material I could and got my LEED BD+C accreditation. My company began regarding me as a green expert. Although I am still engaged in green building and technology, I recently found that I needed a new challenge and started researching social media. By being open to changing which skill to be an expert at, I am able to continuously learn, stay relevant in my field, and be inspired in my daily work.
In order to be successful in your industry you need to find one thing that you enjoy and can be a specialist in. Just like the ability to fly, this is no easy task. Start by engaging in many activities that are in demand and then find the one you enjoy doing the most. Once you become an expert: don’t forget to continually challenge yourself; don’t be afraid to repeat the process, and remember to identify, and become a specialist in, an entirely new skill once in a while.
What is your current superpower?