It was during a group exercise where we had to write down our strengths from the Smalley Institute Test list that I realized I didn’t know my strengths; I didn’t know my sweet spot.
One of the women gave me one she thought I possessed, though looking back I’m not sure I own that quality in spades. But one thing I did see: I didn’t possess any of the attributes I thought were necessary for someone in my current job.
I’ve had a lot of jobs in my short working career. None of them have really qualified as vocations, I’d say, like my temp position as a warehouse worker in college or as kitchen help at a local pizza place. So I ran through those jobs pretty quickly; the longest I stayed at a job was 2.5 years and that was out of necessity. My first big-girl job didn’t come until a year and a half ago. So I really don’t think I qualify at this point in my life as a career counselor; I just want to process along with you what it means to have a vocation and what it means to have a job.
We should, I do believe, work for our food and our shelter and those absolutely necessary angora blankets (ha!). Some people end up in positions where they absolutely cannot work and that’s where we step in to help. But most of us are able to create some stream of income, no matter the size. So in that respect, a job is a life necessity. We are providing some sort of service in exchange for some amount of money that we can then go spend on food, put in the bank, or bury in a hole. Jobs allow our kids to have clothes and go to school and have some semblance of a normal life, and in that respect all jobs—the legal and ethical ones at least—are worthy and honorable.
Some incredible men and women spend their entire lives in a factory at an assembly line, and do it for the paycheck. I sometimes wish I could be satisfied with that, knowing my kids are safe and loved. Maybe it’s because I’m a millennial, maybe it’s because robots are slowly taking over those jobs anyway (…), that the above mentality isn’t enough for me. I want a deeper satisfaction with what I do, knowing I’m giving more than I’m getting; that I’m leaving my footprint in the ground and the world will be better for it. Not that helping assemble cars or Twinkies doesn’t impact the world. I’m thankful every day for the car I can drive to go get those Twinkies.
I wonder what the point of having gifts and strengths and talents is if you never utilize them, or if you have a personality that doesn’t fit with a job description. On the first point, you’re wasting everything you’ve been given, and on the other, you’re in the way of someone who’s a better fit for that position—who would thrive.
Should we not just buck up and get over ourselves? What about learning new skills, having more experiences outside of our comforts zones? Well, that is where we grow the most. Do we really want to get too comfortable?
No. But we do want to thrive. I know I bring something unique to the table that no one else offers. I want to bring it in a way that fully utilizes my gifts and leaves the biggest impact.
A friend and coworker suggested to me that I write down all of my qualities and strengths, and then also write down the qualities of the ideal person for the job I currently hold. And then I should ask wise people who know me what qualities, affinities, and strengths they see in me.
So, is your job crushing you?
Do you feel the weight every single day? Are you unable to mentally leave your job when you come home? Do you feel like your gifts are being used in the best possible way?
Right now, you should take a moment and write down all of your strengths and how you’re able to use them in your job. You may have to think a little creatively, but you may be surprised how you use your unique gifts already. Then see how you can start using some of your passions and talents that are currently sitting by the wayside. As you evaluate your current job and your talents, ask yourself these questions:
- Is there a project you can switch out or a committee you can join?
- Is there a hobby you can take up that will make up for your 9-to-5?
- If you’re still struggling in seeing futility, is the job itself worth staying at? Does the pay, schedule, location, atmosphere, co-workers, whatever, make up for what the job lacks?
- Is your home life suffering too much?
- Does this job have the potential to lead somewhere better if you simply stick it out and work hard?
- At the end of your life, will the choices you’re making now matter?
Hopefully now you have your answer. If the job still ends up crushing you, what steps can you take to change your path in life? What support from other people can you get?
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