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Identify Your Talents in 9 Easy Steps

Identify Your Talents in 9 Easy Steps

What are you good at? Would you know what to say if someone asked you to identify your talents? You may balk at the question. While you may secretly believe you don’t have any talent, you do. Often it’s hard to identify because your talent can feel like second nature. What you assumed was easy could actually be really difficult for other people.

So how do you identify your talent? Try these 9 steps to identify talents.

1. Identify What You Love to Do

Write down a list of activities you enjoy. It can include anything from hula hooping to making chicken pot pie. Without any judgment write it all down. If you’re stuck, try asking yourself these questions:

  • What do you enjoy doing without being asked?
  • What do people have to drag you away from doing?
  • What activities make you lose track of time?
  • What would you do for free?

To be fair, this list is more of a passion list than a talent list. For instance, I love dancing but that doesn’t mean I will try out for the next Step Up movie. Often, though, to truly be talented at something requires hundreds of hours of practice. Passion can give you the energy and joy to help you reach talent.

2. Know Your Interests

While similar to knowing what you love to do, interests are more about what you love learning, reading or watching. Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • What types of things do you like to read?
  • What do you enjoy talking about?
  • What do you enjoy watching?
  • What topics catch your eye?

In all likelihood, this may dovetail with your passions. Someone who likes to play music may find themselves reading music blogs online, too. But, you may also be interested in business and following the financial news.

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An interest list can help you identify possible combinations of passion and interest. From there, you can start taking your talents to new levels.

3. Identify Previous Successes

For this list, write down successes you’ve experienced in the past. This list can reveal your talents that you’ve been using without even realizing it. Some things to consider as you write include:

  • Classes you rocked at
  • Assignments or rojects you did well
  • Anything that made you say, “I did great in this”

Once you’ve written this list down, go through it. What are similar about these successes? What did you do well in them? Perhaps you were a natural facilitator in conflict. Maybe you are great at raising funds for organizations. It may take some time to find the similarities, but you will find your own patterns to emerge from your list. These patterns are crucial to identifying talents you can use for the future.

4. Take Some Tests

Test Taking

    For further clarification, there are some great personality quizzes. Myers-Briggs, DISC, or even the Book ‘Please Understand Me’ by Kiersey can help you gain further insight on yourself. None of these quizzes on their own can identify your unique talents. They do give you more insight on yourself, how you process things and what energizes or causes you fatigue. They can help make it easier for you to discover your strengths, where your talents may lie.

    5. Interview Someone

    Sometimes, an outside perspective can be clearer than your own. Talk to people who know you well: friends, family member, even a mentor. Ask them questions like:

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    • What do they think you are good at?
    • What have you’ve succeeded at doing previously?
    • What makes you light up?

    Keep an open mind while they talk. You don’t have to agree with everything they say. Still, the answers they have may surprise you.

    6. Know Your Weaknesses

    Just as everyone has talents, we all have weaknesses. Mine include going to bed before 11 pm and resisting social media, amongst others. The fact is, we can’t be good at everything. None of us is perfect, and acknowledging our weaknesses can help show what we are good at.

    It can be a bit painful, but write them down. Questions to ask yourself include:

    What takes you a long time to do?
    What do you procrastinate?
    What makes you feel awkward or uncomfortable?

    Knowing these will help you identify any weak spots in your passions and interests. This will be helpful to know for later.

    7. Start Putting it Together

    You’ve done the research; now you have to see what comes forward. You don’t have to comb through every note or thought from each of these lists. Some questions to ask yourself include:

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    Are there patterns emerging from your interests, successes and passions? What are they?
    What can you combine from these lists?
    What do you dream of doing?

    From here, you may identify multiple talents, or just one that you want to focus on.

    8. Practice, and Practice Well

      No matter what, you have to practice.

      It may come naturally to you, but you still have to work at mastery. In identifying a talent, this step is a trial by fire. Practice your talent, and practice it a lot. You don’t have to spend eight hours a day at it. If you have a full time job, try spending just 30 minutes a day.

      Groaning at trying to find 30 minutes? You can do it. Take a look through your day. Are you watching an hour or two of tv when you get home from work? Turn off the TV. If you’re struggling, put a timer on for 30 minutes, and don’t turn it on until the time has passed.

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      There are other, less obvious points in your day when you could practice. Perhaps you spend more than 25 minutes commuting. If you can, take that time to work on your talent. Sing while you’re in the car, or giving a speech. Can you take time during your lunch break? See where you have pockets of time. You can reallocate time away from Facebook or Twitter, and towards your talents. This is the real test that will prove whether or not your talent will stick. Is this a possible long term vocation or just a passing phase?

      More than just practice, you need to practice well. If you’re serious about your talent, you also need to know your weaknesses. The difference between good and great isn’t the number of hours they put in, but that they work at improving their weaknesses. Working on weakness isn’t easy, but creating a reward system for yourself can help you get through the uncomfortable aspect of looking at your own weakness.

      9. Find a Mentor

      If you’ve been practicing regularly, and want to continue with your talent, find someone with more experience than you in the field. It doesn’t have to be a nobel prize winner. What you do want is someone with some more experience who can give good advice.

      More importantly, knowing what you need and want from a mentor is crucial. Do you need support? Do you need someone to challenge you? Your personality tests and strengths and weaknesses will be helpful in figuring out these answers.

      Not sure where to look? Some good places include:

      • LinkedIn networks. If you went to college, look at your alumni network. This can be a great way to reach out to people who may do what you love. Introduce yourself and ask to meet them for coffee to learn about their experiences.
      • Networking Events. Go to events in your field of interest. Conferences, meeetup groups, or just happy hours. See who you meet, and reach out to them after the event with a follow up email
      • Ask for Help. Mention to friends and family you are looking for a mentor. They may know someone who can help you that you never thought of before.

      Identifying a talent isn’t easy. But following something you are not only good at but also passionate about will make your life more rewarding. More so, you’ll be giving something meaningful back to the world that only you can provide. Perhaps it’s your unique take on manufacturing stocks. Maybe you do a wicked Jazz guitar. Whatever your talent is, it’s worth pursuing.

      Featured photo credit: Dusty J via photopin.com

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      The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

      The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

      It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

      Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

      “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

      In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

      New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

      There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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      So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

      What is the productivity paradox?

      There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

      In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

      He wrote in his conclusion:

      “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

      Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

      How do we measure productivity anyway?

      And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

      In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

      But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

      In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

      But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

      Possible causes of the productivity paradox

      Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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      • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
      • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
      • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
      • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

      There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

      According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

      Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

      The paradox and the recession

      The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

      “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

      This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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      According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

      Looking forward

      A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

      “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

      Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

      “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

      On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

      Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

      Reference

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