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.
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
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:
- 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:
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.
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