Successful Career – Should you Focus on Strengths or Opportunity?
What is the best way to build a successful career? Does it make sense to work on one’s “opportunity areas” or is it better to work on one’s “strengths”? It’s important to note that opportunity areas are not weaknesses. I will draw the distinction a little later in this article, so hang in there for a little more please
The answer to building a successful career lies somewhere in between but I guess more towards the area of strengths. Now this is pretty common sense but how often have you been through an appraisal where all that was talked about was to overcome your opportunity areas to get to the next level?
Haven’t we heard things like: we need to improve visibility, you need executive presence, you need to be softer etc., etc. It seems it’s all about what one has not done or is not good at. We seem to be looking for perfection in everyone and that is again common non-sensical!
(For all of you diehard cricket fans) It’s like the elusive search for a player who can bat like Sachin in the first innings, like Laxman in the second, bowl like Zaheer with the left arm and like Kapil from the right arm. He would also field like Azhar and keep like Dhoni. And when needed would be able to bowl a few leg spinners like Kumble.
Now that’s a tall order in itself but lets imagine we find somebody like that . . . what do you think the appraisal will say—you guessed it—you need to learn offspin!
Let’s keep on cricket to see what the greats of this game have done and draw some lessons on how to build a successful career.
Lessons from the Greats – What to do!
Sachin and Warne are the greatest of their era (arguably for all time). Sachin is the best with the bat but we all know he can bowl a great leg spinner and googly.
Given his talent—who can forget bowling Moin Khan between his legs!—he could have made it to any team even as a leg spinner but what he focuses on is his strength: that is, batting like only he can. He works on something that he is the best at, not on something that he “could” be the best at.
Similarly Shane Warne was a decent bat but he too achieved greatness on the back of what he was the best at (leg spin). The message is pretty clear: stick to your strengths and make them better. Be the best at what you do and greatness will follow.
There is one caveat though. Be aware of your environment. For a successful career, you constantly look for changes and keep your skills relevant.
More importantly, make sure you don’t ignore your opportunity areas when they are becoming the critical need. One really does not want to be caught with no warm clothing when winter comes!
Read more tips for a successful career in our post Top 10 Tips on Career Planning.
Lessons from the Greats – What NOT to do!
Going back to cricket, Saurav Ganguly probably best signifies this. He was, and probably will always be, the only God on the off side. What poetry! What guts! What leadership! He changed the face of Indian Cricket. A great leader but finally struggled to get a graceful exit. He failed to notice the change in the environment.
When he started, fielding was a luxury and somebody with his myriad talents could still live with an opportunity area like that. But as the times changed, fielding became a critical skill and he had lost time. First in refusing to accept that change had happened and then in refusing to change with the times.
This is when it becomes a weakness and trust me, in the real world, any weakness will be exploited. Just like in everything else however great one is, time will move on and so will we.
So friends for a successful career concentrate on your strengths. Be the best at what you like doing but keep an eye and ear open to see and hear what the world is doing.