What have you done that reflects what you're good at?
September 17, 2007 10:07 AM   Subscribe

What accomplishments do you point to when setting course for a new direction in life?

I am jobless and job-searching. At present, thanks to What Color Is Your Parachute?, part of my strategy is figuring out what I am naturally good at...but I'm kind of stuck on step 1.

Bolles advises people to put together seven stories of accomplishments (a desired goal, obstacles, steps taken to get to a satisfactory outcome, and the result) to figure out transferable skills, but I've got a mental block. I can only think of two that really qualify: learning Spanish and running/fundraising for a charity marathon. Maybe it's low self-esteem (I worry that I've just been failing upward* my whole life, never really getting anything done) or undiagnosed depression or that I'm just a holistic thinker, but--even though I know that there have to be other examples out there--I'm stumped. I've been to 43things, which isn't really much help in this case, and I've checked this and this and this and this, but none really overlaps with this situation.

So: hive mind, in your scarily broad and deep experience, can you share examples from your own lives of clear accomplishments of this type that you're proud of, no matter how small, in hopes of jogging my memory or producing a glint of recognition for me?

*I am nearing 30, have a master's from a prestigious university in a generalist field, and have what could kindly be referred to as an eclectic resume with only one job--as a consultant--that I stayed with for more than a full year.
posted by kittyprecious to Work & Money (12 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
In case the question is too broad (or too personal), perhaps a better one is "What methods or activities have helped you draw out your success stories?"
posted by kittyprecious at 10:14 AM on September 17, 2007

When I worked with a career counselor she had me focus on things I enjoyed, and not just work-oriented successes. These were things that in my former mindset I wouldn't have considered directions for work/career because they were too fun. So you might make a list of the things you enjoy doing, because chances are you're also good at those (good enough that they don't "count" when you think of accomplishments).

Also, I did a survey once of executives and asked them what, when they were kids, they wanted to be 'when they grew up'--like astronaut, pro-footballer, lawyer, president. We talked about some of the qualities that appealed to them about that role (adventure, decision-making, travel, learning, creation, etc.) and then we looked at where those elements were or weren't in evidence in their current jobs. I was surprised how deeply this affected most of the people I talked to. Perhaps mining childhood interests and successes could uncover something you're missing.

I like that 'falling upward' idea. Sounds like what I've been doing. At one point I realized that all my jobs were reactions to the previous job instead of intentional steps toward something.

On preview, I think I misread your first post, but got more at your second post. To answer the first post, when I was 7yo I wrote, 'edited' and produced (typed and mimeographed) a local newspaper for my block. And sold one copy. I look back on that as one of my greatest achievements! Another was training for a three day, 60mi, benefit walk. I trained for months, usually alone, through New England weather.
posted by cocoagirl at 10:28 AM on September 17, 2007

Maybe it's the "proud" part that's tripping you up? "Satisfying" might be a more fitting criteria.
posted by xo at 10:38 AM on September 17, 2007

I wrote, 'edited' and produced... a local newspaper for my block

Hey! I wrote a shitty zine in high school and really enjoyed it! This is working already!
posted by kittyprecious at 10:49 AM on September 17, 2007

Here's a small idea. Did you go to college far away from home? Some people can't handle living far away from relatives. Maybe you planned, plotted, and moved to the east coast (from the west coast), set up your own home and support group, then got your degree.

Or how about any adversities encountered while in school? Did you ever have to take a break, rethink your objectives and redouble your efforts? (I did.)
posted by philomathoholic at 11:01 AM on September 17, 2007

Oh and when I was applying to my university, my family helped me. They edited it and made some helpful suggestions. So, the method there that helped me draw out success story was my family. Be sure to use what you've got.
posted by philomathoholic at 11:04 AM on September 17, 2007

Things I've accomplished that I'm proud of:

* Training my dog (by no means to show standards, but well enough that she knows what I want and then decides whether or not to do it)
* Making a Raggedy Ann doll for my niece
* Beating depression
posted by happyturtle at 11:12 AM on September 17, 2007

Good point, xo. That's the direction I was thinking.
posted by kittyprecious at 11:25 AM on September 17, 2007

Some other tactics you may want to try:

1) Ask people who know you what you are good at. I did this when I was changing paths and it was interesting to see what they said. For me it was explaining things, especially in written form, problem-solving, and making the best of bad situations.

2) If you've had some work experiences, you should be able to identify small aspects of them that you either liked or didn't like. I once added "to never again have to wear a nametag" to my list of goals.

3) Don't think in terms of accomplishments, think in terms of experiences that showed you who you are or that you learned the most from. It can also be characterized as "times I didn't take the easy road, and what happened."

4) You could also just select 3-4 big decisions/choices you've made and look at why you made them, how you managed the effects of those decisions, etc.
posted by Mozzie at 11:47 AM on September 17, 2007

You could try stream-of-consciousness writing to help dislodge long lost memories of those good things. Sit down in a quiet place with a stack of notebook paper and pen. Ask yourself the burning question then start writing whatever the hell comes to mind. Don't edit, don't punctuation, don't think, don't judge, and don't stop. Write for at least 10 minutes.

Pick through what you wrote for any gems then shred the pages. This is very important. You must feel safe in writing *anything* and the best way for that is to know beforehand the pages will be destroyed.

Do this every day and you'll be amazed at what you get and how clear-headed you become.

On a side note, I find it amazing that we give ourselves so little credit for the good we do. I bet none of us would have a problem writing down all the crap we've done over the years but remembering the great stuff makes us go blank.
posted by trinity8-director at 12:22 PM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

I found that rather than just deciding what I was good at, I would focus on what I wanted, in my wildest dreams. Then I began to work on making it happen using the skills I knew I had. So far so good.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:49 PM on September 17, 2007

I think the best thing you can do is look at the things that you have done and done well and/or enjoyed doing, and figure out what about them resonates with you.

I recently went through this when trying to decide where to point my career. I thought I had wanted to be a tech writer, because, I find a lot of technical / scientific things interesting and I'm a good writer. I got into a company that I truly admired in a more support-oriented role, and after a couple years applied for the open tech writer position and got it. And sure enough, I was pretty good at it! However, I started realizing, especially in the past few months, that I wasn't getting anything out of it...that I was actually depressed about it.

And so after a LOT of soul searching, I realized that while learning technical things quickly & being well-written are awesome skills, they were not necessarily things I was passionate about.

Thinking back to previous positions & jobs I had held, I started to see a pattern in what I enjoyed about them. I started to realize that what REALLY gave me a thrill were working at a fast pace to solve critical problems and to really get my hands dirty in terms of identifying and troubleshooting those problems. I drew this conclusion based on the parts of my previous support-related position, and other jobs I'd had like when I worked at an animal hospital in high school, and when in college I worked as a temp first in a tedious mortgage clerk position and then later in a super fast paced title insurance company (boring industry, but tight deadlines and lots of phone time made it go by fast and kept my adrenaline up).

So, what do your two chosen experiences (learning Spanish & the marathon) say about you? It says to me that you are probably able to learn new things & jargon relatively quickly, that you are able to handle marketing/sales type things (with regards to the fundraising), and that you are disciplined in terms of being able to train/practice/whatever.

But what are your core values? What makes you thrilled? What gets your adrenaline pumping at work?
posted by tastybrains at 1:19 PM on September 17, 2007

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