What are you great at?

Being good is simply not good enough. The first question I hear from many people when seeking advice is what do I need to do better? The problem with that question is getting better starts from looking at areas of weakness that need to be improved. If an area of weakness is a fatal flaw, something that will truly hinder your career, then by all means, you need to work on that area. But once you have eliminated career limiting flaws, what next?

Too often people try to create a breadth of skills they are good at. This is kind of like investing in an index fund rather than individual stocks. You won’t lose big, but you won’t do better than average either. In investing, this is a great strategy, but in career building such a plan may not be the best. Instead, people should think about finding a few things they could be great at doing. Think about it – who is more likely to get noticed, someone who is a solid hard worker or someone who delivers something special?

If you’re honest with yourself, the answer is someone special will get noticed first. Then people will look at the person who does something special and, if they are good enough at everything else, give that person the opportunity for the next project or promotion. My “special” is accounting policy and standards. If you ask people who know me just a little, the first thing they will comment on is that I have a unique ability to understand how transactions should be accounted for under our standards and rules. Once people notice me for that talent, they look a little deeper and realize I’m a pretty good manager, supervisor and leader, too. (Yes, those are different skills.)

The point is that without the initial recognition because of my special skills in one area, the rest of my “good” skills would never be recognized. As you move up the ladder in your organizations, it gets harder and harder to show how you’re different. Everyone is good (well, above average). The question is, how do you shine when everyone is talented? I think the answer is to pick something you’re (very) good at and become great at it. Being great at something is what will continue to get you noticed, after which, you can then show off all the other things you are good at.

What are you, or can become, great at? That’s the question you need to answer to get noticed and accelerate your career path.

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