Someone once told me that play is work that we enjoy. I began to wonder why people do not play at work. There is a stigma that surrounds the word work. It is a necessary evil; it forces you to work for your weekend – the time you enjoy; it is just to be endured. But I do not believe it. Work can be fun, sure there will still be tough days, but there is nothing wrong with looking forward to going to work on Monday. Many things factor into whether you will enjoy your work: the people, the environment, and the work itself. These factors can keep you from enjoying work, but when used to your benefit, they can also help you find and retain enjoyment at your work.
What you excel in doing will affect if you enjoy the work you do. This is because individuals find satisfaction in accomplishes. I am a great goal-setter, planner and executor. I worked for a company where I severely got to use any of those skills. Instead, my time was focused on encouraging people to do things that did not want to do, which required skills in reading people, customizing messages to each individual person, and being a cheerleader; none of which are my strengths. Knowing this, each day I would try to improve how I talked to people and to influence them to smile at customers, and each day when my goals were not reached I went home feeling like a failure. Being in an environment where you can use your strengths allows you to go home with a sense of accomplishment. Spending your day toiling in areas where you struggle, leaves you feeling empty.
Many books have been written that will help you discover your strengths and weaknesses. Some go so deep as to help you find your undering motivators. These are fantastic resources which I recommend. For now, however, I want to focus on a quick analysis.
Think of your best day at work where you felt a sense of accomplishment. What happened? What activities were you doing? Did you land a tough deal? Did you overt a crisis? Did you create a successful plan? What attributes did that day's activities have? By boiling it down you will find the basics of what you enjoy doing.
What do people say you are good at? Does your boss ever refer co-workers to you for advice because you do something well? Do people seek you out as the expert in certain activities? What do you get recognized for? These are all great indicators of your strengths.
What do you find yourself doing when you do not have to? Are there activities at work or home you find yourself participating in even though you do not have (are not required) to? I am constantly creating plans and setting milestones for projects I do outside of life. My friend will sit down and pound out a book in a day. My husband will design and build things, not because it needs to be done, but because he enjoys the process. Figure out what you enjoy that can be translated to work.
Just knowing what you are good at is not enough, it is important to understand what you do not do well. What do you dread doing at work? Do you avoid paperwork like it is the plague? Do you make as few client calls as possible? What activities do you do that never seem to measure up to the status quo? My first internship I asked to cold call potential investors to see if they would be interested in speaking with a broker. After four hours of cold calling I went home crying. Each time I made a call that day, I would feel apprehension: afraid they would ask a question I would not have the answer to; afraid they would be rude to me; afraid I would get yelled at. Talking to strangers and trying to sell a product was not my strength.
After you know what you do not do well, there are two things to do: either manage those weaknesses or avoid situations that require them. To manage a weakness you need to leakage other skills to help you do that activity to the (level of the) status quo. Do not expect to ever make your weaknesses a strength. That same time you could use practicing and improving your current strengths and yield a much higher return on investment. Look at the activities you do not do well and see if there are ways for you to do that activity a little differently and still achieve it. Some things you can avoid absolutely. Is there someone at work whose strengths compliment your weaknesses? Maybe you can share the work. Do you have the authority to hire someone to take on the work you do not do well so you can focus on your strengths? In my business I am good at the organizational management piece where my partner is better at the sales piece (remember my cold-calling experience). I focus on directing the vision of our organization while he brings in the business. Would this work for you?
By understanding your strengths versus your weaknesses, you can begin shaping your job to fit you (or finding a different career). You will find you have much more satisfaction after spending your day being successful versus struggling through a workday by trying to rely on weaknesses. And go ahead, play at work.