Generally speaking, the individuals who make up Generation Y are dreamers. Many of us were raised on the notion of “you can be anything you want to be.” It was a common phrase to hear from our parents who, with the best of intentions, wanted to raise us differently than did their parent’s generation – a generation that held the principle of working to survive and provide over working to fulfill a grand purpose in life. Neither paradigm is wrong, but like all things, both have a general pattern of consequences, whether positive or negative.
Though a member of the dreamer generation, I would argue that you cannot be anything you want to be, but you CAN be more of who you already are. And who you already are is a uniquely talented individual who can offer a contribution to the world unlike any other. Gallup Clifton StrengthsFinder has discovered that only 1 in 33 million people have the same Top 5 Theme Sequence. But what I have found among peers after college, is either stagnation because they have yet to discover their purpose, or a morose resolve that there is simply no career that aligns with their passion; they put in their time for a paycheck with little to no engagement in their job. As a recent college graduate learning to navigate the transition of trading in my title of ‘student’ for a career that pays the bills, I’ve thought a lot about my own, as well as my peers’, mentality going into the work force. We have grandiose ideas about what we could be, what we could accomplish. Sometimes they are right in line with who we are, but often I find that they are more in line with a cultural ideal than with an individual’s strengths. It doesn’t take long to realize we are clueless as to who we are or who we should be.
I was fortunate to have my first post-undergraduate position be within a strengths-based company that not only developed their employees in StrengthsFinder, but allowed for a relatively fluid job description in order for each employee to be able to work within their strengths for the majority of their responsibilities. What I have found is that I cannot be anything I want to be, not successfully anyway. However, when I am operating out of my innate talents, I’m a rockstar. Projects that tap into my Top 5 are done efficiently and with a specific quality that I cannot teach to someone who isn’t me. The realization that I am not well-rounded has actually provided a great sense of relief. Why spend all of my time trying to become decent at something I’m not naturally good at when I could be off-the-charts in another area of work? To give a personal example, like every college student, I had to take a Public Speaking class, a skill that I severely lack and a task that I am profoundly afraid of. Did I improve throughout the class? Yes. Was I one of the stronger speakers by the end of it? Absolutely not. Fast forward to the first month of working for Traci, a Certified Gallup StrengthsFinder coach, a strong speaker and presenter – my human opposite. My job mostly involves creating or keeping track of all of the details of our appointments, bookings, session materials, blogs, etc. I put systems in place to be more organized as our calendar filled up, a project that my Woo and Communication colleague neither enjoyed nor excelled at. I very quickly became adept at managing all of these responsibilities; I performed at a much higher level in one month of operating out of my strengths (Discipline, Restorative, Responsibility) than I did after a semester of trying to use my weaknesses. By Traci and I employing our individual strengths instead of trying to be each other or anyone else, we are far more productive and feel a great sense of satisfaction in being the only one who can effectively fulfill our respective roles.
In the vast and often overwhelming work force that we Millennials are trying to find our place within, there is security in knowing who you are and what you are not, and marketing yourself through the lens of your strengths. This doesn’t mean you will land your dream job right out of the gate, but by analyzing opportunities through the lens of your strengths, you will be more effective in choosing meaningful experiences that will refine and cultivate your talents and lead to a better understanding of your purpose. As ever-changing individuals, few people ever feel they have ‘arrived,’ but I believe that by understanding and utilizing our talents, we can certainly do far more with our lives than simply survive. If you’d like to have a conversation surrounding StrengthsFinder, reach out to either me or Traci. We love helping others identify their uniqueness and maximize their potential in all aspects of life!