Identifying Talent in Youth

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Graduation time is upon us.  So many dreams, thoughts of the future, and possibilities lay in front of these young 18-year-olds.  It really is the “best of times and the worst of times” for so many.

At a graduation several years ago, I sat watching all the student’s slideshows telling about their childhood “accomplishments” and experiences. Quizzically, I then listened to what they would be pursuing in college. Many were following those innate talents that their parents had perceived about them as a child…. “Jimmy loved playing with legos and enjoyed drawing  classes.  In his spare time, he enjoys reading and studying designs and dreams of building his own house one day.  Jimmy has decided to study architecture at the University of South Carolina.”  Then there are the graduates who are clearly not self-aware and whose parents are also unaware as to what innate talents lie within them.  The parents have gotten lost in searching for a career that pays lots of money or one that brings prestige.  “Tommy loves being outdoors.  He has been a part of the 4H program growing up and has won several fishing tournaments.  He seems to be the happiest when he is on a deer stand early in the morning.  After much thought, Tommy has decided to be an Accountant.”

Wait, what?

Our natural talents help us understand who we are.  They describe us, help us to understand how we think and feel, and can shed light on our behaviors.  They explain the way we filter the world around us.  These talents can greatly affect our ability to reach our goals and our desired outcomes in life.

It is relatively easy for a person to describe their education and work experience, but it is quite a different thing for someone to describe their natural talents.  Sometimes, it’s like trying to look at your nose.  You can’t see it because it’s always been there; you forget you even have it.

A StrengthsFinder assessment is spooky-good, because it points out what has always been deep down inside of each of us and gives the language to describe it.  The assessment helps people to gain an awareness of their greatest potential by tapping into what is already powerful.

Here are some points that I try to bring to light during a coaching session:

  1. You don’t have to become a different person to be successful.
  2. You don’t have to be all things to all people.
  3. You can’t be anything you want to be, but you can be more of who you already are.
  4. You can learn how to be a better version of yourself.

Parents, please take some time to help your student remember who they are before they are told what to be.  Help them to see what kind of activities they are naturally drawn to.  Ask them what drains them on a daily basis.  Ask them what they were doing the last time they said, “When can I do that again?”  This process helps to develop an idea of what they have been created to do in order to take the first steps toward finding a career that calls on their strengths.

Examining spontaneous reactions, yearnings, and areas of satisfaction can help your student determine a career path that will give them energy, excitement, and fulfillment with a lot less of a chance for a disillusioned 25-year-old.