How to craft a career change strategy rooted in your strengths

Feb 07, 2024

4 mins

How to craft a career change strategy rooted in your strengths

Making changes and moving your career forward … is it exciting or a leap into the unknown? The answer can be both. Making career decisions or changing direction requires courage, but having the right strategy can help ease your nerves.

Remember, it’s just a change; you’re not starting entirely from scratch, meaning you already have some work experience to build upon to help you boost your confidence and create an effective strategy for moving forward. So, how do you design that strategy? One way is to start by looking at your strengths.

To learn more about how to uncover your unique strengths and use them to design your career strategy—whether it’s for an imminent change or for playing a long game—we spoke with career strategy coach Amy Miller, PsyD, who shares how to make the process more intentional and increase your chance of long-term success.

Defining strengths and recognizing yours

Strengths sometimes get confused for what you have the ability to do; however, discovering your strengths requires a deeper exploration of the tasks and activities that showcase your proficiency and bring you a sense of fulfillment.

As Miller puts it, a strength is something that you’re good at and makes you feel energized and motivated while doing it. “One of the biggest traps people fall into in career decision-making is, ‘Everyone tells me I am/would be good at this,’” Miller begins. “But if you choose something that sounds like a good idea but is not right for you, you will burn out or be unable to progress to a higher level in your career.”

Designing your career strategy combines confidence, motivation, and direction rooted in your strengths. Here’s what that might look like in practice.

Find your confidence: Start with self-reflection

According to Miller, recognizing your strengths starts with some self-reflection about what in your previous experiences—both work and life—made you feel excited to get up in the morning and look forward to accomplishing.

“We do many different things in our jobs, and so I’m helping people find those little elements of their work where they thrived—where everybody looked at them and thought, ‘Wow, you’re amazing at this.’ But they also felt that way about themselves,” she adds.

Again, it’s about finding that intersection of what you’re good at and what feels good for you to do. Once you’ve started to think about what those moments are that light you up and excite you, you can start to apply them to the type of work you want to be doing.

Find your motivation: Ask yourself “What do I want?”

Being asked what you want out of a career seems like a simple enough question, but some of us have never given it a second thought.

Getting clear on what matters to you and the why behind it is crucial when crafting a career strategy that plays into your strengths. When Miller works with clients, the goal is to get more specific about what they truly want. “When people come to me, I ask them what they want for their future. ‘I want to help people.’ I respond with, ‘Okay, who do you want to help? What is valuable about you that you can help someone?” she shares. For example, someone might be at their best providing a direct service to a person in need, and someone else may want to manage a large fundraising project.

Miller also notes that, often, people conflate what they think is good for others with what is good for them. “For example, I highly value health. But I am not going to go and be a surgeon,” she shares. “Often, it comes down to a lack of specificity; you need to think about your preferences, not just what you think is right for the world.”

Because external influences like our family upbringing, culture, and societal norms can all play a role in what we believe we want and care about, Miller specifies the distinction between what matters to you versus your values. “When we think of values, it’s easy to fall into what others think is right. So many young people are trying to figure out what they want and how that is different from what other people want for them or what they used to want. Values have to play a role in the work you choose, but they’re not the whole story,” Miller adds.

Find what excites you: Define a clear direction for your future

Having a clear vision of what you want the path forward to look like in your career is valuable, even when you like your job or are in the process of looking for one. Taking the time to self-reflect and get specific on your strengths can help you begin to pave that path for long-term success.

“People’s careers are in constant motion, and you can be thinking two steps ahead of you. What are you doing down the line?” Miller says, noting that long-term planning, decision-making, and goal-setting strategies are vital to the career strategy work she does with her clients. “We know that the future is uncertain, and we might have the best plan ever, and then we might change our mind or something might intervene. But it’s so valuable to know what you want to help you make decisions and prioritize.”

Key takeaways: How to craft a career change strategy rooted in your strengths

Crafting a career change strategy rooted in your strengths is about knowing what you want, what you’re good at & make you feel good doing, and providing value to others. Here’s a wrap-up of the key points for setting forth your career change strategy rooted in your strengths:

Reflect on your experiences

No matter your age or background, everyone has life experience they can draw. Thinking back on the things you’ve accomplished and the times you felt motivated and energized are good clues to your inherent strengths and what to lean into when thinking about what’s next in your career.

Get curious about yourself

Ask yourself some questions you may have never asked yourself before, and be honest with your answer to start to get specific and clearly define the intersection of your strengths and what you care about. Some prompts to get you started are: \

  • What do you want?
  • Why does it matter to you?
  • What makes you valuable to others?

Have a vision for the future

Your strengths and desires need direction to ensure you’re putting them to the best use in your career. Think about where you’re heading and envision your next career move to keep you on a path that’s good for you and valuable for the world at large.

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