What Are You Good At?

No, I don’t mean ultimate Frisbee or billiards. And unless you work in a kitchen, I also don’t care how well you bake cookies. Okay, maybe I care about the cookies.

I want to know what you’re good at in your job. Not just good at, but better than most.

What are you talented at?

Maybe you proofread or write better and faster than anyone in your office. Maybe you’re the only person who really understands Excel’s formulas and exceptions. If that’s the case, you’re better off than I am. Perhaps you can see order in a jumble of information, and organizing it makes sense to you.

Here’s a hint that you might have a natural talent for something right where you work. You’ve done something in your office because it came easy, or you were bored, or maybe it was just bugging you, so you fixed it. The second hint is a little more obvious. It comes in the form of coworkers asking how you did something, or how you did it so fast, or your manager just saying something nice about it. That’s a good thing.

A lot of people don’t take the time to ask themselves this simple little question, and since they don’t, they can’t see the potential they have to contribute more to the organization. We often take our own talents for granted and spend no time developing them. Just because something comes easy to you doesn’t mean it does for everyone. Once you know what you’re good at, the next question is a little more difficult: What are you going to do with it? You only have two options: Share with your peers and managers, or don’t.

As an example, Power Point is easy for me. My manager had some great ideas, but he needed help putting them together, so I made them presentable in a way he could brief his boss. We managed every program on the ship in a way that allowed us both to understand the goal. He saw what he needed, and I learned what he looked for. Simply doing what I was good at jump-started my career after years of general flailing.

Also, I write fairly well, so helping people at every level write more effectively has taught me more than I could have ever imagined. I helped my peers prepare for their briefs, edited professional correspondence for those above me, and helped others with things as simple as college papers. I learned something every time, and in sharing my skills, I developed them. Like I said earlier, you have talent, I know you do. Hopefully you’ll realize that talent and do something with it.

In sharing your talents, you become better at them, you help the organization, and you become more connected with the people you work with. By not sharing, well, nothing good happens.

People in the organization benefited because I shared my time and effort, but I gained ten times more. Not only did I learn how my leaders think and communicate upwards, I had chances to interact with good people and thrived professionally because I had something to offer my leadership and peers.

I’ve been writing for over a decade, but it wasn’t until about five years ago that I started using my talents for work. Instead, I tried to force some line in the sand between the writing and the day job, and I turned down opportunities to write articles for the base paper and the public affairs folks. They asked once, and I said no. I was a fiction writer, after all, and that wouldn’t make me better at it. And guess what? They never asked again. Maybe the title of this series should be: Don’t be like Jamie.

So, we’re right back to where we started. What are you good at, and what are you going to do with it? Hopefully you’ll choose to share. Let’s go a little further. Who are you going to tell and offer this talent to, and how?

I don’t think you should go around showing everyone what they’re doing wrong to prove your brilliance, but there is a way to make yourself known without coming off as self-important. As you connect with people, you’ll find a chance. Maybe someone like me will come right out and ask. If that happens, I hope you’ll be ready.

– What are your people good at?

– What are their talents?

– Wouldn’t it be great to know?

– Does the boss know what you’re good at?

Have a great week out there.

– JT

James Tinker

About James Tinker

James was born and raised in Bangor, and left home at 18 for the Navy. Twenty-five years later, he retired as a Command Master Chief, the highest enlisted rank on a warship in San Diego. His popular blog series, The Day Job, shares personal and professional lessons learned through his career.