The Cure For Career Anxiety: Not Understanding Strengths

There is an epidemic sweeping the career world right now–career anxiety. It is evidenced by low job satisfaction and engagement rates and a need for all to dig deep and find resilience in a rapidly changing global economy.

Condition #4: Not understanding strengths

**This is article #4 of six. To read the third article, click here**.

There is an epidemic sweeping the world right now, career anxiety. It is evidenced by low job satisfaction and engagement rates and a need for all to dig deep and find resilience in a rapidly changing global economy. This blog series will be a conversation guided by reader questions and is designed to cure career anxiety and bring you to career clarity.

Question from a reader: My least favorite question on a job interview is, “What are your strengths?” What does that mean?

The Cure: Identify your strengths

“I may not be perfect, but parts of me are excellent,” Ashleigh Brilliant

Creating sustainable work that you love is only possible when you can understand, claim and use your natural strengths. In my work with clients seeking to create meaningful careers, we explore four types of strengths:

1.      Interests are those ideas or topics that stimulate you. As you find those topics, consider things that you know about as well as those you would like to learn more about. Long-term career satisfaction is dependent upon how well and to what extent an area of interest can hold your attention. Interests include things like technology, social justice and art.

2.      Talents are skills that give you energy when you engage in them. Talents are skills, but not all skills are talents. I define talents as those skills that you long for when you are not engaging in them. One way to discern the difference is to consider this: if you had a choice, you would not delegate a talent to someone else. Talents include things like using your hands to fix things, writing, speaking and leading.

3.      Style defines how you are at work when you are being your most authentic. How you would behave at work if you could really express yourself freely might offer clues to your soul work. Your personal style includes those attributes that you bring to an organization or industry, beyond your talents or skills. Style includes things like a sense of humor, empathy and vision.

4.      Environment defines what you need at your workplace. Understanding what you need at work will help you find the right cultural fit. Even if all the other factors are in place, the wrong environment can make great soul work miserable. Think about the ideal environmental qualities that would make up your perfect work culture, whether you plan to create it yourself, or find it at an organization. Environmental attributes include a style of design, access to nature and levels of competitiveness.

All four aspects are vital in creating dream work that will balance interest, enjoyment and challenge. To create a more authentic life you must first know and develop your passions. For many people, this is easier said than done. Many have forgotten what their passions are. Some have outgrown old passions and need to find new ones and others know what they are passionate about but instead of incorporating these things into their life and work, are disconnected from them and do not see a way back. Sometimes an unexpected event forces you to reevaluate what direction you want to take in your career.

The key to finding hope for a better career is to be in your imagination and to play with possibilities. The hard part is to suspend your cynicism and consider the fact that you can build a successful career from a foundation of anything you truly love. In other words, anything you enjoy learning about or doing can become a livelihood if you use your imagination. If you love to read, you may enjoy a career in media or publishing. If you love children, you might become a teacher or create a product for parents. I even recently met a woman who is extremely successful who created a career out an obsession for dressing Barbie dolls:

Kelly Bryan is the Visual Manager of Menswear at Bloomingdale’s and when I asked her to rate how fun her job was from 1-10, she gave it a solid 10!  Her mother remembers pushing her in a stroller around a shopping mall and having to explain that the mannequins were not real because she was terrified of them. Ironically today she gets paid to dress mannequins along with her other duties of managing a staff of 5-7 people who create displays for the flagship store for one of the most successful retailers in the world.

Her work allows her to combine her varied interests of business, art, fashion, mentoring and interior design. She believes you can create work out of anything you love and life is too short to manage your career any other way. Her advice to anyone who does not like what they do is to be in touch with the signs of what you like or dislike and move toward happiness by fixing the things that do not work.

Laurel Donnellan

CEO and Founder, Bright Livelihoods

Laurel has 30 years of experience as a leader, educator and coach and has degrees from Cornell and Columbia and consistently provides effective career education, organizational consulting and executive coaching programs Learn more about the Bright Livelihoods community, go to To schedule a private half-hour coaching session, e-mail us at








Contact With Us

Follow Us On