I spent a week in Chicago and just got back on Tuesday, and yes I got to meet Jess and she is just as charming and friendly in person as you’d expect her to be! We had a lovely time visiting. At coffee, Jess asked about some of my past work experience, namely a job that I had really enjoyed and what about that job was I good at. The job was in fundraising, and at the time I thought I was good at fundraising and that it was the career path for me… with some time and distance I’m able to see that it was the people and work environment that I loved. My best years in that job were spent doing lots of project management, organizing, and training new workers the ropes and how to be successful fundraisers. I didn’t particularly enjoy asking for money, but I loved giving others the confidence to do so.
Jess suggested tapping into my strengths from that job and seeing if those skills are something that can be applied to the business. Teaching others is actually something that I’d been interested in for a while, and we brainstormed some pretty awesome related marketing concepts that combine my passion for design with that strength gained from my old job.
Since I’ve been home I’ve been thinking about how to practically apply our ideas and how to recreate that process with other strengths I have. I had a few friends that are also entrepreneurs that have had a few great opportunities come by recently, a few of which I had a small role in helping happen. My strength in those situations was connecting people. I’m no social butterfly, but I do cherish building strong connections with like-minded people and I LOVE to share my friends stories and talk them up to people. Why is it that I’m eager to do that for others but am shy about doing the same thing for my own work?
I’m also a strong writer, and yet I haven’t fully utilized that skill for my blog or in pitching story ideas to local newspapers and magazines. This is a strength that I spent quite a bit of money on developing (hello, student loans!) so I really should be putting them to work! It’s too easy to think “oh it’s just a blog post, no one is REALLY going to read it” and churn out a sloppy post. When actually, I could be posting better articles less frequently and I’m sure it would help my readership, not hinder it as I’ve feared.
Other strengths I can think of I’ve already been tapping into as a decorator. Beyond having a natural eye for design and color, I’m a great listener. Listening to and hearing a client is crucial to the success of a design. I also have a strong sense for attention to detail, and I believe that helps me bring special touches to a client’s home.
It was also helpful for me to reflect on my favorite work environments. I work best with medium to small groups or one-on-one projects. I don’t do well in groups larger than 15 people because I tend to let someone more outgoing take the lead. I do like taking a leadership position on group projects because I want things to be organized my way. I love to have someone to bounce ideas off of and brainstorm with. I’m easily distracted in large groups and get most of my best work done when I have alone time after a great discussion.
As much as I don’t like to think of “those days” when I worked in an office, analyzing my work history and where I excelled and where I faltered has really given me a better sense of how I can grow as an entrepreneur. Skills that I’m already using have helped get me to where I am, and I’m excited to think of new ways to utilize my other strengths and turn them into new and exciting opportunities for my business. And they aren’t skills that you’d think of automatically as helpful to an entrepreneur – but some of my more abstract strengths hold the most possibility.
What are some skills that you have in your current or past jobs that you could use as an entrepreneur? Think outside the box (beyond “I’m good with numbers”) and more abstract. Maybe you loved planning the office parties or out of organizing a file system. Maybe you got a thrill out of surprising the receptionist with flowers to say “thanks” or maybe you really liked keeping time during a meeting to keep with the agenda. How can you apply that in a fresh and creative way to your business?