Are you wondering how to get more satisfaction from your job?

Last month, we had 550 people attend the very first virtual fundraising career conference. It was a smash hit, and one of our presenters, Kishshana Palmer, talked about how to use your strengths in the workplace. I decided to delve deeper, since I’d already read the Strengthsfinder 2.0 book and taken the test.

What are your strengths? Start here. I’ve shared about managing people with the Strengthsfinder test here and here.

There are 34 strengths you can have, according to Gallup, who surveyed 2 million people over 30 years. You can generally have 5 focus areas in your strengths.

My strengths, according to this test are: Focus, Strategy, Individualization, Ideation, and Positivity. Which is nice, you know, but doesn’t necessarily tell you what you should be doing in your job.

Luckily, Marcus Buckingham HAS written a book that helps you find the sweet spot in your job or career where you can pinpoint the exact activities that help you shine.

go put your strengths to work marcus buckingham

So, why would you want to focus on your strengths?

Because of all of the things you could be good at in the world, you only have a few things that you LOVE to do.

A myth he busts is that you should focus on your areas of greatest weakness if you want to grow. Nope. You will grow the most by focusing in the areas of your greatest strength.

So how can you figure out what your areas of greatest strength are?

These are the activities that make you think, “This is perfect for me.” “I could do this forever.” and “I can’t wait to start!”

When you’re working your strengths, you feel powerful, passionate, euphoric, natural, smooth, and confident.

And when you have a strength, you want to find people who are good at it, learn more about it, or find a way to do more of it.

What about weaknesses? In your weakness, you think, “This is going to take forever.” “Thank goodness this is nearly over.” and “Will this ever end?”

When you’re weak in certain things, you feel frustrated, fragmented, drained, bored or distracted.

And when you have this in your work, you try to pass it off to the new person, do anything else instead, or shove it to the side of your desk and ignore it.

So for example, this is how I feel in my fundraising work for nonprofits.

Writing an appeal letter or email? I can’t WAIT to do it! I love it. And I’m always searching for ways to do it better.

Writing a grant? I cannot wait to pass it off to someone else.

Attending a staff meeting? Ugh. When will this be over?

Why should you not try to just get GOOD at the things you’re bad at? I mean, you can change, right? People change all the time!

Buckingham says no. A myth that we have is that as you grow, your personality changes. Buckingham challenges this myth and says, “Actually, as you grow, you become more of who you already are.

I’ve found this to be true for me.

So when I was little, I loved reading and writing. I would seek out these activities. My aunt told me we went to Europe when I was 12 and they had to yell at me to get my nose out of a book to look at the scenery. I didn’t remember that but it’s probably true. I do love traveling and looking a scenery, but I wrote a lot of letters and journal entries. I read a lot of books. When I went to college, I majored in poetry and gender studies. Writing heavy disciplines that also required a lot of reading. Now that I’m working for myself, I do even more of this. I’ve added teaching to the mix. I really love teaching too.  Teaching requires a lot of writing and reading.

What about YOU? What are the activities you’ve always loved to do? Do you get to express those in your current job?

Here’s a simple test.

Buckingham asks, What are the SIGNS of your strengths? You can rate each job task you have from 1-5, 5 being the best, 1, the worst.

S is for Success. Have you had success doing this activity before?

For example, I have been tremendously successful at this type of activity. Other people tell me I have a gift for this activity.

I is for Instinct. Do you instinctively pick this activity?

Such as, I do this activity every day. This type of activity is a gut reaction to me.

G is for Growth. Does this make you grow?

I pick up this type of activity easily. I can’t wait to learn new techniques for doing this activity.

N is for Need. Is this something you NEED to do?

I always look forward to doing this type of activity. It’s fun for me to think back to when I was doing this type of activity.


Now that you know a bit more about what your strengths are, you may want to ask yourself, how can I do more of these, and less of what I don’t like to do? Well, for the answer to that, you’ll have to buy the book! But it’s well worth your investment.

Bottom line? You’re not supposed to be good at everything.

You’re not supposed to be beating yourself up all the time for what you’re not good at. You’re not supposed to be focusing on your weaknesses. You’re doing 10 people’s jobs in your nonprofit office- Volunteer coordinator, grants manager, researcher, sponsorship coordinator, events director, communications manager, and more. You are better at, and enjoy some of these activities more than others. So why not see how you can carve out ways to do more of what you love, and redistribute the tasks you’re not good at to others?

Your manager isn’t supposed to be beating you up for what you’re not good at. A good manager is someone who helps you find your areas of greatest strength, and work to maximize your time doing things that you’re best at, and that you love to do.

Now go forth, and discover your strengths!