Don’t Think You Have to be Something You’re Not to Succeed

“We’re all wired differently. There are people who are visionaries. They need to be in a job where they get the opportunity to do that. There are people that are more tactical implementators and they can take very big picture ideas and narrow them down to something that people can go do. So you’ve got to play to your strengths. I know that I’m not a visionary. I just love the way their minds work. But I’m okay knowing what my strengths are and how important I am to a company because of what I can do. You have to find a balance between striving to be better and being respected for what you can do vs. trying to be something you are not. Know that there is a a lot of respect for being someone who does what they do well. Trust what you’re good at — even if you see other skill sets that other people are good at and maybe you don’t have that skill set yet or you’re not just wired that way. Find a way to make your skill set one that’s used, respected, needed because if you’re not feeling that way then you’re not in the right place for people to get it.” – 40-something, working mom

I loved this piece of advice and it’s something a lot of 40-somethings I talked to relate to. Don’t confuse challenging yourself to be better with trying to be good at something you are not.  If it’s not what you are naturally wired to do then you will constantly be doubting yourself.  This is not to say never stop questioning yourself.  Some level of doubt is good…it will push you to do better.  Always try to better yourself but turn it into a positive thing by questioning what it is you do best.

Like so much of what 40-somethings say to 20-somethings,  it’s about not comparing yourself to others or following what others do.  40-something women relate how they were constantly looking around at what their friends where doing and how they were getting promoted and judging themselves against that vs. concentrating on what they were doing and if they even liked it. And importantly, how that fit in with their company’s goals.

When I was out of school my professors all told me that 90% of marketing majors will get jobs in sales but I knew I wasn’t a salesperson. When I moved to New York, everyone wanted to be an investment banker. So not me. When I was first in advertising all my friends wanted to be account executives. But that wasn’t me. But that thing about success being good at sales stuck with me. I always thought I needed to be better at that. But in fact I was better at coming up with ideas, not selling them. And once I realized that I could be much better at doing my job. It’s more about being able to sell yourself. And when what you do is aligned with what you are naturally good at, you will naturally sell yourself.  In the end, you can differentiate yourself more by not doing what everyone else is doing.

So use your 20’s to find out what your strengths are, how you can be the best you can be at that…and then where those skills will benefit a company the most.

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