9 Things: Your Career and Focusing on Your Strengths in 2009

Published in: Beauty Tips, Just For Fun

Last week I watched a really interesting episode of Oprah featuring career coach and author Marcus Buckingham. The show followed Marcus as he led a group of women who were dissatisfied with their jobs through an extensive “career intervention” seminar.

Strength training

One of the big lessons of the show was identifying your strengths, defined as the things that make you feel your best — organizing things, teaching, caring for others, being creative, doing detailed paperwork, crunching numbers, etc. — and finding a job in which you’re able to focus on your strengths as much as possible.


Business expert and bestselling author Marcus Buckingham has helped millions of people reach new levels of success and happiness at work — including employees at Coca-Cola, Gap and Microsoft — with his radical “strengths training” approach. His key to success is simple: Stop spending so much time trying to fix your weaknesses. Instead, focus on what makes you special and unique. “A strength is an activity that makes you feel strong,” he says. “If you want to know what your strength is, you’ve got to pay attention to how you feel. It feels like focus. It feels like concentration. You feel invigorated. Energized.”

Career transitions…

The episode hit me hard because like the women on the show I’ve been going through a transitional period with my career.

I haven’t felt good about my job at the literary agency for many months, so I’ve decided to find a new path.

Starting later this month, I’m going back to school for the first time in 10 years, yikes! I’ll be taking journalism classes and focusing on freelance writing. Like most people, I’m a little freaked out (aka scared) about the economy, but I couldn’t see myself being happy in 5-10 years if I didn’t try to move myself forward at work.

A list to get the career ball rolling…

Even if you’re happy and satisfied at work, it might be fun to make a list (you know I love lists!) of your strengths. It might help you identify new projects at your current job, find a new hobby or figure out ways to make some extra money.

Activities that make me feel strong, focused and energized…

  1. Making lists 🙂
  2. Organizing and executing detailed projects
  3. Talking to people and being able to retain the information they share about their lives — the names and ages of their children, their favorite hobbies, etc. I’ve always liked chatting with people.
  4. Writing
  5. Brainstorming creative/odd/weird ideas
  6. Learning about and trying new activities
  7. Visual art stuff: photography, Photoshop, collage, makeup 🙂
  8. Cleaning, LOL! I dunno if it counts as a strength, but when I have a clean and organized workspace all is right with the world.
  9. Teaching and helping others

Are you thinking about making a career change or perhaps reevaluating the course of your current job? Writing a list might be a good way to get some ideas flowing.

Your turn

If you’d like to share your list of strengths, please post them in the comments. Oh — I listed 9 things because 9 is my favorite number, but you can make your list as long or as short as you want! 🙂

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,


P.S. Happy New Year!


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So far, 22 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Gloria says:

    Hey Karen,

    I can totally relate to you. I’ve only been out of school for a year, working at my job for a little over a year, and I am burnt out. My parents are already pressuring me to figure out a career to go into, saying I’m getting too old, and I’m only 23! So like you, I’m trying to figure out what my strengths are so I can get into something I’ll naturally excel in, and thus be happy doing.

    My strengths
    1. Friendly – I pretty much get along or try to get along with everyone. Even coworkers I don’t like, I’m still friendly to them.
    2. Engaging in conversation – I love to talk, and I will talk to everyone.
    3. Raising Morale – I feel like at work, when I’m not getting attacked and harassed by higher ups, I’m always raising morale of my coworkers
    4. Fast Learner – I pick up things fast, aside from language.
    5. Crazy – I’m probably certifiable crazy, but in the good manic energy type of way.
    6. Curious about everything (but huge weakness, I get bored easily too)

    That’s it for now, but I’m definitely thinking about this list more and more. I’ve actually bought a book, DO What You Are, which is highly recommended by career counselors everywhere. As I get through the book, I’m posting up passages that are really worth sharing on my blog, so hopefully it’ll help others too.

    Gloria´s last blog post..Real Talk from MDIAF.COM

  2. Tali says:

    7- is my lucky number!!
    I never went to university and now ive decided to take a few small/short degree courses to see if anything takes my fancy.
    I was 6 years since I last had homework so i was dreading it. Especially when on application forms you have to list your positive qualities!

    1. I can talk to anyone… i seem to be able to communicate well with everyone. I would say im able to make friends easily.. but i can talk to strangers at ease!

    2. I understand alot about many different cultures.. so i always know im not going to be disprespectful in a meeting!

    3. I am amazing at making lists. I could make them all day long.. lol I even do when im blessed with free time.

    4. Amazing at time management. Im never ever late.. im pretty much always early… I always hand in things on or before deadline!

    5. Im good at defusing fights and tense situations. Id be great to have in a team as im also quite good at helping people with domestic issues which run into and affect other areas.

    6. Im social.. i love to mingle and meet new people..

    7. Im always presentable. Im not vain but i am very aware we live in a superficial world. I never went to school (now work) without looking groomed. Washed hair, clean clothes, mascara and lipgloss. Even when im ill I make it a point to never look scruffy!!

    Its sad because im looking at this list and I see where me and my partner differ. He is almost the complete opposite of these things.
    We recently took a course together and it was a total disaster!! He refused to speak to anyone on our course, even insulted a few of them.. he was constantly having tempremental fits in the lessons.. he wouldnt let me socialise with the rest of them until I put my foot down towards the middle of the course.

    Now ive signed up for something different to him and im excited to do it indipendantly. Sometimes I miss having my own life!.. I get so used to being ‘us’ or ‘one of them’ I forget that I do have qualities that are of use.

  3. Shiny says:

    I’m a grad student planning on continuing on and getting a PhD so I have a pretty limited skills set.. but I want to say kudos for you for going back. It isn’t easy but I’ve seen mature students (although I count you as way too young to count as one) often do the best when they go back. I think it is because they have lived in the real world and grasp the real value of the degrees they are pursuing and the importance of working hard.

    Good luck, I’m sure you’ll do awesome!!!

  4. Indian Girl says:

    My biggest strength would be learning. If there is need for me to learn anything to improve my job, I will do it right away. I enjoy learning about new things be it softwares or procedures…anything…
    Good luck with school, Karen!

    Indian Girl´s last blog post..Loreal Color of Hope

  5. Holly says:

    good for you Karen it must be really hard to get back into Education, ive only been out of University a year and it would freak me out a little bit going back already but im sure after a couple of classes you will slip right back into it and do great!

    Im at a major decision making point in my career and its soo difficult to know which direction to take so i can totally relate to your position! Im a great believer in what is meant to be will be though so im just taking all the chances that cme my way at the moment!

  6. Karen too says:

    Congrats on your big change, I hope you’ll enjoy it! I finished my masters degree 4 1/2 years ago, and I haven’t been tempted to go back to school yet, even though I think I might someday. I think I have chosen the right career (I’m an engineer), even though I’m not superexcited about my job all the time. I changed jobs about a year ago to a position that is much more specialist oriented, and I have stuggeled a bit this first year. Lately I feel that I have gained experience and knowledge to be better at what I do. That feels good and makes me want to improve even more!

    My lucky number is 21, but I don’t think I can come up with that many strengths… 🙂

    1. I’m structured and likes things best when they are organized, wheather it is a report at work or my kitchen drawers. I also always clear my desk before I go home from work in the afternoon. That way I can sort of start fresh when I come in the next morning! (Same with the apartment in the evening by the way.)

    2. I’m (most often) a positive person, and don’t let problems and obstacles bring me down.

    3. I’m good at communicating and cooperating with people. I enjoy work more when I work closely with committed colleauges.

    3. I love to photograph and play with the photos in Photoshop afterwards! It’s my favourite hobby right now. I also enjoy doing other creative projects in crafts.

    4. Remember Monica in Friends? “I’m always the hostess!” I too love to have people over and cook for them and have a fun night together. It’s so much fun to plan and prepare and set a nice table.

    5. I like efficiency and I’m always on time. I get annoyed when people are late or wasting the time of others.

    Thanks for an interesting post and fun excercise Karen! Have a good Thursday!

  7. Happy New Year Karen! I have read Marcus Buckingham’s books (through work) as well as MANY other “What do you want to do with your life” types of books. I even worked at Ten Speed Press who publishes “What Color is Your Parachute” yet I STILL can’t figure it all out, haha! I graduated college 10 years ago with my English degree (with a creative writing option) because at the time I was working in publishing and I thought I wanted to do that forever and be an Editor. My reality check came soon though when I realized that not only are those jobs incredibly hard to come by, but also that there were hardly any big publishing companies in CA, they are all in NY! I was definitely not willing to move to NY. I also realized that publishing companies don’t pay very well and I just can’t live off the meager salary. After working at two publishing companies, I somehow wound up in Biotechnology (FYI science and math really doesn’t interest me at ALL) which isn’t really my forte. The problem is it pays VERY well and I have incredible benefits and since I own a house, there is no way I could afford to do any of the stuff that really interests me at this point. Of course everything that interests me pays little unless you are a superstar (working with animals, writing, makeup, photography, baking). So on that (long) note here are my strengths:

    1. Very detail oriented
    2. Excellent with proofreading
    3. Excellent communication skills, especially written
    4. Organized
    5. Efficient, never late
    6. List making (I too LOVE lists I will sometimes make them for things I have already done, haha!)
    7. Very quick learner when it comes to computer programs, HTML, web stuff
    8. Excellent with researching on the internet

    Good luck with school, I think it’s great that you are going back and think you will be very happy with your decision!

    Vampy Varnish´s last blog post..Vampy Varnish Tuesday Poll

  8. Briana says:

    I also have the Do What You Are Book and it is really great.
    I can’t say it made me decide what I want for a career, but I definitely learned a ton about my personality type.
    I am finally going to college in september for a Bachelor of Communications Information Design. I hope to be able to freelance from home in some kind of writing/designing job with this.

    heres my list…

    1. keeping the house clean certainly makes me feel happier and more energetic… now if I could just be ambitious enough to do it all the time lol
    2. exercising – however I get it, always makes me feel better.
    3. Getting to know new people energizes me and usually makes me happy
    4. Learning how different things work, from my truck to my cell phone to new software always makes me feel smarter
    5. Photography — taking good pictures makes me feel happier too, being challenged by what I am shooting makes it even more fun.
    6. teaching people how to do things — I love teaching people
    7. giving people advice — I’m a bit bossy and like to help people out lol
    8. accomplishing goals — I’ve had a hard time in the past accomplishing goals, I usually just let them fall by the wayside, but I know that I feel 100% better if I do reach them.
    9. fixing little things to streamline my work day and make it less complicated

  9. babyu21 says:

    This is great I plan on doing some research this week on going back to school to get a better job.

    My strong points are:

    1. Making deadlines (I never turn anything in late) I am super punctual all the time.
    2. Being creative (putting together projects and making them eye catching)
    3. Getting people to calm down and understand a situation (explaining things) – I don’t however like dealing directly with customers (customer service jobs)
    4. Problem solving (I believe every problem has a solution this comes from me loving math in school)
    5. Speaking my mind in a non-threatening way (while I don’t care for my boss she says she really appreciates it when I speak up about issues)
    6. Quick learner (espeically computer stuff, I taught myself how to use most of the Microsoft applications)
    7. Organizing (I hate to have a cluttered desk or home I think there is a place for everything or it needs to be trashed)
    8. Compromising (I believe you have to give a little to get a little)
    9. Keeping spirits up I am the office prangster. My nickname at one job was Troublesome cause I was always up to something.

    Thanks Karen this was very helpful and I loved reading others lists I got some good ideas and I also noted things that I just am not good at like writing I hate writing papers and proofreading I am the worst.

  10. Erika says:

    Yay for Karen! You’re going to be so happy when you’re doing what you love full-time 🙂
    Here’s the weird thing—9 is my favorite number, too! And I love to clean and make lists. Maybe we’re cousins. Haha. Happy New Year!

    Erika´s last blog post..Beauty Editors’ Top Picks from 2008

  11. Daya says:

    Congratulations Karen on deciding to go back to school! You’ll do great!! 🙂 I’m currently trying to get a math credit out of the way…it had been 10 years since anything algebraic had been in my head (as of last summer)! It’s a struggle but will be well worth the debt soon 🙂

    My favorite number is 7, so here is my list:

    1. I love to write..but am uncertain as to what kind makes me happiest

    2. Making lists..keeps me better organized
    3. Internet researching, especially on travel
    4. Being creative
    5. Brainstorming ideas

  12. Daya says:

    I don’t want to put baking and cleaning, but I guess they are strengths too! LOL

  13. Sherry says:

    Hi Karen!
    I just wanted to say good luck with school.
    I am also currently back in school after getting my first degree in ’99. I totally believe there is such a thing as a quarter-life crisis. Maybe you can write about it! It’s just nice to know that someone is in the same boat as I am.
    I love to organize things. Did the expert have a specific job for this strength? I often dream about sorting mail. I think I would love it! I am a bit of an introvert.Ha,ha.
    Happy new year!

  14. Tiera says:

    Change… boy, oh boy! I’m about to graduate from college and am realizing that I’m still pretty much in the dark about my future. I’m even about 80% sure I want to change my major. I can’t even think about how much time and money I’d be wasting if I did that, putting me back 2 years in school and dishing out thousands more… aaahh! But you’re right, I’ll regret it if I don’t set out to accomplish what is really in my heart! You go, girl!

    Tiera´s last blog post..Welcome to Beautery.com!

  15. Michele says:

    Karen- Happy New Year !

    I Got my MSN at age 55 so go forth and do whatever you think you can & want to acomplish.
    My Strengths are ” having no fear” and and being persistent.
    My persistence is my rising and my falling.
    i ask questions, maybe the ones others are afraid to ask.
    I raise my hand, even if I am the only one who looks perplexed.
    I have always asked myself do I want to be loved or feared?
    Having been an intensive care nurse who has had to argue with chest surgeons I say have a seat, I have been there. However, I can be very compassioniate & tenacious.
    Always know you are in a constant flow of change. never standing still. Your mind is always absorbing new things.
    That is whay we all like make up and beauty.

  16. BeautyTalk says:

    Happy New Year!

    Good for you for going back to school for pursuing what you love. I majored in Journalism as an undergraduate but I feel like I didn’t take full advantage of it. I am also planning to go back to school to pursue my MFA or MA in Journalism this year.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about my strengths and it’s been hard for me to come up with a list, but here goes:

    1. Organizing events
    2. Making lists (as well)
    3. Not afraid of going after what I want
    4. Cultivating good relationships with others
    5. Researching and writing

    5 is my favorite # 🙂

    BeautyTalk´s last blog post..HAPPY NEW YEAR!

  17. Tiffany says:

    Hi Karen! I LOL’ed at the first item on your list – my hubby is always poking fun of me because I love lists and make them for everything 🙂

    Good luck with going back to school! I hope you love it. I’m currently a full-time grad student and working part time, so I know it’s tough but you can do it!

  18. Eleanor says:

    Congrats and Happy New Year!

    Yay! Glad to hear you’re going back to pursue what you love. Are you going full time? It’s so funny because I’ve been online the past few days researching various grad school programs in the health area…I guess I can’t get enough of school 🙂

    So here’s my list of strengths:
    1) Collaborative and respected team player
    2) Good generalist (“jack of all trades”)
    3) Ability to adapt quickly to any situation-work and personal
    4) Determined
    5) Strongest work ethic ever (bordering on workaholicism-guess this is both a strength and weakness)
    6) Eating (weird, but true)

  19. Rowena says:

    Good luck with going back to school Karen! I’d love to do that – I would be a perpetual student if I could! I have a freelance job which is hectic, writing and I have been lucky to have had so many offers but I also have a full time day job, which isn’t so fulfilling, but is there as security at the moment. But if I had to do that job with no hope of another job or path I would sink into a deep depression…its a job that’s a means to an end I guess.

    My list…

    1. Copying you, making lists
    2. Planning, organising things
    3. Small details
    4. Writing
    5. Being creative, thinking of odd things
    6. Photography
    7. Shopping! Can I have shopping! I can find anything cheaper than anyone else!

    Rowena´s last blog post..Urban Decay 24/7 Concealer Pencil

  20. lexi says:

    i think my main strength is my compassion and just wanted to help others

    thank you for posting this because i feel like after the birth of my girl i’m at a cross-roads and i need to make a change in my career path

    i’m going to get off my butt and dust off my resume – not fear of making change at work – i need to adopt my attitude of ‘nothing personal just business’ rather than pleasing my current bosses as my reason not to chase after a bigger and more rewarding challenge!

    also, i have so many story ideas swimming in my head – i really need to channel all of it into my laptop

    and yes, would like to shed the 30lbs i have accummulated from my pregnancy…but this is just a given!

  21. Michele says:

    Hi Y’all,
    i am reading some of your wonderful posts. And I am getting some ideas for my January bulletin board.
    i usually do something evolving around: I Resolve, then i make a list and and finalize it with, And remember to smile more often.
    It is 1 AM in Voorhees, Nj and I leave you with that my fine people.
    Happy New Year Again,

  22. Michele says:

    I am still working on that Bulletin Board!

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