Leveraging your gifts and talents

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of co-facilitating with Vince Coraci, director of member services and development at the National Association of Social Workers – Michigan Chapter, an emerging professionals brown bag program focused on professional development. A portion of our discussion focused on identifying personal gifts and talents, as well as successfully leveraging these traits for optimal growth, development and career advancement. Following is an excerpt of my advice:

First, as professionals we must be keenly aware of our gifts and talents. One way of identifying these traits is to create a list of past achievements. This includes achievements that were realized both individually and as part of a team. And it’s not enough to only consider accomplishments at work. This comprehensive list should be expanded to include achievements at school, home and other applicable contexts (both past and present).

Next, we must add to this list our strengths. These are the abilities, either natural or acquired, that make us valued and desired as employees, learners and spouses. To help you get started, try answering each of the following questions:

  • What would your coworkers/supervisor say are your best attributes? What about your members or clients? How would they characterize your most notable contributions to the organization?
  • What do your friends and family members seek from you? How do you contribute in meaningful ways to these relationships?
  • Consider elements of extracurricular activities/hobbies you enjoy. What aspects of these pastimes set you apart from others?
  • Identify your passion; if you could do only one thing day in and day out for the rest of your life, what would you be happiest doing?
  • What have you discovered from past personality assessments, including DISC, True Colors and Myers-Briggs?

Finally, have other trusted individuals (at least one from work, school and home) review your draft list of gifts and talents to provide feedback. These individuals can help identify strengths you may have either downplayed or not considered. They may also challenge items on your list that may not necessarily be strengths (or may require some additional time and attention to convert into full-fledged strengths).

With your final, vetted list of gifts and talents, spend some time identifying commonalities among the various entries. Further boiling this list down to several key attributes (approximately three to five) will provide focus and direction when it comes to selecting targeted opportunities and experiences for further integrating these strengths into your work.

The second step to leveraging your gifts and talents is knowing how best to utilize these traits. In my opinion, there are two possible courses of action:

  1. You can seek out opportunities within your workplace (department or organization) that require little to no leadership support/buy-in. These self-directed experiences may include taking a more active role in staff meetings (if you’re an innovative thinker with creative ideas) or researching a new office supply company (if you’re budget-conscious and a good negotiator).
  2. Or you can seek out opportunities within your industry (professional society or industry organization). In this case, executive buy-in will likely be necessary. For example, you may consider chairing a committee, writing a white paper or coordinating a program. Whatever the experience, you are utilizing your gifts and talents in a way that furthers your growth and development (and may even “give back” to a cause, community or profession).

So, my question to you is this: What strategies do you find most successful when it comes to identifying employee gifts and talents (for you or others)? How do you best leverage these gifts and talents in the workplace? Conversely, how might organizations (associations, hoteliers, vendors) adapt to provide more opportunities that leverage the gifts and talents of their employees?

3 Responses to “Leveraging your gifts and talents”

  1. 1 Shana Killips
    November 17, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I attended a leadership conference recently in which we were presented a list of approximately 75 words which represented values. Through a series of steps we narrowed the list down to our top 3 personal values to use as a jumping off point for our own personal branding exercise. I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise and found that my top three values are present in my personal and professional life – balance, community and loyalty. Any exercise that helps you to explore your own personal values and strengths is a great learning opportunity. Engaging in the exercise and reflecting on what the outcome is a great way to identify your most genuine strengths.

  2. November 21, 2011 at 1:15 pm


    This experience sounds like it provided the necessary focus, support and direction necessary to successfully identify your defining values. I’m sure you find yourself drawing upon this newfound knowledge and personal discovery as you approach your work and engage with both new and existing clients. Consciously integrating these values into the workplace helps promote an optimal work environment for both you and your colleagues (and, by the way, your clients). What particularly excites me is the moment you determined that your top three values are present in both your personal and professional lives. In my opinion, this is a good indication that the defining values you’ve identified accurately reflect what makes you tick. I think when this is not the case, that is to say when our presumed defining values are not reflected in both our personal and professional lives, there can be a very significant disconnect that requires our attention. Until that course correction is made, outcomes such as balance, success and happiness will continue to elude us.

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meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

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