So, I was asked to answer the most popular question in the professional world.

How can one identify their strengths and weaknesses to advance in their career?

Since I am no expert, what I can do, is share what I have learnt based on two of my pre-eminent strengths – Experimentation and Observation.  

There was a time when we worked hard to come up with an acceptable list of strengths and weaknesses. The sole purpose of this was to give a good response to the job interviewer. But now-a-days, with 14-year-olds starting their businesses, a well-crafted list of strengths and weaknesses is not enough. 

So, here’s my take on what you need to get ahead in your career –

1. Be true to yourself

Stay true to yourself and listen to your inner voice. It will lead you to your dreams.

James Ross

And this brings us to the first step to being successful in anything. Be open and comfortable to accept and share your true self. Nobody knows you better than you know yourself. You have all the answers within you. Just have to courage to ask the right questions.

Only after accepting the fact that owning a degree does not mean I deserve a certain place in the professional world, I opened up to acquiring new skills and broadening my horizons.

2. Do what you love

For the first 4 years of my career, I had been working a job that I enjoyed thoroughly. But something was always missing. I kept asking myself – I love what I do then why am I so unhappy?

When it comes to a career, it’s always a choice between – their dream or your dream

It’s confusing. What is the difference between ‘do what you love’ and ‘love what you do’? One – you choose to do what you love. And in the other, you keep doing what’s assigned and you end up becoming so comfortable that you start loving it.

So, I figured out what was missing in my job. I had been loving-what-I used-to-do and not doing-what-I-love-to-do.

Having said that, the easiest way to succeed in your career is to fulfil someone else’s goal. Researches proved that people perform well when they focus on someone else’s dream. So, I guess it depends on what kind of success YOU are looking for.

I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.

Frank Lloyd Wright

These big words can suck the living soul out of you if all the pain is not for something you forward to. You may not succeed in your first attempt. But, there will never be a 2nd attempt or a 3rd, if you are not doing it to achieve something you desire.

But professionally, the best thing you can do is to start with loving-what-you-do and then doing-what-you-love. A little experience never hurt anyone.

And this brings us to the next one –

3. Stay Curious

A year after starting my job in tech, I took a few days off to spend some time with my siblings. A little fun before getting back to the same old schedule. That’s when my 12-year-old nephew mentioned he could create a website using HTML code.

In my head, I was like – he’s probably talking about the tutorials they give in school. Create a webpage, change some colours here and there and such.

Then, he offered to show me some of his ‘experiments’. To my surprise, it was a fully-functional website. This kid just beat me.

“When did schools start teaching this to a freaking 12-year-old.”

“They didn’t. I learnt it online“.

Thanks to technology, you are now in competition with 12-year-olds with more time and fewer responsibilities. And what is it that keeps them in a better position – the curiosity to learn and experiment.

For someone who is still looking for their passion, this could be the most powerful step. This is where you find the answers to –

What do I want to do in life?

What am I passionate about?

What is my career path?

What should I do next?

How can I start working on the thing I love?

You either end up adding things to your skillset or deleting them. Both are an essential part of choosing the right career path.

4. Find your inspiration

Who is that one person you look up to? The one who is living the life you want?

If you already know the answer to this question then well done. If not, it’s time to find out.

This person could be anyone. An actor, an entrepreneur, an athlete or even your neighbour. Someone you aspire to be.

Get to know them. Find out how they got to where they are today. And this doesn’t mean following them on Twitter or Instagram. Know their true story.

There is one thing that is consistent in every success story. Success is always preceded by failures and sleepless nights. This story of ‘failure-turned-into-success’ will be your inspiration.

While doing so, remember, their story need not be yours. What worked for them may not work for you.

The value of another’s experience is to give us hope, not to tell us whether or not to proceed.

Peter Block

And with the right inspiration, you are already a step ahead.

Who is my inspiration?

If you are offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat.

Sheryl Sandberg

5. Set Milestones

Don’t work towards too many goals. Work towards one and set multiple milestones to reach that goal.

Take one significant step at a time.

And what’s the benefit of setting milestones?

The success of every milestone will help you stay focused and motivated to work harder. 

Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.

Nelson Mandela