“I’m not presenting very convincing stories.”
Recently, I started working with a new product manager client who had spent most of this year recruiting. He advanced to a few final round interviews but never the offer stage.
During our intro session, I observed his frustration with creating interview stories. The process for him felt like an uphill battle.
In our first session, we deep-dived into his stories and took inventory of his strengths. What surprised me was that his true love in the product development process was one of the early phases… conducting user research.
Even better, he had meaningful stories for this skillset that felt as promising as the excitement in his voice when he spoke about it.
So I asked him if he had considered the User Researcher role before. To my surprise, it hadn’t crossed his mind. The more we talked, the more this new role felt aligned with his strengths and curiosities. We ended this session by giving him time to think over the next steps.
He texted me one week later, “I made the decision to focus on User Research.”
During our next session, he expressed how crafting his stories felt so much simpler and breezier — because the role fit better with his strengths.
While the outcomes remain to be seen, I suspect we’ll look back at this moment as decisive. We’ve already begun to speed up his search by leveraging assets he’s had all along.
First, I’ll share simple exercises that show you how to discover your own superpowers. Then, I’ll introduce tools for turning your superpowers into rocket fuel to accelerate your job search and grow your career to new heights.
Discovering Your Superpowers
We’ll cover a few different approaches to discovering your superpowers: reflecting on experiences when you’ve thrived, consulting your circle of people, and assessments.
Test-drive each approach to see how effective they are at surfacing your strengths. If you’re short on time, however, then at least complete the first exercise, which several clients and I have found to be the most useful.
Experiences When You Thrived
For this exercise, think back to 3-5 experiences when you felt like you were thriving. Write down what happened in each experience, then identify the strengths you were exercising in each story.
Download the editable Superpowers Discovery Worksheet, and as a bonus, you’ll get a 200+ Superpowers Reference List. I’ll send you a free copy to the email you enter below:
Doing this exercise helped me discover that one of my superpowers is coaching. I realized that one of the experiences where I thrived was when friends came to me for help with their career or life problems, and then through our conversations, they felt better and got more clarity on what they needed to do next.
I always felt a joyful glow after these sessions. Now I realize it’s because I used my listening, facilitation, and inquiry skills to help others get useful insights that moved them forward.
While a couple of years passed before I tapped into this superpower through my coaching business, this exercise was the original catalyst. Without doing it, I doubt that I would have experimented with career coaching.
- What surprises you about the strengths that this exercise surfaced for you?
- Are there any strengths you listed that you wish you exercised more often now?
- Which strengths do you feel like have evolved (for better or worse) since the experience you wrote down happened? How have they evolved?
Consult Your Circle
Ask 5-10 people in your circle who know you from various aspects of your life — including your friends, family members, colleagues, and mentors — to answer the following prompt:
“What do you see as my strengths?”
Write down their answers to this question below.
- What surprises you about the strengths that people in your circle said you have?
- Do you observe differences between the strengths listed by those who know you personally compared to those who know you professionally? What might explain these differences?
- How do these strengths identified by people in your circle compare to the strengths you identified through reflecting on your experiences in Exercise #1?
Take the strengths you listed in exercise #1 and #2, and synthesize them into a list of your top 10 strengths. Group similar, connected strengths so that each bullet feels like a distinct category of strengths.
Finally, from the previous list, choose your top 1-3 strengths. Voila — these are your superpowers!
There are numerous strengths assessments available online. However, I don’t propose them to clients unless if prompted. Their methodologies have mixed empirical backing, and open-ended prompts typically get us much richer, detailed insights.
With that said, I understand there are some folks who enjoy taking self-assessments. There are two popular options for you:
- VIA Character Strengths: This assessment is designed to identify a person’s top character strengths (e.g. Creativity, Bravery, Self-Regulation). These are strengths that you exercise regularly and find energizing across domains — work, relationships, school, social, etc. Independent researchers have studied VIA character strengths and empirically showed that using them in new ways can increase general happiness.
- CliftonStrengths: This survey is focused on identifying a person’s top workplace-oriented strengths out of the 4 domains (Strategic Thinking, Relationship Building, Influencing, and Executing). While there are studies backing its validity, they were all sponsored by Gallup, so they may reflect a bit of bias.
I recommend trying VIA Character Strengths over CliftonStrengths because the former has been the subject of more rigorous scientific research.
Accelerating Your Job Search
You can get unstuck and expedite the process of identifying your next target role by leveraging your superpowers for ideation, consulting your circle of people (again), and creating criteria.
This exercise is simple. For 10 minutes, try brainstorming all the ways you can imagine yourself using your superpowers in your career. Write your ideas down on paper and see what comes out.
Consult Your Circle (Part 2)
Go back to the same people that you asked earlier to identify what they observed to be your strengths. This time, as a different prompt:
“Which careers do you feel would align most closely with my strengths?”
Prepare yourself to be surprised by their answers.
Strengths to Criteria Exercise
If you already have a list of target roles and/or career paths, but you’re feeling undecided about which direction to move towards, then use your strengths as filters.
For each of your target roles, answer the following questions:
- Which of your top 5 strengths are you going to have the opportunity to exercise in this role?
- For strengths you listed in question #1, how are you going to exercise these strengths in this role?
- For strengths you didn’t list, is it a dealbreaker for you not to use these strengths in this role? Why or why not?
The more coverage, the more the role will get out of your strengths.
Here are a few other rules of thumb that may help you maximize the meaning you get from this exercise:
- Don’t worry if no role has 100% coverage of your strengths. That’s normal.
- Cut roles where you don’t get to use your top superpower. It’s shame for not only you but the world, to miss out on its value.
- Cut roles where you have <50% coverage of your strengths. If coverage correlates with time used, then that means you’ll be using your strengths less than half of your time.
- If you run out of roles on your list, go back to the drawing board. Brainstorm and consult your circle for fresh ideas, then do this exercise again.
One of my clients is an experienced software engineer, let’s call him Kevin, who felt stuck in what to do next in his career. He debated between continuing to work at his current startup (where he’s the only engineer), pursue his own small business ideas, or join a larger company.
Through the superpowers discovery exercise, he realized that empowering and mentoring people was his top strength.
He fondly recalled managing and helping his reports grow in their careers. However, over the last 5 years, he hasn’t managed a team — only focusing on development work.
While he had many options, it became clear that what he was craving in his next step is helping to grow a team. As a result, we shifted our focus to management opportunities for him at his current role. If they don’t exist, then we’ll look beyond.
Growing Your Career to New Heights
If you’re not job searching, then you can still use your superpowers to unlock high-performance in your career journey.
Strengths Daily Journal
This exercise takes only 5-10 minutes each day but can lead to powerful changes as a regular habit.
- At the start of each day, think of one new way in which you’ll use one of your strengths that day.
- At the end of each day, write down which strengths you used that day.
You’ll very quickly start noticing the gap between your intentions and actual execution. Through daily practice, you can shrink and eventually close this gap, so that you start moving the needle in the right direction.
Reimagine Your Role
Take 15 minutes to suspend reality and free-write a response to the following prompt:
“If you could redesign your role to use your strengths more, what would your reimagined role look like?”
Read through your response carefully. While some of your answers might feel impractical, challenge yourself to look beyond the obvious problems. Sometimes there is more possibility in creating new solutions than you may initially consider.
In this article, we covered a few simple, but powerful tools for discovering your superpowers and turning them into rocket fuel on your career journey.
Realizing and leveraging my superpowers helped me get more out of my product management career and shined a light on my coaching skillset. I hope that using the tools we discussed, you can get unstuck, move faster, and find more satisfaction in your career.
Which tool in this article did you find the most useful in discovering and applying your superpowers to your career?
Share your response in the comments section below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Also if you enjoyed this resource, download the accompanying Superpowers Discovery Worksheet (link under Experiences When You Thrived). As a bonus, you’ll get a 200+ Superpowers Reference List.