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VOL. 129 | NO. 193 | Friday, October 3, 2014

Angela Copeland

Focus On Your Strengths

By Angela Copeland

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A few weeks ago, I had the honor of sitting on a career panel about making the right career moves. In a packed room, we covered everything from preparing for a job interview to how office politics can influence promotions at work.

Just as the panel was about to wrap up, a young man stood up in the back of the room with a question. He asked, “If you could speak to your younger self, what advice would you give considering what you know now?”

His question was very insightful and has continued to come up numerous times since then, so I wanted to share my thoughts on this topic with you.

Although it may not seem this way now, my undergraduate degree is in computer and systems engineering. That’s right. For four years during college, I wrote code, soldered hardware components, and even redesigned car parts for General Motors.

The college I went to was filled with super-smart whiz kids who all seemed to have perfect (no kidding) scores on their SATs. All of our coursework was math, science or computer programming.

Time and time again, I would be paired up with three other students to complete a programming project. It never failed that they were all brilliant. Among the group, I was almost always the least good computer programmer, and let me tell you, that was not a great feeling.

Looking for other opportunities to contribute to our class projects, I would ensure that our report was well-written. I’d make our presentation look great. I’d setup a backboard and sometimes develop a brochure. I became the project manager and marketing coordinator.

Keep in mind that I did all these things because I felt like the lowest man on the computer programming totem pole.

Our senior year, we were each asked to write an essay about someone who made a difference for us in school. Like many students, I wrote about a professor who had influenced my life.

One of the brilliant classmates I’d be working with wrote about me. I couldn’t believe it. He wrote about how great I was at organizing the group. He wrote about my leadership skills. And, he wrote about my creativity and my project management skills. He talked about how I brought something to the table nobody else had, and how it made all our work better.

Who knew that all those things I’d been doing to make up for something else were actually a strength!

The advice I’d give my younger self and to you is this: Focus on your strengths. Don’t beat yourself up too much over the things you struggle with. There are things that you do better than anything else. Focus on those things. Work to be the best at them. And, if you need to, find someone to help you with the areas that you’re not as strong in.

Angela Copeland is CEO/founder of Copeland Coaching, CopelandCoaching.com, and author of “Breaking The Rules & Getting The Job.” She also hosts the Copeland Coaching Podcast on iTunes. You can follow Copeland Coaching on Twitter (@CopelandCoach) and Facebook (facebook.com/CopelandCoaching).

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