Why you should focus on your strengths if you want to fulfil your potential

With career changes on the rise - frequently by choice, often by decree - it’s comforting to focus on your talents rather than obsess about skills gaps. Promoting your known qualities and passions can help you gracefully flow from career to career. And sharpening existing tools can also help avoid drawn out and expensive training or lost income.

Here a pet industry entrepreneur from the academic publishing world, a dietician turned leadership coach, a qualified pharmacist in the personal branding business and a jewellery company founder share their experiences.

Adopt a side-hustle mindset

Andrea Gamson, co-founder of SocialStarters, transitioned from employment via marketing and sales consultancy into her own international social impact business. She suggests adopting the mindset of the "side hustle" and testing the ground for new opportunities before change kicks in (perhaps during your notice or redundancy period). Don’t knock the chance to earn money from your current area of expertise, she reminds us all, because that’s your bread and butter income for the immediate future.

"When I left the last place I worked for back in 2013, I immediately set myself up as a marketing and sales consultant. I bought a personalised email address from Google and emailed everyone in my professional network a summary of the successes I had achieved in my previous job, offering my services in case anyone needed help.

"When you initially start to make the transition into a new career there are times when leveraging your existing skills, for example through freelancing or consulting, will be the strategy that affords you the space and time to reflect, work on personal development (perhaps via lifestyle or career coaching) and/or to create the space to gain new skills required for your future career."

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High hurdles can wait

Claire Ransom, founder of Wizzbox for pets, says there are enough hurdles to contend with when you're starting something new, without focusing on areas in which you feel lacking.

"It's absolutely 100 per cent best to focus on what skills we already have, especially in the early days of building a new business or moving in a new direction with your career," says Claire.

"Apart from anything, it's good for morale to feel that you're making waves with the valuable skills you have, and that's so essential when you're trying something new.

Read: Why dyslexia doesn't have to be a disadvantage

“In terms of knowledge, I reserve judgement a little more - I'm in the process of starting a business where any subject knowledge from my previous career is of little use. I'm going from academic publishing to the pet industry. Not having the industry background certainly adds challenges, but my business is something I feel passionate about and that gives me a drive I wouldn't otherwise have."

After making what she calls a "fairly drastic" career transition from Digital/Technology publishing to the pet industry, Claire leans on editorial work to make a living while building a new business. It’s a career mash-up that helps pay the bills and build for the future.

It was always easier when I focused on what energised me

Honestly, what are you good at?

NHS dietitian turned leadership coaching entrepreneur, Tracy Kelly, is the founder of The Percolator. She believes people shine by honing their strengths and liberating their brilliance. Her secret was blending health, psychology and business skills into "a unique brew", plus drawing on people skills, tenacity, innate optimism and sense of adventure when moving out of her comfort zone.

"It’s not always been plain sailing but it was always easier when I focused on what energised me rather than trying to fixing me," explains Tracy. 

"If there is a knowledge gap that’s preventing you from getting to the next level of where you want to be, explore what or who will help you. How you do get there can be aligned with your strengths. For example, if you’re a great communicator and a real people’s person and it’s been identified that you need to increase your visibility and impact across an organisation, perhaps explore opportunities for cross-team project working. This will enable you to move out of your comfort zone, work with different people, on different projects while drawing on things that you enjoy and excite you."

Read: Six steps to making a positive change in your career

Knowing yourself is key, agrees Juliana Saldanha, a personal branding strategist. After graduating in pharmacy, Juliana worked in an incubator at the university and founding an accelerator for start-ups. She admits to lacking confidence in herself and her qualifications before entrepreneurship taught her to leverage her skills and interests.

"For that to happen it is necessary to invest in self-awareness and change your mindset to believing that you can do everything you want," she said.

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Outsource where possible

Veroniek Vermeulen, founder of Silatha jewellry for meditation, suggests outsourcing tasks to experts. Channelling her marketing and innovation background into project management, strategy, new products and marketing, means she can outsource accounting, legal and creative tasks via online platforms and around her personal network.

"There are many skills that I need in my current activities where I have no experience nor knowledge, but for those there are many solutions. Firstly, many activities can be easily outsourced. I started doing everything myself, but realised that I better focus on what I'm good at and find other people to help out on the parts where I lack experience."

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail image from gettyimages.

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