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Science Careers Blog

December 11, 2009

Defining Your Unique Talents

Career coach Sital Ruparelia had a post last month on his blog about defining your unique talents. Ruparlia defines unique talents as your natural abilities plus your unique way of expressing those abilities.

By identifying these unique talents, Ruparelia says, you can start defining what makes you different and better from other job hunters, which can help your resumé and cover letter stand out. And after landing a job, you can use the same approach to identify your unique contribution to your employer, something that will come in handy when it's time for performance review and salary-raise negotiations.

To find out your natural abilities, Ruparelia asks 13 questions, some straightforward and some more probing. The more straightforward questions include ...
- What's the work you've done effortlessly ever since you can remember?
- What's work or activities energize you (rather than tiring you) after you've completed them?
- What types of problems would your friends, colleagues and family pay you to fix out of their own pockets?
- What type of tasks and activities make you completely lose track of time?

Some of the more probing questions that aim for underlying talents are ...
- What do you do when no one is looking? Ruparelia believes that one of the clues to finding happiness in a job is what you did in the past when you were only interested in your own satisfaction and not in meeting the expectations of a teacher, co-worker, or family member. Think back 5, 10, or 15 years and ask yourself what professionally-related activities really made you happy.
- The 20/10 test, which Ruparelia takes from the book Good to Great, by Jim Collins. This test has two questions: (1) If you inherited $20 million right now, would you spend your days the same way you spend them now? (2) If you knew that you had only 10 years left to live, would you stick with your current job or career? If the answers to these questions are "no", what you would do instead?

To uncover your unique way of expressing these special abilities, Ruparelia asks 5 questions, including these:
- What's unique about the way you express those abilities?
- What things make you stand out when you're with your peers? (positive or negative)
- What's the quirkiest thing about you?

Ruparelia says this process can take time and requires brutal honesty and introspection. But once you have identified them you can find organizations and people that can benefit from the unique talents you have to offer.

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