I Make Things Better


As you may know, I’m on the hunt for a new gig. Job hunting means thinking about my strengths, the things I’m good at. This does not come naturally to me. I grew up in the Midwest of the United States, moved to Canada, and I’m female. For all three of these, a common stereotype/social norm is humility. In my case the stereotype holds very, very true. I grew up thinking it’s important to be humble. And while letting oneself be led around by the ego is anything but cool, there are points at which humility becomes a stumbling block. Job hunting is most certainly one of those points.

I’ve gotten better at thinking about and identifying my strengths after years of working at it, but writing a blog post about this sort of thing is another (rather uncomfortable) step. It’s also an important one. All too often we (especially women) are told we’re bragging/boasting and being obnoxious or pushy when we detail our successes.

To hell with that.

I need a job. (While all this time for exercise and podcasting is great, I like eating and having a roof over my head.) And that means getting comfortable with my strengths and learning to shout them from the rooftops. Or at least from my own blog space.

So today I’m starting with the most basic strength I have. I make things better.

It’s not only a strength, it’s a passion. I love taking an idea, a plan, a thing and identifying how it could be even better than it is. Sure, I can find weaknesses, but finding ways to eliminate those weaknesses or turn them to strengths? That’s my bread and butter. Whether it’s editing a document/story/video/podcast, planning a new project in the office, starting up a brand new podcast, or something completely different, I want to improve whatever I’m working on.

Sometimes interviewers ask me where I see myself in five years. I hate that question, because it feels like it’s born of a corporate ladder-climbing viewpoint I just don’t have. My goals aren’t formed that way. I’m not angling for a vice presidency or to run my own business. In some ways I am a take-charge kinda person, but I’ve never had the desire to be at the top of the heap. I want to be near the top of someone else’s heap, helping that heap grow higher and heapier every day.

I’m not an idea person. Actually, that’s not true. I’m not an out-of-the-blue-new-idea person. If you ask my former coworkers/collaborators, they’ll tell you I’ve come up with some great ideas, but they’re rarely ideas for entirely new ventures. Where I excel is in taking an existing idea and making it better.

I love this. I’m never happier than when I can work on a project with others, look at the ideas the team has come up with, and then spot the gaps. See the ways to improve on those ideas. Turn part of the plan on its ear to achieve the goal more quickly or smoothly.

It’s kind of an amorphous and generic-sounding strength, and it’s difficult to explain, but I think that’s the most fundamental benefit I bring to any enterprise. I will make it better. And I’ll do it cheerfully and in a way that won’t annoy folks or cause discord. But I guess that’s a different strength. Maybe I’ll write about that one later.

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