If we had a magic wand, the one gift we would bestow on everyone is to discover that ‘thing’ that makes them tick.
It’s your career or business mojo – the perfect, magical combination of skills, experience and passion that enables you to find something you love doing and are brilliant at.
But sadly, for many of us this ‘thing’ is frustratingly elusive. We may have an apparently successful career, but we’re just not feeling the love any more.
And this is especially common in mums. Let’s face it, if you’re going to leave your children with someone else while you return to work or run a business, you need to love and believe in what you’re doing. If not, the sacrifice of being away from your baby or young child feels all that greater and more painful. It’s why so many women find that having a child makes them reassess their career, and maybe why so many of us instead choose to start our own business doing something we do love.
But if you haven’t already discovered it, how do you find your career or business mojo? In the absence of our magic wand, how can you work it out?
To help you, Aly King-Smith, founder of The Bird Table (a fast-growing members’ network of business coaches across the UK and Europe, who all share a passion for developing women), shares her own personal experience and advice.
When I turned 40, I felt lost professionally
When I turned 40, I reached a point in my life where I started to doubt my professional direction. Somewhere along the way I had lost sight of my strengths and realised that I had developed a self-limiting belief that my career path was a shambles.
On paper, it looked like a list of seemingly unrelated jobs. Physiotherapist. Various commercial roles. Trainer. Coach. Mother. I was more hotchpotch than hot shot – or at least that’s how it felt to me, compared with my childhood expectations.
I looked for a common theme
Thinking to my future and desperate to find my business mojo again, I thought of all of the things I’d been responsible for in my previous jobs, trying to find a common theme; a clue as to how I should be spending my time in the future. Disappointingly, all this did was reinforce the diverse nature of my work to date. There was no obvious path.
So, in an attempt to challenge my self-criticism and doubt, I came at it from another angle, with the help of an executive coach colleague.
She helped me to revisit the list and describe all of the things about me that had enabled me to do those jobs successfully. Pushing technical skills aside, I thought about the way in which I work, the personal skills I use and the times I had felt most ‘in flow’.
My lightbulb moment
By making me focus on the part I’d played personally in my work successes, she enabled me to notice links between the things I’d done.
Like so many people with classic ‘imposter syndrome’, I thought many of my successes had happened by accident. But when I stopped looking at each chapter in isolation, it was less random than I’d thought.
I found clarity at last – I needed to combine my coaching expertise, my people skills and my commercial know-how. So I came up with an idea. I would use my skills and experience to enable other coaches to help women discover their personal strengths and find confidence at work or build their own business, just like I did.
Coaching is great, yes, but it was only when I fully engaged the extra pieces of the jigsaw from my background that I could bring my business to its full potential as The Bird Table. My lightbulb moment came when I decided to flex all my business ‘muscles’ at the same time, rather than disregarding a whole part of my life. The commercial background suddenly mattered.
We work more effectively when we play to our strengths
There is an increasing body of evidence which suggests that we all work much more effectively when we play to our strengths. And I strongly believe that, in business, the main thing you’re selling is you.
Rather than getting hung up on the things you think you can’t do, find drive and motivation by focusing your work around the things you are good at. You will be more successful and happier in your career choices if you do.
Women are notoriously bad at recognising their own personal strengths. I have noticed this is true regardless of whether I’m working with the director of a global organisation, or a stay-at-home mum considering launching a new business.
How I helped a friend identify her business mojo
One Bird Table member I worked with was struggling to find her business mojo. She couldn’t describe any useful skills that she felt confident building her business around.
She was, as it happened, the best party host I have ever met. I had had the pleasure of attending a party at her house and was bowled over by how beautiful and faultless the whole event was.
It was only when I asked her to talk through the skills she used to plan and host the party that we struck gold. She realised she had tenacity, was exceptionally cool under pressure and had an enviable skill for delegation and influence- all terrific personal strengths and fantastic business skills.
How you can discover your personal strengths too
I have found that unpicking your previous jobs or home activities like this, to find the times where you have felt in full swing, is a really powerful process. Especially if you enlist the help of others to give you their perspective and challenge your beliefs.
The chances are the times that you felt most successful or capable will be linked by a set of personal skills. Maybe you didn’t realise you had them, or perhaps you’ve forgotten you are good at them.
Ask your best friend to describe you on your best type of day. How do you come across? What can you handle? How do you behave? Ask previous colleagues that you respect to give you their opinion on what you’re like to work with or what they think you’re good at.
I’ll bet that you find a whole new perspective on yourself and get the confidence boost you need to find your missing mojo and get on track for success in business. It worked for me.
Need more help? Download our free 35-step checklist to making money from your passion.
Aly King-Smith is an executive coach and change facilitator, as well as the founder of the fast growing start-up The Bird Table. Her mission is to help more women be successful in business more quickly. Find out more on her website.
This article is also co-written by Catherine Kite of Copy Kite. Catherine is a freelance copywriter, marketing professional and lover of helping people set up cool businesses.Aly King-Smith