When thinking about what I wanted to move into after leaving my role as an engineering manager, I spent a lot of time exploring how I'm wired (or what comes naturally), and mapping that into potential next-steps I could take in creating a professional life for myself.
What I found is that while an internal journey is always a good place to start, looking externally to the people you trust around you, and listening to what they have to say your gifts are, is also of incredible importance. This is because while you hold the most accurate image of your inner-self, only those around you hold the most accurate image of your outer-self. It is the self that you project, but cannot see.
I would encourage you to take some time with family or friends and ask them a few of the following questions:
* What seems to come easy for me?
* What do people tend to come to me for?
* When do I appear most alive?
* What can I go on and on about?
* What has been consistent about me since you've known me?
* What is my favorite thing to do?
These questions can illuminate a lot about you that you might have never realized.
When I started asking these questions of friends and family, something that kept coming up repeatedly was that people valued my opinion and feedback. When I probed deeper it often wasn't so much guidance that I gave that was helpful, but simply the questions that I asked that helped to clarify a situation or feeling. I was told that I asked really good questions.
That was one of my gifts then, to listen and ask questions. As I heard it I realized that it was true. I believe that part of listening is engaging with what the person has to say and helping them to dig for deeper truths inside themselves.
The situations I have to engage this gift seem to just come to me. I've had a coworker come into my office and open up in tears about a break-up, I've had friends ask for counsel for life-changing decisions, or for how to comfort someone who is losing a family member, or for relationship and dating advice. Even coworkers that nobody else seemed able to get along with would naturally seem to gravitate towards me and open up.
I couldn't control why, I could only control how I responded. I chose to respond by pursuing this gift in earnest, investing in it, by both investing in myself and investing in others.
This was how I found the next step in my professional progression. I wanted and continue to want my life to focus on being a resource to others in need of a listening ear, a safe space for non-judgment, and help in digging deeper into whatever issues they are currently facing.
I hope that if you're reading this and feel an inward tug, if something in here resonates with you and you want to explore more, that you'll listen to that small voice and reach out to me so we can start your journey of self exploration.