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Our 300th Post: Play to Your Strengths

15 years ago this past December a young eager Mr. Full Time Finance graduated from college.  15 years later a lot has changed.  My income is roughly 3x where I started.  My assets went from -$63,000 to 28x my expenses.  I’ve gotten married and have 2 kids.  Life is good.  But how did I get here?  One simple step, I played to my strengths.

300 Posts and Our Journey to Today

A note, this post marks 300 posts on Full Time Finance, so you will forgive me for referencing more posts than normal.  But this is not just some best of type post.  No, to be honest, my reminiscing has a point.  To answer the question of how I ended up here, at this moment in time.  My goal, to provide one possible roadmap to those who may be finding their own journey.

Finding the Real Path to Success

I wrote a few months ago about the road to one’s passion being crowded.    Passions come and go, success in them is not guaranteed.    I’ve also written about sculpting your career as you advance, always considering how the next step fits into your grand plan.  But honestly, to date I’ve not rounded out how to find the real path to success.

Mitigate your Shortcomings

If you listen to HR or the mainstream educational process they talk about challenging yourself.  The emphasis is to focus on what you are not good at to improve.  In a way they are right.  Developing your shortcomings is important.  But let’s be honest, very few people ever turn their shortcomings into their strengths.  What they do is become competent enough in their weaknesses to not harm themselves while using their actual strengths.

So it goes without saying that taking a position in your career focused around your weaknesses is a path to failure.  Developing your weaknesses by facing them head-on is a desirable action, but immersing yourself in them is a good way to drown.  So your weakness can be a part of your position, but it should not be the position you take.  

My Weakness: Sales

For example, if I have an obvious weakness it’s sales.  I am not good at selling anything.  I can negotiate a purchase like nobodies business, but I’d struggle to sell a cup of lemonade to a dehydrated man in the desert. 

All the time I work to develop this skill.  I have worked in sales analytics.   This exposed me to sales tactics but I didn’t have to sell anything.  I have developed new products in marketing.    This exposed me to developing something to sell, but again no actual selling going on.    I have even attempted to sell some junk lying around my house from time to time,  selling but honestly very low stakes in the grand scheme of things.  All actions of someone rounding out a weakness, all admirable and useful in future jobs.  But none of them equate to taking an actual job in sales.  Me taking an actual job in sales would be foolish.

Align Your Work with Your Strengths

And therein we get to the point of this little piece.  The true key to career success, financial success, and outside of the number 42 the key to the universe is… aligning your work with your strengths.  The exact opposite of taking a position in your area of weakness.    I listed a good deal of positions in the paragraph above where I referred to my sales exposure.  But if you read between the lines these jobs were focused on my strengths.  To review they are analytics, process engineering, and computer software.  I know my strengths well, and I don’t take a job that doesn’t strongly focus on one of them.  Neither should you.

Play to Your Strengths to Stand Out

Why does taking a job aligned with your strengths work?  Well first let’s be honest, if something is your strength you have a better chance of standing out at it.  Standouts ultimately are those that get promoted.  Sure you still have to know how to say no and negotiate your career, but few make it to the top by being incompetent along their career path.

Stay Competent, My Friends

In fact, there is a well-known principle that describes this, known as the Peter Principle.  The principle notes that people in an organization will tend to rise one level above their respective competency.  IE at their highest level of job achievement they will be incompetent.   A very pessimistic view, but sadly one I find mostly true after 15 years in the corporate world.  However, the principle is somewhat less depressing if you flip that argument on its head. 

Viewed this way it implies that competency is rewarded, it just goes one step too far.  Most people are competent until the final rung they achieve on the corporate ladder.  It also implies once you take a job for which you are incompetent you’ve probably hit the top.  Competency is just another measure of strength or weakness.  The longer you can stave off being in over your head, the longer you will likely rise.

Your Strengths and Happiness

Add to your future career trajectory simple psychology as an argument for sticking with your strengths.   There is no guarantee that a job focused on your strengths will make you happy.  But the majority of us will be unhappy in a job focused on our weaknesses.  Most people enjoy the regular wins and goal obtainment of being at least acceptable at a position.  If you are incompetent at your job because it is your weakness chances are you won’t be happy.

Even if you are not completely incompetent you’ll probably be unhappy.  Why?  Because you’ll see how easy it is for your peers while you struggle.  Comparison may be a fact of life, but it’s also the thief of joy.

Rounding Out the Career Advice: Playing To Your Strengths is the Final Piece

This post sort of rounds out my career advice for those starting out.    Almost a year ago I recommended college graduates should find their niche and differentiate themselves from their completion to be successful.  To that advice, I must add one final layer.  Choose a strength as the basis for that niche to increase your odds of success exponentially.

Here’s to the remaining 17.5 years of my career.  I haven’t hit the Peter Principle level yet, but I have 17.5 more years of job changes to find my top.


  1. Xrayvsn
    Xrayvsn March 7, 2019

    Congrats on 300 posts! That is no easy feat at all and only a fellow blogger can appreciate what that truly entails

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance March 7, 2019

      Thanks! It’s been a long haul, one day at a time.

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