In my mid 20s, I felt pretty lost. While many of my friends who were settled into careers seemed to whiz past me, I stood in their dust. I felt pretty low and uncertain how to figure out what was next.
Fortunately, I befriended a woman who did employee development work, and she guided me through some powerful exercises she learned from Susan Conrad (I admittedly couldn’t find any of her work on this subject online to credit her) to help me see myself through the lens of my network, and to use those insights to help guide my path.
This was in 2010 and I still reflect back on the replies I got. Some are motivating, others painful. But they are all useful.
If you’re looking for some guidance on next steps in your life, consider sending these questions to select people in your network. I asked my family, a couple of people with whom I had a professional relationship, and friends from different stages of life.
I found there to be value in both verbal and written communications, so it’s up to you how you do it. No matter which way, be sure to make it clear that you need their candor, that you won’t provide any reply or feedback other than a thank you, and that you won’t be doing it in return, as the answers need to be unfiltered by the idea of reciprocity or any ongoing dialogue about it.
Here are the questions to ask:
- What do you see as my key strengths?
- What is most distinguishing or unique about me?
- What, if anything, is bothersome to you about me?
- What do you, or others, rely on me for, i.e. when the chips are down?
- Could you tell me something about myself that I don’t already know?
- When am I most powerful?
- In what situations am I least powerful?
- When am I most inspired?
- If you could wish one thing for me in the next year, what would it be?
This is an uncommon way for people to utilize their network, as well as to communicate. However, the best way to deepen relationships is to be vulnerable, demonstrate that you value someone’s opinion, and ask for their help. Because you’ll be focusing this on a small group of people whom you trust, ideally their answers will resonate and they’ll be pleased to assist in your growth.
I suggest taking time after you receive all the replies to really let their answers sink in. Understand that you’ll need to filter the responses, but pull out places where themes emerge. Juxtapose those patterns with how you view yourself. And then transpose those patterns into how you’re living your life.
Are there areas where others see you as most powerful and inspired that you’re completely devoid of practicing in work or play? Is there a common thread in what’s unique about you that could be a critical competitive advantage? Do you give yourself credit for the strengths others see in you?
If fear is holding you back, but you’re at a fork in the road, consider taking this small personal challenge to get this feedback and outside perspective. It could be just the jolt you need.
This article recently appeared on Forbes.