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5 Ways to Unleash Your Work Superpower

Smart workers know they have hidden talents that will make them stand out. What are some of the best ways?

In a time of general professional anxieties—like right now—it’s great to know what your professional superpower is. Experts say a work superpower isn’t simply about the ability to do something really well: rather, it involves a combination of talent, experience, and, importantly, self-awareness. According to recent research, people who know their top strengths are six times as likely to say their job offers them the chance to do what they do best every day.

“Your professional superpower is a talent or skill that makes you stand out in your field. It can either be innate or something you’ve honed through education and application,” says Val Olson, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. Even if you’re strong in a particular area, others may be as well—so your personality and ability to harness your skill make your superpower unique.

Here’s how to define and use your superpower at work.

Listen to what other people say you’re good at.

A professional superpower could be something obvious, such as always meeting deadlines or closing a big sale. But often it’s subtler, which is why many people may not realize that they are—or can be—really good at something.

“To define your superpower, pay attention to how your direct reports, peers, and manager compliment you at work,” says Frances Weir, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. Do you hear that you’re an excellent communicator? That you always say what everyone’s thinking? At the same time, think about how these same coworkers would describe you when you’re not in the room.

Observe the areas where you shine.

Perhaps you’re a very optimistic person. In leadership, that positive energy could support change-management initiatives. An optimistic perspective can keep a team moving forward. On an individual level, a positive outlook can help keep up your spirits, even in tough circumstances, while you’re looking for a new role. If you’re optimistic in a variety of settings and circumstances, optimism could be your superpower.

“But keep in mind that a superpower isn’t a superpower in every single setting,” Olson says. For example, agility may be a superpower for a corporate leader in technology, but not for a manager in compliance.

Differentiate between skill and passion.

Just because you are good at something doesn’t mean you have to do it all the time. Every person has more than one skill, so make sure the superpower you identify is something you love to express and can sustainably keep doing over time.

If you’re great at engineering but view your superpower as leadership—you love leading teams—taking a new individual-contributor job as an engineer could be self-defeating. Be confident in your superpower, and don’t be afraid to hold out for opportunities that let you take advantage of it. Experts say you’ll be happier in the long run.

Lean into your newfound superpower.

Your superpower is based on who you are and what you can do. How you make it known is your personal brand. Once you’ve identified your superpower, seek out opportunities to use it in development conversations with your boss. “Establish yourself as the go-to person on your team by using your superpower to support others in their time of need,” Weir says. Consider documenting instances where you’ve put your superpower to good use, writing about how you used it or helped others develop it.

To further cement your reputation, career experts suggest building up a few ancillary skills that will make your strength even more powerful. If teaching is your superpower, you could add creativity and directness to enhance it.

Let your superpower be your touchstone.

When reflecting on your career or facing a turning point, it’s as important to consider your superpower as much as you do other factors, including your values, financial status, and geographical location.

“If a decision seems impossible, your superpower can give you clues about the type of work you’d like to do, roles you’d like to be in, and companies you might like to work for,” Weir says. It can help you determine whether you’d prefer to be salaried or self-employed, an expert or a generalist, travel for work or not, build a product or sell it, and more.