Figuring out what people find valuable about you and your work.
Early in my career, I spent time working in-house for The Observer newspaper. A senior editor there took an interest in my writing and mentioned she was impressed with my CV and portfolio.
Then she said something that stuck with me: "You’re very enterprising. That’s what I find most impressive."
It was meant as a compliment, of course, but it wasn’t the compliment I wanted. I was dead set on a long career as an esteemed, globetrotting writer at that point, and I couldn't help noticing the specifics of what the editor had highlighted.
I was, quite accidentally, really good at the freelancing side of things. I could come up with strong ideas, create weird and wonderful opportunities for myself, and easily navigate the hustle and bustle of journalism. In some ways, it’s even what I enjoyed most about the media game.
It took a few more years of experimentation, combined with winning a national self-employment award, for me to realise how right that editor was in her assessment of me. I was a gifted writer and a skilled reporter, but what set me apart was my ability to make things happen; my flair for entrepreneurship.
Reflecting on this recently made me realise the importance of understanding where the value lies in what we do, particularly when it comes to our work. What makes you stand out? Is it that you’re highly skilled in a particular niche? Do you strive to make life easier for the people around you? Are you someone who gets shit done, no matter what else is going on?
The answers to these questions change over time, and that’s perfectly normal. Though we have to be prepared to change with them — even when it’s hard or isn’t what we had planned. Next time you’re feeling stuck or uninspired, have the courage to dig deep.
Focus on figuring out what you want, what you enjoy, what you're good at, and where the value is. Be honest with yourself about the conclusions you draw — and don’t be afraid to act on them.