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Updated: September 26, 2023

How to identify your superpower and become a superhero in the workplace

In my 20s, I worked as the communications assistant in the marketing department at Sugarloaf.

When things got slow during the summer months, Sugarloaf management had a hard time keeping me busy doing press releases, so they decided to make me the manager of their mail room. And so, I sorted the daily incoming mail and packages, as well as organizing the bulk mailings going out to skiers for season passes and special events. 

Nancy Marshall
Photo / Ben Williamson
Nancy Marshall of Marshall Communications

If you have ever met me, you know that sorting mail probably wasn’t the best and highest use of my time. However, because I was in my 20s and didn’t want to cause problems, I did the job, although I complained to Rodney every day. He was the UPS man.

If I had the confidence back then, I would have told my supervisor that I could make more money for Sugarloaf if I was out and about with customers. I could have traveled to trade shows and conferences to enthusiastically promote the virtues of Sugarloaf. I could have even sold real estate, as long as it meant interacting with humans.

Understanding your “superpower” early in your career is key. That way, we can find much more success, happiness and fulfillment.

I knew from an early age that I was about as extroverted as a human can be. My mom used to take me with her to the grocery store when I was 3 years old, and I would introduce myself to people as she pushed me up and down the aisles in her grocery cart. My parents wondered how I was so extroverted because neither of them were off the charts as I was. But we realized that was just who I was.

Once I entered the world of work, I navigated a career as a young female in a world where females were not equal to males, so I tried to tamp down my enthusiasm on the job. I was told I was too loud, I had too many ideas and I should just "do my job." One friend from the Maine coast called me “notional.” 

But you can only suppress your true self for so long before the real you comes out. Later in my career, I finally let the real me come out on the job, and guess what? I became more successful and happier in every aspect of my life. 

I encourage you to think about what you do better than anyone else, what you love doing, what makes you happy, and what gives you a real sense of invincibility and purpose. What gifts were you born with that allow you to serve customers or event to serve the world? What makes you feel like a superhero?

Your mission is to figure out how to incorporate those skills and talents into your job. I have figured out that I love speaking to groups and doing workshops to help others identify their superpowers by digging into their childhood experiences and finding the roots of their personalities, skills and talents.

My mom would laugh while telling people about her extroverted 3-year-old in the grocery store. Little did she know that she was raising the PR maven who would start a public relations agency and teach legions of employees PR in order to shine a light on their clients!

As an employer, if you can help your employees identify their strengths and leverage them on the job, you will engage and retain them for longer. Your people will be more productive, happier and more fulfilled. The workplace culture will be much more positive. If everyone knows what everyone else on the team does best, then work will flow to the right member of the team.

It’s like a football team where everyone knows what the others do best. Some people are better at kicking, some at tackling, and some at running. You don’t ask the kicker to go out and tackle a guy who is five times bigger than him. And the fullback isn’t going to run the ball into the end zone. And you don’t ask the most extroverted person on a mountain to sort bulk mailings.

Research firms like Gallup have promoted the benefits of strengths-based management. But you don’t need a research company to look back at your own life, your own personality, and your own experiences to figure out who you are and what you’re passionate about.

That differentiates you from everyone else who does the same thing you do is ultimately your personal brand. It’s who you are, what makes you tick, and makes you memorable. When you think about all the time you spend working in life, you may as well figure out what makes you feel like a superhero. Figure that out, and the sky’s the limit!

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