The Sweet Spot: Finding True Purpose in My Job, How Did I Do It?

By Michelle Hill
06 August 2019

I think I've found my sweet spot...?

My role has changed in recent months. My job title is still the same and I work for the same fantastic organisation but what demands my attention and the areas that I focus my efforts have changed.

I’ve always worked for charities but spent the first 12 years of my career working for a national charity, Nacro. I joined (what was then) Relate Greater Manchester South in December 2013, taking over as CEO in February 2014. The last 5 years have been a whirlwind, a rollercoaster and a learning curve but it is only in recent months that I have finally got the job I thought I was coming to 5 years ago!

I still remember on day one, being shown how to turn the heating on and off and set the timer and thinking – this isn’t what I thought a CEO role was! And that’s because that wasn’t the role of a CEO in a large national charity, but I soon realised the role in a small local charity was much different. I touched everything and needed to know everything about both the strategy and the operations of the organisation. At that time, the CEO role was the only full-time post so needing to manage the heating was essential!

But our organisation – TLC: Talk, Listen, Change – is quite different now. We have over 100 staff, over 200 volunteers and do much more wide ranging work over a wider geographical footprint. We have an established infrastructure and therefore my role is quite different too.

Within the last few months I’ve been able to move away from the operational side of our delivery and instead focus on strategy development, partnership building and sharing our story.

This is my work sweet spot –  that elusive place where areas of genuine interest, skills and opportunity intersect.

 

sweet spot

 

So how do I know I'm there?

 

1. Work now doesn't feel like work. 

Scott Belsky, Adobe’s Vice President of Community and the Co-Founder and Head of Behance argues that this is work with intention. It’s working on something that you feel passionately about and that you truly believe in. You work on it because you love it and then, logically, have the biggest impact.

I truly, madly, deeply believe in everything that our organisation is set up to do, based on my lived experience and the lived experience of those I know and love. So working with intention, is a natural progression of who I am as a person and is the genuine interest element of the key intersection.

 

2. I'm doing what I am best at.

Over the years, I’ve been a youth-worker, a line-manager, a project manager, a service manager, a business development manager and an area manager. I’ve worked locally, regionally and nationally. And over that time I’ve worked out what I am best at – and that is imagining a different future and then breaking it down into a plan to get there. I always describe it as a jigsaw puzzle – I love imagining the picture on the front of the box and then working with others to find all the right pieces so the picture comes together. 

This is the second part of the intersection – the skills part.

3. The day to day. 

The opportunity part can be best defined as an action or experience that brings you a step closer to your genuine interest. So this is what my day to day work looks like – and this is what has changed in recent months.

My diary for the last few weeks includes: writing our relationship manifesto, thinking through our corporate relationships, meeting with our Board, attending events locally and nationally and writing our 2025 strategic plan.

This is so different than this time last year or the year before – when I would have been thinking about waiting lists, contract reports and funding submissions. All work that needed to be done but not work that was in my sweet spot.

Belksy argues that in that sweet spot, you are a potent force of nature, you can work with full conviction and without ambiguity.

I know that in my newly found sweet spot, I’m happy. I love what I do, I believe in the potential to make a difference and my to do list does not feel like a list of chores but a set of jigsaw pieces I am trying to find.

I had heard of the sweet spot before, but I think this may be the first time I’ve truly found it.

 

If you're still looking for your sweet spot I'd recommend doing the following:

  1. Spend some time working out what your why is. You need to know what makes you tick, what makes you get up in the morning, what motivates you. Simon Sinek’s the golden circle is a great place to start. Watch here. Once you know what your why is, it’s far easier to get to the stage where work doesn’t just feel like work.

  2. Do a skills audit. It can be a self audit tool when you just spend some time working out what you’re best at and what you need most help with. It could be an informal sit down with your peers, people you manage and the people who manage you asking for feedback. Or it could be a formal 360 appraisal process. Either way is fine, but the key is to know at the end of it what you excel at, what you struggle with as well as what you enjoy doing and which are the tasks you always leave to the end.

  3. Spend time mapping your career or work history to date, understanding where your opportunities came from and what made the most difference. Then apply this to your future – what would your dream opportunity be and is there anything you can do to make it a reality. And then keep going and going and going. The journey itself will help you find your sweet spot.

"As a social leader, I now want to help others find their sweet spot too. It doesn’t have to mean a change of job, it can mean a re-imagining of the role you’re already in."
Michelle Hill

I’ll be asking lots of questions now to understand the sweet spots of the others I work with and doing all that I can to help them move towards their magical intersection too. But don’t worry – I still know how to look after the heating too!

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