Anyone who has ever been in an interview will invariably get two questions: (1) What is your greatest strength? and (2) What is your biggest weakness? What's funny is everyone frets over the weakness question, but no one really gives a lot of thought about their strengths. Likewise, when you're working and get a performance review, sure, your boss talks about all the awesome things you did for the year, but what do you think about the most after you leave the office? You think about the few things he or she told you that you need to improve...your weaknesses.
I'm not saying that knowing your weaknesses isn't important. In fact, these are the things you should look to avoid when choosing a job or when considering whether or not to volunteer for additional projects or duties when employed. But, to be frank with you, we all tend to put way too much focus on getting better at our weaknesses instead of finding ways to take advantage of our strengths. So today we're going to discuss why this is important and what you should do moving forward to make sure that you're using your strengths to their fullest capacity.
Get More Done
By leveraging your natural talents, you will be able to accomplish much more than trying to get better at something that isn't playing to your strengths. For instance, Donald Clifton's study on speed reading ability, conducted in the 1950's, had two groups of readers that he taught the skill of speed reading. One group was comprised of readers who could read at an average rate. The second group consisted of readers who were able to read at an above average rate of speed. The results were quite startling. The average readers did make improvements. They went from 90 words per minute to 350 words per minute. However, the above average readers went from 150 words per minute to an amazing 2,900 words per minute!
It's not a bad thing to work towards improving a weakness that is truly hindering you. But to only focus on your weaknesses is a mistake. You'll see some gains, but the level of gains you can make if you utilize your strengths and maximize on them, will lead to much greater success. So my question posed to you, dear readers, is this: what things do you find you can do with ease that could be leveraged more in your life?
For example, do you feel naturally comfortable speaking in front of others? If so, how often do you give presentations at work or in your voluntary pursuits? Should your answer be, "Not very often," think about opportunities you could do more of this. Maybe you're really good at bringing a group together and getting them all to do something as a team, even though your job title isn't a leadership role. You should seek out opportunities at work or in your personal life to do more of these types of activities, such as leading a group on your team in order to get a project done. Perhaps you're analytical by nature, but you have a job in sales. Even though you're working with people all day, you can work with numbers when analyzing how your sales are doing and where your sales are coming from.
However you start using your strengths, you'll find that you're becoming more productive in your work and contributing more to the group. As you do this, you'll become more valuable and respected. The key is to know what are and are not your strengths. Just because you're good at one thing, and excelling at it, does not mean that your success in one area translates into success in other areas. I've seen many sales managers falter because they got into their role due to their awesome sales numbers, but were unable to lead, train, and develop others. That wasn't one of their strengths. Don't fool yourself and don't let others fool you into falling into this trap. Going outside of your core strengths will backfire.
You'll Be Passionate About What You're Doing
When you are doing something that plays into your wheelhouse, you tend to find it more enjoyable and it's also something you have a greater passion for. People generally (although there might be a few gluttons for punishment) prefer to do things that comes easier to them that they can excel at. After all, who wants to struggle all day long doing something you aren't great at and don't necessarily enjoy. If you do that, you won't stay at it for long.
So rather than scream at your windshield everyday as you drive into work, why not find a role that's going to use your strengths? And as I said earlier, when you are doing this, you're going to outperform and outshine everyone around you doing the same thing, but which isn't one of their strengths. So you will not only have greater success, but you'll be smiling and whistling on your commute.
Success Snowballs Into More Success
Let's add this all up. Now that you're leveraging your strengths more, you are becoming more productive and becoming a happier person at your workplace. Without a doubt, your success and attitude is going to get noticed. You suddenly become the guy or gal who everyone wants to work with. Other managers in the organization may try to steal you away. Other businesses may start to hear about your reputation and they will start courting you. This is what the phrase "your reputation precedes you" means.
Just make sure that everything you're doing continues to use your strengths, otherwise you'll be falling back into trying to fix your weaknesses. And don't be fooled. It's easy to do. You get enticed by a fancier job title or better pay. But if you are truly excelling at what you're doing, you'll find other opportunities where you can still use your strengths, but in different ways.
Stretch Your Strengths as You Grow
The name of the game is to always use your strengths, but also to keep using them in unique ways. Just like a person can have an injury from repetitive use of the same muscles and joints, your career can get hurt if you keep doing the same thing all the time. It's not enough to simply use your strengths the same way year after year, you'll get burned out and bored if you don't discover ways to use those strengths doing different things.
So, do your psyche and career a favor, and try new things out that will stretch your abilities even further and make you more of an asset.
Knowing Your Strengths Helps You Sell Yourself in Your Career or Job Search
The more you are aware about yourself, the better your search will go. Having this knowledge will help you make sure that you're pursuing the right opportunities. When you read a job description, you'll know how much of your strengths would be utilized there. If there's nothing or very little in it that fits what you can bring to the table don't pursue it.
Similarly, knowing what your strengths are will be a huge advantage when you create your resume and start marketing yourself to others. You'll be able to clearly show what you can offer an employer that will benefit them. When you write about your successes at previous jobs, you can demonstrate how you used your strengths to make this happen.
Finally, you can carry this into an interview. When you frame your answers around your strengths, the person on the other side of the interview table will immediately start to visualize how you could use your strengths while working for them. Whatever your core strengths may be, this should the theme of your interview. Turn every answer into ways in which you were successful in discovering, using, and stretching your strengths. It's a compelling message that's nearly impossible to ignore.
Not Sure What Your Strengths Are?
So when you're asked about your greatest strength in an interview, what do you tell that person? If you are like a majority of people I have ever interviewed, you probably say "I'm a people-person" or "I'm a good communicator" or "I'm customer-service oriented." You might even have a good story to go along with it (although, there are many who don't, they just want me to take their word for it). But does that really describe what you're greatest strength is?
What's interesting about personal strengths is that they usually aren't readily apparent to yourself. Your strengths are typically something you take for granted. You're under the false impression that everyone is good at it. Which is why you often find yourself frustrated by someone else when "they don't get it." It's not that they don't get it, it's that what they are struggling with isn't one of their strengths, but is one of yours.
Don't fool yourself into thinking you know your strengths. You might be aware of some of them, but you'll be totally surprised by others. You need assistance to find out what you're strengths are. Which is where a career coach can come in handy.
About RockIt Career Consultation Services
At RockIt Career Consultation Services, our mission is to help you discover your true strengths and use these strengths to set your course to something more rewarding and exciting in your career.
We will guide you on what job or career best suits you and then help you market yourself through your resume, your networking strategies, your interview skills, and your negotiation to ensure that you are doing something you love and are maximizing your earning potential. Throughout, we will be there to keep you motivated and determined.
We'd love to help you launch your career and encourage you to learn more about the services we can provide you on your path to a more prosperous future. With our help, you will become the applicant every company wants to hire!