How to know your strengths when you don’t

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Dec 17

While we shouldn’t assume other people know what we know, it is also true that we are so close to ourselves that we don’t necessarily understand our work strengths.

It is a legitimate problem. I’ve been in too many social situations where I’ve offered advice — what are your strengths when it comes to work? — and had people say they simply don’t know. They go to work. They get the job done. They like certain tasks and don’t like others.

Weaknesses, of course, are a piece of cake. Everyone knows their weaknesses because hiring managers insist on asking about them. But strengths you bring to the job? Not so much.

Four questions to learn your work strengths

Other people have an opinion about what we bring to our work. Part of that is found in annual reviews, but there are so many issues surrounding getting the performance review you deserve, combing through them won’t do it.

Instead, you need to speak with people at work you trust to tell you their perceptions of your strengths.

Here’s what to ask when you speak with these people:

  1. Why hire me for your team work project?
  2. If you were looking to learn about a work topic, what would I teach you?
  3. If you viewed me as an expert in one thing, what would it be?
  4. What am I better at doing than any other work associate you know?

Prepare to be surprised at the answers you get to these questions. There may be attributes you have never thought about before. Write the attributes down.

And then build your strength story around them.

  • Dan Erwin says:

    Scott: Superb questions. Over my years of coaching one of the really big surprises was exactly the issue you raised. People have a much clearer perspective on their weaknesses than on their strengths. And the fact of the matter is that exceptional performers know how to leverage their strengths–and shore up their weaknesses. Leveraging strengths, over the long haul, is even more valuable to an individual and his/her company than shoring up weaknesses.

    Thanks again for your four questions. I’ll be plagiarizing you.

    • Scot says:

      Maximizing strengths is the key to a successful career. I once had a manager tell me that my strengths needed to be so strong that they would overlook any weakness I may have.

      People like working to their strengths and hate working on what they are weak at doing. Employee engagement would go a long way if managers would focus on giving tasks that match up with the strength of the individual.

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