Most of us are great at finding problems to worry about. It is so easy to obsess about what is going wrong, especially when looking for the next career move. Let’s shift our internal dialogue from problem solving to identifying strengths. Knowing your strengths can help you create an action plan to reach the next step in your career. Use these 5 tools to determine what your strengths are and how you can use them at work and beyond.
1. Examine your job description.
Remember that job description? You probably received one during your first week at work and lost it right away in a frenzy of trainings. Take a look at the tasks on that job description and highlight the responsibilities you really enjoy, have revamped or blown out of the water. If you don’t have access to a job description, keep a notepad with you for 3-5 days and start a job journal, jotting down the things you do during the day. This journal will help jog your memory of additional items for your list. You can use your journal in the same way as a job description to find themes in where you excel.
2. Revisit performance reviews.
It’s time to stop focusing on the ‘areas of improvement’ in your annual review. Your performance reviews are so much more! Use your reviews to gather information about your strengths from an outside perspective.
3. Just ask!
Your boss isn’t the only one that gets to weigh in on what you’re good at. Ask colleagues, friends or family members where they think you shine. These people know you best and know when to call on you for help or advice. The things people depend on you for are your strengths.
4. Create a skill-based resume.
Your resume is like your job description on steroids. The biggest accomplishments of your career are recounted in your voice. It’s time to turn your traditional resume on its ear. Take the bullets and bring your proudest accomplishments and the things you enjoyed most right to the top. Before you know it, you’ll have a comprehensive list of your top skills.
Consider the following questions when looking to identify your strengths and write down the answers as they come to you. Don’t worry – this isn’t an interview! The answers may take some time to emerge. You’ll start to see patterns in the answers.
What comes naturally or is easy to learn?
Think back to when you started a new job or added a new responsibility. What did you pick up right away? Were there tasks you couldn’t wait to teach others? Your strengths come naturally.
What do you contribute to your team or organization?
On your team, are there things that are always your responsibility? No one could imagine someone else writing the company newsletter or arranging the holiday party. For one of my clients, it was responding to the most difficult customers. She relished this task that most people avoided at all costs. Clearly this was a great strength of hers. In other words, if you left your team, what would they be missing?
What makes you feel energized?
Think back to a day when you were on your way to work and excited about a certain project, meeting or challenge. Reflect on that time and the components involved.
What would you gladly take off of someone’s plate?
When you have plenty to do, or are on your way out the door, what are you still willing to take on? What would you stay late to do? It could be anything from making someone feel supported to creating a marketing presentation. What is enjoyable enough to skip your spin class tonight?
What activities make you lose track of time?
Think back to the last time you sat down to work on a project mid-morning and all of the sudden you realized you had missed lunch. What puts you in the zone like a musician jamming away on stage?
Focusing on your strengths will keep those seeds of doubt from taking root. Use these tools to reframe a problem-solving mindset to one of discovering, appreciating and growing your strengths. It will help you identify the right opportunities as you progress in your career or embark on a new one.
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