By Simon Jaeger
Despite what many inspirational quotes would lead us to believe, as humans we unfortunately cannot achieve anything and everything we want in life – no matter how hard we try. Don’t get me wrong – I pride myself on my positivity and optimism, and I wholeheartedly believe that each and every one of us has the ability to do amazing things in this world. However, our unique DNA construct means that we are all different; naturally built with different qualities and strengths.
For example, at 6ft 3 tall, and weighing 91kg, I don’t have the body frame needed to be a Melbourne Cup winning jockey. Nor do I have the right balance of fast twitch muscle fibres and ‘symmetrical knees’ to be the fastest person on earth over 100m.
In saying that, we have all been gifted with our own unique set of strengths, and if planned and executed well, you can majorly capitalise on these strengths to benefit your career! Outlined below is a simple 3-step game plan to maximize them as part of your day-to-day activities (and with potential employers!).
1. Identify Your Strengths
If you don’t yet have clear self-awareness of what your strengths are, there are a number of ways you can find answers.
Start asking yourself, ‘What am I good at?’
In their Personal Brand Development Workbook, in regards to identifying personal strengths, PWC encourage participants to ask questions like:
- What was the most successful project I ever tackled, and what made me successful?
- What was the most important team role I ever fulfilled and why?
- When faced with an overwhelming obstacle, what’s my “go to” skill to overcome it?
- What are the strengths that others acknowledge in me?
- What strengths and skills came up over and over again?
- Which skills do I enjoy using as often as possible, regardless of the task?
Ask your network to ‘give it to you straight!’
Quite often we do see ourselves through rose-tinted glasses, and our own perceptions of our strengths may not add up to what other people are saying about us. So it’s important to validate our theories by getting feedback from others who know us well. Friends, family, colleagues, mentors and classmates can all serve as brilliant sources of feedback and insight.
If you’re not quite sure how to approach your contacts and ask them “what am I good at?”, and you’re unsure that your contacts will give you their absolute honesty (in fear of hurting your feelings), there’s no need to stress! Reflected Best Self Exercise (based on research by Quinn, Dutton, Spreitzer, and Morgan Roberts), is a brilliant tool that offers clear steps to help you through the process.
Here are the steps that they suggest:
- Choose your sources and seek feedback: Identify 10-20 people from different walks of life who know you well, and ask them to write a story about a time when you were at your best.
- Spot patterns: Once the feedback arrives, look for the common themes that appear across multiple stories. Make a list of the themes, the key examples that support each of them, and what they suggest about your strengths.
- Create your self-portrait: Using this information, write out a brief profile of who you are when you’re at your best.
Famed CEO and investor Gary Vaynerchuk suggests to ‘go back through every email, letter or note someone wrote you, talking about your accolades or failures. Read all of them. And as you read, ask yourself “Which of my skills am I consistently praised for?”’
Use Strength Finding Assessments
Another way millions of people identify their unique capabilities, is by taking self-assessments like Gallup’s StrengthsFinder. After filling out a survey about what you do best, Strengths Finder sends you an in-depth report on your top talents.
2. Communicate your strengths
Once you have a clear understanding of who you are and what your strengths are, you must ensure that you share your strengths effectively in person, on paper, and online.
Consistency is crucial in this instance. Recruiters, colleagues and clients will be examining you from all angles as they develop a perception of you. To ensure that your personal and professional branding game is strong, you must keep the message around your strengths clear and consistent.
3. Soar with your strengths
Once you have established what your strengths are, and you can consistently communicate them well, look to find or create opportunities that will allow you to showcase them. For instance, select leadership and volunteer opportunities that leverage your strengths and build your visibility.
Continue to Strengthen Your Strengths, Not Just Your Weaknesses
Although it is important to acknowledge and improve upon your weaknesses, it’s not enough on its own. If you spend too much time on trying to fix weaknesses, and not enough time further improving and mastering your strengths, there’s risk of becoming average in a number of areas, rather than becoming brilliant at one or two.
As Wharton Professor Adam Grant put it:
“When Albert Einstein failed a French exam, if he had concentrated only on his language skills, he might never have transformed physics. When J.K. Rowling realised that she was highly disorganised, if she had focused solely on becoming more orderly, she might never have honed her storytelling skills to write Harry Potter. And had Dennis Rodman worked exclusively on overcoming his weakness in shooting free throws, he might have never become a seven-time NBA rebounding champion.”
If you’re looking to build a successful career, but you’re not yet clear on the exact path to take, auditing yourself and establishing your strengths is a brilliant first step.
Establish what you’re good at and what you enjoy doing. We work for a huge proportion of our lives, so we may as well LOVE IT. Plus, succeeding at something is a major contributor towards getting satisfaction from it – it’s in our DNA to think and feel that way!
For more insight into unearthing your strengths, and taking the next step towards the career of your dreams, drop in and visit the UTS:Careers Team (CB01.04.13), anytime between 10pm-4pm, Monday-Friday, for a free 15 minute consultation.
All images courtesy of Canva.