Human nature dictates that none of us are perfect. We all have ways in which we excel and, on the flip side, areas where we trail a bit behind. Even though everyone comes to the table with certain assets, it can be a real challenge to focus on the good since we’re wired to naturally focus on criticism and the ways in which we fall short. That being said, it will make you a more competent and successful professional if you focus your efforts on discovering your strengths, their value and learning how you can use them to be a better employee. It makes much more sense to spend your energy capitalizing on what you’re good at rather than bending over backwards to improve upon weaknesses. We all contribute different things to a workplace and labor market. Understand what you offer, learn how to play to your strengths and don’t be afraid to shine your brightest where you need to.
5 steps for learning and leveraging your strengths:
1. Pay special attention to positive feedback
Though it’s important to be aware of both constructive criticism and praise, take special note of positive feedback. Even though criticism tends to yield a more emotional reaction, making it harder to forget, it’s just as valuable to take in positive feedback. There’s always room for improvement, but also be keenly aware of where you shine in performance reviews. Try to keep this information saved and compiled in one place.
2. Check in with supervisors, colleagues, family and friends
Apart from feedback you’ve been given specifically through professional reviews, go out of your way to talk to people who know you personally and professionally to see what they believe that you offer in both work and personal settings. The more people you reach out to, the broader and more diverse the feedback will be and the more accurate of a picture the feedback data will paint for you. Don’t ask just about strengths, but also specific examples of when you “delivered” as an employee, student, friend, partner, etc. This anecdotal evidence will be useful and potentially surprising.
3. Take time to reflect and analyze
Combine feedback from others with some soul-searching self-analysis and start to look for patterns. It’s likely that certain qualities and strengths will resurface over and over again so you’ll start to identify certain themes arising throughout the feedback. Make a list of these recurring themes. You’ll get a really great sense of your strengths and maybe value new aspects of who you are as a person and professional.
4. Summarize findings and build a profile
It’s time to use the positive characteristics and contributions that came through in your feedback to create a professional analysis. Pick 5-7 of the positive qualities that came up during feedback and write a description of your strengths as a professional. Also list some of your key contributions to different offices. Having this information down in a concise and thoughtful way will build your confidence, help assess strengths for job interviews and be useful in applying strengths within the context of tasks and projects at a current job.
5. Apply what you’ve learned
Once you’ve determined your strengths and created an employee profile, it’s time to apply the assessment to your current position. Try to see how your current position could work in the context of your strengths. If one of your strengths is that you’re a team player, for example, are there any solo tasks that could be efficiently shared in a team setting? Use your strengths to guide you towards projects, tasks and positions that celebrate and utilize these strengths as much as possible. On the flip side, if there are any aspects of your job that another person could handle more efficiently, it may be worth trying to coordinate with that coworker to see if each of you could play to your strengths, making the company workforce more efficient overall.
Now that you know exactly how to play to your strengths in the workplace, apply now for an international internship to boost your career!
Sources: http://www.forbes.com/sites/actiontrumpseverything/2013/07/07/forget-about-working-on-your-weaknesses-play-to-your-strengths-a-case-study/#31001f854831, https://hbr.org/2005/01/how-to-play-to-your-strengths
Photo 2. based on business men with mouse, by Markus Spiske, CC-by-2.0