Do you know what your true strengths are?
How did you answer the infamous “what are your strengths” question at your last interview? I’m organized? I’m hardworking? I’m resourceful? Are those strengths truly what sets you apart? What employers want to know is how you will deliver value to their business. Unfortunately, most of us struggle to recognize our strengths, showcase them and build our careers on them.
Companies whose employees feel their strengths are leveraged are stronger and more robust. Yet studies show that only 20% of organizations have employees who feel their strengths are showcased on a daily basis.
Most organizations operate under two assumptions:
- Any individual can develop proficiency in almost any field.
- Each individual’s greatest potential for development lies in their weakest area.
However, top managers are more inclined to make the following assumptions:
- Each individual’s talents are enduring and unique.
- And, their biggest potential for growth lies in their greatest strengths.
With that being said, the approach we propose doesn’t involve ignoring your weaknesses but rather finding a way to mitigate them while at the same time concentrating on your strengths. You’re guaranteed to be more successful in a role that builds on your strengths.
In the book Discover Your Strengths Now, Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton propose the test StrengthsFinder 2.0. This test highlights each individual’s five key strength themes out of a possible 34 (e.g., Achiever, Analytical, Communication, Developer, Empathy, etc.). The identified themes do not necessarily reflect current strengths. Rather, they indicate areas where an individual has the greatest potential.
Buckingham and Clifton define strength as “the result of perfect performance in a specific activity.” To possess a strength, you must have its related knowledge and skills. While these can be acquired, your talents are innate. Your knowledge will allow you to perform, but never to excel. Knowledge determines what you can do, while talent determines how well and how often you will do it.
For instance, someone working as a headhunter needs to acquire the necessary knowledge about clients, the types of positions to be filled and the skills required to ask the right questions in an interview. However, to properly identify a candidate and present them to the appropriate client, a recruiter needs to possess the Individualization theme. A headhunter may have a good understanding of the positions and profiles required, but if Individualization isn’t one of their strengths, they will always be an average recruiter.
You can also identify your own strengths. Pay attention to your spontaneous and intuitive reactions, especially in stressful situations. These reflexes will reveal your major areas of talent. Quick learning can also help you identify a strength or talent. The same is true when you experience a sense of satisfaction following an activity.
Will the results of this test help you decide if you’re working in the right field? Maybe. More importantly, it will help you identify your talents and align your career path accordingly. If you realize that your strengths aren’t being showcased in your work, it may be time to think about a career change.
Your strengths can also be applied outside of the workplace, whether through community involvement or leisure activities. However, some themes may be harder to draw on in your day-to-day life, as with the Learner theme, which reflects a need to learn something new all the time.
To play to this theme outside of work, make sure to always learn in your personal life by reading or pursuing new hobbies.
After reading this article, what strengths do you think you have? What is your action plan to develop and put them forward? If you leverage these strengths, success will be yours! I highly recommend reading the book Discover Your Strengths Now by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton. The book includes a code to access and take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 test. You can also take the test here on the Gallup website for $49,99.
Catherine Martin, Manager, Recruitment/Business Development