The following is adapted from Ignite Your Career!
“What are your strengths?”
When a career advisor or guidance counselor asks this question, you might freeze up. That’s OK. Knowing yourself sounds simple enough, but for many students, it can be hard to gauge your strengths accurately. You might downplay the things you’re great at or overlook weaknesses, and this is where external input is helpful.
There are four things I suggest you do to gain an objective, clear understanding of your strengths: get feedback, make lists, utilize your school’s career center, and find trusted recruiters.
By taking the opportunity to gather information about your strengths, you can launch your career with a core knowledge of the roles and responsibilities where you’re most likely to succeed. You might uncover that you have the analytical mind of a programmer, the team-building skills of a manager, the innovative flair of an entrepreneur, or another hidden strength. Let’s break down each information-gathering activity and look at what they can tell you about your strengths.
#1: Get Feedback
The first way to learn about your strengths is to talk to professors, coaches, or even family members. Ask them, “You know me. You’ve seen me in action, at school, on the field. What do you think are my strengths? What do you think I’m great at?”
If they come back and say, “You’re incredibly analytical, you’re great at solving problems, and you are really good at working independently,” that might suggest you lean more toward science or some quantitative role. Or they might come back and say, “You have the gift of gab; you can talk to anybody in any setting. You have the innate ability to bring a team together and get everybody going in the same direction.” If that’s you, then working on your own will make you wilt and die. You probably have more aptitude to go into some sort of sales job or a role where you are going to end up influencing or managing large teams of people.
The benefit of asking people for feedback is that they might see strengths that you haven’t recognized in yourself, giving you a more complete picture of your talents.
#2: Make Lists
A second way to try to assess strengths is by making lists. First, take out two sheets of paper. On one, write down everything you have loved doing in current or past school or work roles. Day in and day out, what did you do that brought you joy?
On the other piece of paper, write down what you hated doing. What are the things that make you miserable, that drive you crazy, that you’re not as good at?
Put both lists away for a day, then take them back out and rank order each. Take the top five or ten off each list—the loves and the hates—and consolidate them into two shorter lists on a single sheet of paper. Always keep those shorter lists in front of you as you’re looking for new jobs. It gives you focus. When you’re looking at any new jobs, you want to have a lot more of the things you love than those you hate.
#3: Utilize Your School’s Career Center
A third way to learn about your strengths is to utilize your college or business school career center, or if you have already graduated, reach out to the alumni office. They may have tools and techniques to help you crystalize your strengths, and they can act as a sounding board.
Having worked with thousands of students, they have great insight to share and can put you in touch with alumni at companies you’re interested in so you can learn more about potential employers.
#4: Find Trusted Recruiters
A fourth way if you are out of school and into your career is to find trusted recruiters who are experts in your field. They understand the nuances between different career paths and have partnered with thousands of others in your planned profession.
If you share what you love doing and are good at, they may very well be able to map out the optimal direction for you to take moving forward. They’ll tell you what strengths to play up during interviews as well as the weaknesses hiring managers will want to avoid.
Your Strengths Will Guide You Toward the Ideal Career
Feedback, lists, career centers, and recruiters can give you a good idea of where your strengths lie, and the next time you’re asked, “What are you good at?” you won’t freeze.
These insights will point you toward the right career for you. You might possess the perfect qualities to be a world-class doctor, artist, scientist, or business leader. All you need to do is identify and understand your strengths so you can choose a profession that uses them to maximum effect, and you’ll set yourself up for a long and prosperous career.
For more advice on building a successful career, you can find Ignite Your Career! on Amazon.