What are strengths?
Do you find it hard to talk about what your strengths are? Is it because it’s too embarrassing to sing your own praises (we’re British after all)? Or is it because you’re not sure what they are? Perhaps you have an awareness of ‘being good with people’, or ‘good with numbers’ but you struggle to explain your talents in more detail than this. You may even feel that you don’t have any strengths and believe that there is nothing special that you bring to the workplace (I can promise you that this isn’t true).
Strengths are skills that come so naturally to us, that we use them effortlessly. This means we’re often completely oblivious to the fact we have them. If you’re wondering what your strengths are, they’re likely to be things you are complimented about the most but that you reply by saying, “Oh, that was nothing,” or, “don’t mention it; anyone could do that.”
Why are strengths important?
Knowing your strengths can help your career in countless ways. For starters, think about the dreaded Personal Summary section of your CV. This is the part of the CV that people tend to struggle with the most. However, once you know what your strengths are, you can describe them briefly in your Personal Summary. This helps give your CV a feeling of authenticity and takes away the need to pick one of the (gimmicky) buzz words that are seen in so many other CVs.
Another benefit of being strengths-aware is that it gives you an excellent foundation for answering two of the most dreaded interview questions. The words, “Why should we hire you?” or “Why should we promote you?” can be answered with, “Well, if you’re asking me what my strengths are, they are…” (You can read more tips on answering the question, “Why should we hire you?” in my article, How to Answer the Two Most Frequently Asked Interview Questions).
How to work out what your strengths are
One of the best tools for figuring out your strengths is Gallup’s Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment. Don’t let the lengthy title put you off. It’s a simple and inexpensive (but eerily accurate) online questionnaire that takes roughly 45 minutes to complete. There are two ways of accessing the assessment. One is to buy the book, StrengthsFinder 2.0. Each copy of this book has a unique access code printed at the back of it (which you enter online to complete the questionnaire).
The other option is to take the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment online (without buying the book). You’ll see that there are three different products available. The one I recommend is, “Top 5 Strengths Access”.
If you’d like to learn more information about the Clifton StrengthsFinder, this FAQs page is a helpful place to start.
Getting your results
After taking the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment, a summary of your top 5 strengths (out of 34 possible strengths) is emailed to you. You can also login online to access additional resources and a detailed report (called the Strengths Insight and Action Planning Guide). I’ve created a free, downloadable StrengthsFinder User Guide that explains how to take the test and access the full results and resources afterwards.
Once you have your full results and have read them through, highlight the parts that feel particularly true for you. Think about how you can use your new knowledge about your strengths to help your career. You can update your CV. You can prepare for an interview by practising talking about examples of when you have used your strengths at work.
Another way to work with your results is to use them to help evaluate whether a change to a new career is the right decision for you. People who use their strengths at work find they are more fulfilled and do a better job than those who don’t. Why not look at what you’re currently doing and see if you can find ways to use your strengths more at work? Perhaps this means signing up to a new project, offering to mentor a colleague, or delegating work that isn’t utilising your strengths to someone else.
If you’d like any further help with identifying, or using your strengths to help your career, then get in touch. We can book a free phone or Skype call to talk about how CV writing, interview practise, or Career Coaching can help.
Fay Wallis is a Career Coach with a background in HR and Recruitment. She is the founder of Bright Sky HR, where she helps people in their 30s, 40s and 50s overcome their career challenges with confidence. Fay creates free resources via blogs, videos and templates to help tackle many of the career issues her clients come up against. To have her latest resources sent to you as soon as they are created just sign up here. If you would like one-to-one support from Fay you can learn more about her coaching solutions here.