3 ways to discover and put your strengths to work, at work

What are your strengths? Does this question make your palms sweat? Do you know how to answer this question in a clear way? Do you even think it is possible to identify work that matches your strengths? This week’s newsletter is the second in our series on how to discover your strengths. You can listen to my podcast with Harvard grad and author Jenifer Fox. M. Ed. She is the author of Your Childs Strengths – How to discover them, develop them and use them.

Last week, I shared two common limitations to knowing your strengths – the weakness habit and the strength assumption. According to a survey done by Oprah.com, only 20% of us could accurately quantify our strengths. There are three key reasons why it is important to get a handle on the areas that you are strong in.
Job Search – It easier to sell yourself to potential employers.
Career Security -You are less likely to be impacted by restructuring.
Career satisfaction – A good fit in your role leads to career fulfillment.
Jenifer shared, “You probably won’t find your life’s calling in an area of weakness”. I think that is the key reason to discover and develop your strengths. It will create a society that will allow everyone else to benefit and flourish. That is the wonderful principle about the strengths focus; when you win, everyone else around you wins. There is lots of room left in the economy for your strengths to be utilized. Jenifer shares three key principles to help you in a practical way to answer this very important question.
Discover Them – In a job interview, one of the key questions that is consistently asked is what are your strengths? I can speak from personal experience. Most people are very generic in their responses and, as a result, end up coming second to a more “qualified” candidate (i.e. a candidate who really knew their strengths). Think of the concept of finding gold – you have to dig for it. Talents, like gold, take some time to search and uncover; investing the time and energy is well worth it.

Action – Take 15 minutes and look at your calendar from last week. Identify in your schedule a time in your work that you enjoyed and felt good about the quality of results. This is a simple way to isolate your strengths in the context of your current work situation. Take our Free 15 Minute Career Test.

Develop your strengths – There are many ways to nurture and to develop your strengths. Think of development in the way that you think of helping a child to learn how to play piano. Malcom Gladwell in his new book, The Outsiders, calls this the 10,000 hour principle. It takes about that amount of time to become great at something. It is obviously a lot easier when you have the natural ability, but you have to multiply this with time, training and support.

Action – When isolating the time to work out your strengths, think of the ways that you can use them more in your work. Are there projects that need more assistance? Can you take courses to upgrade your education? Check within your organization for any training that you could take to get accreditation or upgrade your skills.

Using them – There is a wise saying “Use them or lose them”. While I don’t believe you will lose them, it is best if you are using your core skills on an ongoing basis. As Jenifer says, “Every person can find success in life if they start focusing on the strengths they have, rather than on what they lack”.

Action – Is there a role that may be better suited for your strengths? What can you do to put together a proactive plan with your boss to move towards this new role or area? Do you need to consider a job search outside of your organization?

A positive outlook on your strengths journey is key to the long-term success of your career. It is less complicated than you think. Jenifer’s perspective, “discovering strengths is a simple but rewarding process. If we know what to look for, everything we do in our lives, from how we do our laundry to how we solve million dollar problems, gives us clues to discovering and using our talents”.

Looking to take one step towards understanding your strengths in 2009? Take our Free 15 Minute Career Test or join our complimentary 1 hour TeleWorkshop based upon my book Get the Right job Right Now! Looking for more personalized support in the self-discovery process? Book an initial consultation today.

Using them, along the road with you!
Alan