How to develop and improve your strengths

by Roger Martin

In the article ‘Your Strengths and Your Career. What is the Connection?’ we looked at what strengths are, how they were different from skills and their importance to the career development process. In this article, we are going to look at strengths, but from another perspective, the past and the future!

Why look at the past and the future?

Should you only rely on the strengths you have now? What about those you had when you were younger? You might not use them now, but could they be resurrected to support you going forward? 

Also, what about the future? Are there strengths and skills you may need to develop as the world of work changes? An example of this might be using technology as part of the world of work, but also understanding and then utilising the data that comes out of it. The skill here is learning how to use the various applications available to you. The strength is in the analysis of the data that is created. In other words, learning how to be analytical would be a great strength to have if you do not already possess it.

What strengths have you utilised in the past?

Have a think about what strengths you may have used in the past but perhaps don’t now. Many examples of past strengths can come from our education at school, college or university. 

Were you any good at languages at school? Did you find it relatively easy to grasp the vagaries of foreign grammar? This could be because you have strong comprehension and understanding skills.

How about academic subjects you may have studied at A level or university? These subjects generally require strong analytical abilities (i.e. being able to break down information, understand the various arguments being made, and then come up with a summary or conclusion). Having such analytical abilities is a great strength to have.

Other examples from when you were younger could include:

  • Maths equating to being Methodical
  • Captain of sport teams equating to Leadership
  • Volunteering and charity work equating to Caring
  • Design Tech equating to Problem Solving and Tenacity

Do you think any of the strengths could be useful today? Probably all of them!

What about the future?

It would be great if we knew what strengths would be required in the future, but we don’t. However, we can take a pretty good guess at some of the main ones as they are relevant for just about any career you can think of. 

First, let’s take a look at some of the main broad careers areas the experts claim are in the ascendency, and their corresponding strengths:

  • Technology - Methodical/Creative/Analytical
  • Medical - Caring/Multi-tasking/Dedicated
  • Education - Caring/Engaging/Enthusiastic
  • Data Analysis - Analytical/Critical thinking
  • Creative - Creative, thinking outside of the box
  • Sales - Tenacity/Persistence/Single Minded

Your Strengths going forward

So, if you were interested in any of the careers and therefore strengths mentioned above, how do you get them? Are strengths not innate? Do we either have them or not?

Well, yes and no. Generally, we cannot necessarily change all of who we are, but we can learn and improve all the time. Our strengths are part of who we are and are therefore no different.

Furthermore, it is likely you will have some ability in a strength you know you need to support your career going forward, so it’s really a case of improving that strength, rather than starting from scratch.

How do you do this?

Below are some pointers about how you can develop the strengths you feel you need to take your career forward.

- Seek out those who possess the strength you want to improve. This could be someone at work or a friend. What do they do that’s different? Do they have a process they follow?

- Online courses – There are plenty of online articles and courses that cover many of the strengths we have talked about so far. See which ones you feel relate most to you and what you are trying to achieve.

- Read books, blogs or tweets from, or about, those who show the strength you admire and wish to emulate. For example, if being confident is a strength you wish to develop, then reading about those that have shown this characteristic in something they have done, in sports, literature or business etc, is useful to get a glimpse of how they achieved their end goal.

- Practice. If you don’t succeed, try and try again. This process will take time. It’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to develop something so strong and important overnight.

- Lastly, be open to change – This can be more difficult than you think. Just try and remember the benefits of the end goal.

Still a bit unsure? Then why not discuss your strengths with your Stay Nimble coach. They will be able to support the discovery of your main strengths and help you learn how to utilise them as part of your career development strategy.

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