How To Identify Your Strengths For Developing In Your Career

by Roger Martin

You have probably heard or seen a lot written about strengths and their importance as part of any career development strategy.

What are strengths?

Strengths are things that characterise us, things that are innately part of us for example, being creative, determined, disciplined, focused etc. They are elements of us that are not easily changed, but they can be improved, and new ones sought (we will tackle this in our later article, How to Develop and Improve your Strengths).

We often look at skills when focusing on our career or when applying for jobs. However, we sometimes forget about our strengths and how important they are in helping us determine what would be the best career for us and the types of jobs we should be trying to secure.

Incidentally, what is the difference between Strengths and Skills?

This is a good question, as many people do get them confused. Skills are generally abilities we acquire through learning (e.g, being good at a sport). For example, being able to serve a ball at 100 mile an hour in tennis is not an ability we are born with – it needs to be learned in order for it to become a skill. However, a related strength could be being naturally athletic.

For the purposes of this article, we are looking at strengths, such as Enthusiastic, Trustworthiness, Creative, Honesty, Versatility and Dedicated and not necessarily skills.

Why is understanding our strengths so important?

Understanding our strengths is an integral part of our career development. Without understanding what we are good at, we could end up as a square peg in a round hole, something many of us have experienced in the past!

Working out what we are good at helps us sidestep potential career mistakes and helps us make the right career choices, or at least the best we possibly can.

How do we work out what ours are?

There are various ways to work out what your strengths are. If pushed, most of us can identify at least one or two strengths we know we have (see the last point below). However, to help you identify some more, consider the following questions:

  • Asking others – Why not ask your colleagues and even your friends and family what they feel are your greatest strengths?
  • What type of problems do friends/family bring to you, either for your advice or to help them resolve?
  • What activity makes you feel at your happiest? And what strength do you feel relates to this, or underpins it?
  • If you have ever had a yearly performance review at work, in what activity do you score the highest? Again, what strength do you feel underpins this?
  • What is your relationship style? How do you get on with others around you, especially at work? Are you cooperative, collaborative, prefer to work alone, a leader, a follower etc? A cooperative and collaborative style could indicate you are respectful of others, while an understanding relationship style could be linked to having patience, an excellent strength for many careers and roles.
  • What do you like to talk about when in work? For example, if you like to discuss how the organisation is changing, new projects or ways of working that might be coming up, enthusiasm maybe your strength here.
  • Lastly, what do you feel your strengths are? As said previously, many of us know we have at least one or two strengths we are pretty sure about, but are there others we have yet to identify? Now could be the time to start thinking about these in more detail!

What happens next?

So, you have worked out your strengths, or at least some of them. What do you do with them? How can they help you in the development of your career going forward?

Your identified strengths will be really useful for you to determine the right career for you, but also the right job roles to apply for. What kind of strengths does the career and/or job role call for? Check the Person Specification, Job Description and even the original job advertisement for these. Which ones do you have that are relevant? They should match as much as possible.

However, how do you add this information to a CV or application form, and how do you bring these matching strengths out at an interview?  With a little work and experimentation, you will soon develop an understanding of where your strengths fit in as part of the application process. You will find more resources relating to this in the Stay Nimble Career Advice Hub.

Still a bit unsure? Then why not chat with your Stay Nimble coach who will be able to support you to uncover your main strengths and how to utilise them as part of your career development strategy.

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