Advance Your Career by Playing to Your Strengths at Work

What are your strengths and weaknesses? If the last time you considered this question was during a job interview, you're probably past due for a little self-reflection. And while it's important to acknowledge where you have room for improvement, it's actually best not to spend too much time and energy working on your weaknesses. Instead, focus on doing more of what you're already great at. After all, if your writing skills are a 1 out of 10, even months of work might only get you to a 4 or 5. So devote that time to pinpointing areas where you excel and finding ways to make your true talents shine.

When the work you do draws on your natural abilities, it's less arduous. It makes work more interesting and engaging, elevating your performance and attracting the kind of positive attention that’s key for advancing your career. But true introspection is not easy, and identifying your personal strengths in a meaningful way can be a challenge. 

5 Ways to Identify Your Personal Strengths

Some people are good at asking the big-picture questions: what problem are we trying to solve and why? What are our company goals? These visionary thinkers are able to create an inspiring, positive picture of the future and rally others around it. Others excel at analyzing facts and figures and determining what needs to be done when, boiling down big-picture thinking into clear, specific goals. Still others are good at using proven techniques and tools to make processes more effective and efficient. To identify your core strengths, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Which activities are the most satisfying or fulfilling for you? What energizes you at work? 
  • What tasks do your colleagues come to you for help with? What types of work do you get the most praise for?
  • When you look up from your work to find that two hours have flown by, what kind of projects are you working on? What kinds of skills or abilities are you using when you feel most "in the zone?" 
  • What kinds of activities do you do when you’re not at work? What types of hobbies or volunteer work do you do? Organizing events? Building relationships?

For an even deeper understanding of your strengths, ask colleagues, mentors, friends, and family for feedback. Ask them about times when you made an important contribution or helped them in a meaningful way, then look for patterns or themes. Do you stay calm under pressure? Are you reliable? Show enthusiasm and curiosity? Persevere when times get tough? You might be pleasantly surprised at how many strengths your peers recognize and appreciate in you! 

How to Apply Your Strengths to Your Daily Work

Now that you've identified them, how can you structure your work to play to your strengths? Every position has certain constraints, and not every aspect of your job will be a natural complement to the type of work you excel at. But that doesn't mean you can't tailor your projects and teamwork to play up your advantages and those of your colleagues — and draw positive attention to your efforts and accomplishments. 

Even small changes can make a big impact, like shifting your schedule or adjusting how many meetings you hold. For instance, if you find that your strengths include both relationship building and creative problem solving, ask your team to share their biggest roadblocks and brainstorm ways to improve products and processes. 

In some instances, no amount of fine-tuning or rescheduling will make your job a fit for your natural strengths and abilities. If you find that's the case for you, it may be time to reevaluate whether your current position is truly a good fit for your career goals and personal happiness — and arming yourself with a deeper understanding of the types of situations in which you excel is a critical first step in finding a new position or career path that you can thrive in. 

Knowing your own strengths and that of others on your team makes it easier to find that collaboration sweet spot where everyone is able to play to their strengths, and not get bogged down by motivation-draining tasks where they can’t add value. So stop dwelling on your weaknesses, and start making your strengths even stronger.

For more ways to up your game at work, check out these articles on simple ways to develop your leadership skills and bring more positivity to your work

Sources: HBR.org, Forbes.com, Medium.com

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