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  • Want to Improve? Know Your Strengths

    Strength photo from ShutterstockWe’ve all struggled to overcome something we don’t like about ourselves. Why is it so hard to change a single bad habit? The tabloids have talented and famous people splashed across their headlines who’ve  had their careers destroyed by bad habits.  Are we all impatient or lazy? Why do we struggle so hard to change ourselves and end up reverting back to undesirable behaviors when under stress? The strategy which is most effective to affect change is knowing and working from your strengths. If we could understand this, and more importantly implement this approach, we will have a powerful way of improving ourselves.

    Start with recognizing your intrinsic value and appreciate the value of your desire to change.  Desire is the root of our actions and drives everything we do.  So be committed to change and pursue your choice with a vengeance.

    Sometimes change requires an outsiders’ perspective to give us an unbiased view of ourselves.  Surprisingly, a friend, parent, coach, therapist or significant other may see us more clearly than we can see ourselves. Most of us aren’t who or where we want to be so our best chance to achieve our goals is to find someone who can help guide us.

    Imagine who you want to become and visualize that person. Imagine yourself acting in a way that embodies the character traits of a person who you esteem.  If you know someone who possesses these traits, study his/her behaviors and model them.

    As we begin changing ourselves we should always start from a place of  “loving yourself”.  We should all know that each of us is your “special”; Have we spent the time to become an expert on our individual greatness? Self-esteem is the prerequisite to begin the process of  fixing ones flaws and becoming more fully actualized. Though it may be  counterintuitive to focus on what makes us great when we are trying to solve problems which hold us back, it is the exact tack to take.

    Surprisingly, even some of the most confident people don’t really know their strengths. While you might be able to generally describe what you’re good at it’s important to know specifically what it is that you can do better than anyone else especially when it comes to getting hired and getting promoted.  So why is it that so often even extroverts stumble when asked to share their strengths? It could be a fear of coming off as an arrogant, know it all or from a fear of being caught for not being as good as you think you are. Whatever your reason for lagging on knowing and owning your strengths, it could hold you back if you aren’t able to state them (even if just to yourself at first) from getting the job you want and the upward mobility you deserve.

    This isn’t to suggest that a person shouldn’t try to correct his flaws; It’s to emphasize the idea that when looking to find where you fit in the workplace, knowing your strengths is a top priority. When you recognize your strengths and are clear on specifically what it is that you do well, you’ll be able to hone in on where you could thrive in the marketplace.

    When it comes to selecting a career and getting hired, it’s essential to know what you bring to the table and where your strengths lie. It’s not only important from the standpoint of knowing where you could make a contribution but it’s also critical in terms of building a healthy sense of self-esteem. When your self-worth is intact you can more readily address the areas that you need to improve and develop.

    Research shows that it’s better to focus on your talents and uncover what you do well than to dwell on the areas you need to improve. The StrengthsFinder franchise and the best-selling book StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Gallup executive Tom Rath have gained unstoppable appeal in today’s competitive job market. Rath and his Gallup colleagues stand out because of their steadfast belief that people should focus on making the most of their talents, rather than struggling to correct their flaws. Repair work is slow and dispiriting, Rath argues; it’s “the path of most resistance.” By contrast, he writes, a strengths-based approach can have rapid payoffs in confidence, productivity and hope.

    The first step is to recognize what it is exactly that distinguishes you as special and makes you stand out from the crowd. Once you’re aware of your strengths and you can articulate them clearly, you can begin to build upon them.  Seek experiences that will allow you to exercise these qualities so you have examples that demonstrate you have these traits. Once you have a strong repertoire of experiences that demonstrate your competency in an area or in a certain quality, you could begin to look to fill in the gaps in your abilities. Being comfortable with knowing all of your attributes and your limitations is a sign of emotional maturity. You can only add value somewhere if you are self-aware. When you know what you can offer and understand the needs of a particular firm, you can then assess what you can do for an employer to add value.

    What Are Strengths? How Can You Know if You Have Them?

    Your strengths include both the skills you possess and the personality traits that are viewed positively in the workplace. In order to become a fully self-aware person, I suggest you start by knowing what it is that makes you special and unique. Brainstorm on all your skills. 

    ,Here are some examples of transferable skills:

    • Communication skills include: expressing ideas, facilitating discussions or meetings, listening, negotiating, presenting, speaking a foreign language, speaking and writing effectively.
    • Research and planning skills include: analysis, brainstorming, coordinating events, focusing on details, forecasting, goal setting, information gathering, organizing, problem solving, record keeping.
    • Interpersonal skills include: coaching, conflict resolution, crisis management , delegating responsibility, handling complaints, motivating, team building.
    • Leadership skills include: dealing with change, decision-making, enforcing policies, ethics, implementation, management, persuasion, time management and training.

    Do you recognize yourself as having any of these abilities? Have others repeatedly pointed it out to you that you are good in any of these areas? If you’re not sure, you could take one of the strengthfinder tests offered by Gallup. “Strengths-Based Leadership,” “Teach With Your Strengths,” and “Strengths Based Selling” are useful tools for boss’s, educators and salespeople. You could also try the strength assessment test put out by the Dept. of Positive Psychology at University of Pennsylvania, It’s a free, online, scientifically validate survey of character strengths.

    The tests could help you define your strengths and identify a work setting and a job where you’ll thrive.

    Positive Character Traits

    Try writing down all your positive character traits. If you have trouble composing a list, start by recalling what others have said about you including parents, professors, employers and friends. Are you patient? Can you think of times you’ve worked with a person to help them achieve their goals where it required more time and energy than you initially thought? Are you creative? Do you initiate novel ideas and follow through with them to achieve results? Are you a person that others come to for advice?

    Can you think of many times where you collaborated well with a group to achieve the goals of a firm? Do you tend to inspire other people to take action? Can you think of examples for when you brought people into a cause and got them excited to participate in getting a job done? In what areas are you generous? Do you give your time without expecting reciprocation? Are you strategic, a learner, relator, maximizer, analytic or passionate?

    If you already know that you possess some of these qualities, be able to articulate where you’ve demonstrated them.  If you don’t have many examples to describe times you’ve displayed these traits, start looking for opportunities to develop them. If you’re unsure of what your strengths are then the Gallup Strengths tests could help you define your strengths and identify a work setting and a job where you’ll thrive.

    How To Develop Your Strengths?

    You can begin by looking for areas where you can anticipate a problem and help find a solution. You could begin at home doing something as mundane as household chores that other’s have overlooked to exercise this ‘problem solving’ muscle. Then continue to look for challenges in your workplace and with volunteer work.

    The more you proactive you are about developing your character traits, the more authentic and compelling you’ll be when it comes to showing your value to a perspective employer. The key is knowing which traits and skills are valuable to a particular sector and to a certain hiring manager. You can discern this by researching LinkedIn company pages, articles in the media on company news, and from reading personal profiles of candidates who’ve risen up in their firm.

    It’s never too late to recognize your greatness and it’s also never too late to see where you can improve.

    All things being equal with respect to your grades and previous work experience and references, the scale will be tipped in your favor for getting hired if you can show that you are more aware of the hiring managers needs than any other candidate and that you have the skills and abilities to help the manager accomplish his goals. Make it about them more than about you!  Stand out by learning to tune in to the ways you can apply your skills to assist them with specific challenges they face.

    The main challenge of the job interview is not so much to sell yourself, but to sell the “fit” between what you have to offer and what the job for which you are being interviewed calls for. The more you know about your strengths and talents the better chance you’ll be able to translate how you could use these abilities to benefit a perspective employer.

    There are endless ways to pursue a meaningful life, but knowing your purpose and finding your calling starts with identifying your strong suit. Start building on those strengths and be able to articulate them. While fixing ones flaws is an important aspect of personal growth, I believe this comes most readily to those who truly know and understand their own greatness. Your strengths are a part of your greatness. It’s what will become the defining points of your personal brand.  The more insightful you are about yourself the better, so you can continue to develop areas you’re intrinsically good at. Becoming self-aware requires a person to be positive and idealistic with a healthy dose of realism.

    Knowing your strengths doesn’t make you arrogant or narcissistic. It should remind you of your value. A secure person knows her strengths as much as she knows her limitations. And it’s knowing what makes you special that should make you feel less vulnerable when working to improve yourself. If you want to reach your full potential, start by recognizing your strengths and then find someone who can help you work on overcoming your limitations. Your ability to achieve greatness in life will depend on how well you manage this process.

    Beth Kuhel, M.B.A., C.E.I.P., Executive Leadership and Career transition coach, writes about leadership strategies, career advancement and improving the workplace for Forbes, Huffington Post, Personal Branding blog and has been featured in Business Insider, Entrepreneur magazine, Tiny Pulse, U.S. News & World Report. Beth’s weekly career CJN career column was sponsored by Weatherhead School of Management. https://www.linkedin.com/nhome/ Follow Beth on Twitter at @BethKuhel

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