Chances are that if you’ve ever had a job interview, you’ve been asked, "What are your strengths?” Or maybe worse, “What are your weaknesses?”
We dread the weaknesses question because typically we can think of several, but none that we’d want to admit in a job interview. We’ve focused on them and been reminded of them our whole lives. Humans are hardwired to focus on the negative. “I’m terrible with numbers, “I’m not a morning person,” “I can’t cook.”
But we love to fix things and we strive to improve. Find the problem, solve the problem. So, we learn to budget, go to bed early, take a cooking class. The time and energy it takes to mitigate our weaknesses can be immense. Conversely, the reason we don’t want to address the strengths question is that often we have no idea what our strengths really are. Unlike our weaknesses, we haven’t taken the time to explore them and build upon them. So how can we do this, and why is it so important — not just to our careers, but for our quality of life in general?
What are you good at?
Think of a thing or two at which you truly excel. Maybe you have a knack for always knowing the right thing to say and are sought out for advice. While this might sound more like a personality trait, it says more about you and your unique abilities and passions than you realize. How can you translate it to other areas of your life? It could be a sign that you are highly empathetic and strategic. You can use your intuition to broker the best outcomes for all involved. Turns out, you might be just as fantastic at business development. Imagine what you could do if you fostered that strength!
In 1998, a team of scientists at Gallup, an American research-based performance management consulting company, created the StrengthsFinder assessment. While scientific, the assessment takes a an individualized approach to helping people discover their strengths. The process allows individuals to explore their top talents and translate them for wider application.
Lisa Rice, a Gallup certified strengths coach and former president of CareerSource Brevard, said Gallup found that people who focus on their strengths every day at work are six times more likely to be engaged in their jobs. Three out of every 10 employees are engaged in their jobs, according to Gallup, “which means lower productivity, more absenteeism, more likely to leave the company and lower quality of life all around,” Rice said.
Even without taking the assessment, you can lead a more productive and meaningful life by evaluating areas in your life where you excel, both personally and professionally. Also get input from those who know you best. The combination of your passions and greatest abilities culminates in your calling.
If you see something… say something — it helps others identify and grow their strengths.
As a child, my mother told me I was brave because I was not afraid to take the lead on something or talk to people. I was given the lead role in the first-grade play because I could speak loudly and didn’t suffer from stage fright. I grew up thinking I truly was brave and captivating on stage. I came to realize many years later that my acting chops were in fact nonexistent but that my ability to articulate a story to a large group of people was as strong as ever, and I fell in love with public speaking. Frankly, had my mother never told me I was brave, I might never had explored public speaking as a strength. She saw something in me and wanted me to know it.