5 Ways to Uncover Your Career Strengths

Personal branding is all about leveraging your strengths to stand out and differentiate yourself. Our strengths are what make us unique, authentic, and real. Yet we tend to fall into the trap of trying to fix our weaknesses. We invest time, money, and effort trying to be better at something that we may never get better at doing even after training, studying, or practicing. This really comes as no surprise as the focus on weakness in society is hard to ignore. Almost every job interview asks about our weaknesses in light of our strengths! Why do recruiters and hiring managers waste time on such a question?

John Falchetto recently wrote a great post about the importance of knowing our strengths and how to use them. He points out that “we are experts at defining how much we suck at something.” We are quick to say things like “I can’t do…”, “I’m not good at..”, or “I suck at…”. So this got me thinking. Maybe it is just easier for us to talk about our weaknesses rather than pointing out the strengths that set us apart. Here in Japan I see this all the time. Ask someone what they are good at and they immediately turn the answer into what they are NOT good at. This is certainly not unique to Japan and John says that this mindset is the result of being conditioned that humans are naturally bad.

When reading John’s post I immediately recalled a powerful commercial for Saucony running shoes called “What is Strong?“. I simply love the message in this commercial that maybe strong is just what we have left when we’ve used up all our weak. How can you ‘use-up’ your weak and use your strong? Try the following 5 activities.

1. StrengthsFinder 2.0

Are you an “achiever”, “relator”, “maximizer”? First introduced in 2001, the StrengthsFinder assessment was designed with the simple purpose of helping you to discover your top five strengths and how each of these plays out in your life. By doing the assessment you have more clarity in understanding how to do what you naturally do best every day, and how to identify the opportunities that will enable you to use your strengths. Access to the assessment does require a code that comes with the purchase of the book, but it is worth it.

2. Don’t SWOT, SOAR!

We are all familiar with the SWOT analysis. It continues to be one of the most widely used strategic planning tools. When it comes to personal branding, swat away SWOT and let your brand SOAR! SOAR retains the ‘strengths’ and ‘opportunities’ from the traditional SWOT, but adds a critical process of ‘appreciative intent’ by including ‘aspirations’ and ‘results’. Appreciative Intent (AI) really goes hand-in-hand with personal branding as its function is to build plans around what works, rather than trying to fix what doesn’t. This empowers us to focus on the positives that we can imagine and actually achieve in the future.

3. ‘Headline News’

How do you want the world to see you? What do you want to be known for? If someone picks up the newspaper and there is a front-page article about you, what would the headline read? Identify a list of people who know you well including friends, family, colleagues, etc. Ask them to write a front-page headline about you. Remind them to be genuine and real here. You don’t want them to fantasize. Their headline should be something they feel is absolutely achievable and realistic for you. What you get back will be an amazing collection of headlines. Look for themes across these headlines and pay attention to all the verbs used as they will say a lot about how they see your strengths.

4. ‘Seven Stories’

Seven Stories is a comprehensive introspective activity where you first make a list of 25 enjoyable accomplishments in your life from childhood to the present time. Things you not only enjoyed but also did well. From this list, you narrow it down to the seven that are the most important to you and write a short paragraph about each accomplishment. With these seven stories, you will find some common threads and uncover strengths that perhaps you never realized.

5. ‘My Retirement Party’

This is a great “forward visioning” activity that combines aspects of ‘Headline News’ and ‘Seven Stories’. Imagine you are sitting on the porch of your home and old friends, family members, and colleagues are showing up. People are coming to celebrate your retirement. As everyone gathers they are gradually breaking into smaller groups, talking, laughing, and having a great time. They are talking about you and how you have impacted their lives. You get up from the porch and walk around. As you pass by each group you can overhear what they are saying. Write down what you hear. How have you made an impact? What did you do to help them?

Using any of these activities will help you to find your strong! How about you? Do you have any other ways to maximize your strong? Please share.

Related: 3 Smart Ways to Brand Yourself in the Job Search Process.

By Peter Sterlacci

Peter Sterlacci is known as “Japan’s personal branding pioneer" and is one of 15 Master level Certified Personal Branding Strategists in the world. His company, BeYB, is introducing a leading global personal branding methodology to on-the-move careerists in Japan. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSterlacci