Whether you are returning to the workplace after a break or navigating a career change, understanding your strengths is key. Knowing them can help you better articulate where you bring value, recognise where you can contribute the most, and differentiate yourself from others.
What are strengths?
Very simply they are the things you are naturally good at, but also energise you. When you are using your strengths, you feel confident, engaged and perform at your best.
How can I start identifying my strengths?
In this blog post, I’ll cover five ways you can approach this using different resources. So have a look through and see which resonates most with you. Alternatively you can do them all and compare what comes up.
1. Ask those around you
This is a quick and easy step that can be incredibly revealing. Identify between 10 - 20 (the more the merrier!) close friends, family and work colleagues. Simply message them and ask them what they think are your top three qualities or strengths. You can frame it as being part of a project you are working on.
If you want to personalise your message, just create one message and copy it multiple times, or even simpler still, create a single email and BCC all recipients. Done!
Once you receive the responses, you will start to identify patterns and overlap. Save all of these responses somewhere where you can access them again in the future. Collate the top three most common answers and use this as your start point.
2. Start taking note of your own behaviours
How do you spend your time each day? Start to make a note of the things you are making time for and things that you avoid doing. This behaviour is very telling, and it comes to the surface in both your home and work life.
Once you acknowledge these patterns of behaviour, you can start to build a picture of the types of tasks you gravitate towards, and therefore where your natural strengths are being used most.
3. Identify your natural strengths at work
This exercise takes things to the next step. You’ll need about 20 minutes and a cup of something hot (or stronger - I’m not judging!). It’s a resource I use most regularly with my clients and is called The Career Lifeline.
The results will give you an insight into the key themes and patterns in your career to date, giving you further clarity on where you have most effectively drawn on your strengths in the past.
4. Take an online questionnaire
If you have an extra few minutes to spare, taking an online questionnaire can help you identify your strengths and behaviours, and also give you an insight into how others see you.
There are a few out there to experiment with. The VIA Character Strengths Survey offers a free, 15-minute test and works on the principle that each person has 24 character traits, and the quiz ranks these traits according to your answers.
My personal favourite is this fun, five-minute quiz based on the 16 personality types in Myers-Briggs. It matches your traits and attributes to an animal personality.
Whichever you choose, these tests are not only insightful, but also an excellent way to glean more language to build the narrative around your strengths.
5. Recognise you don’t have to be brilliant at everything
I spent a large portion of my early career trying to emulate others. Whilst it is great to be inspired by those around us, it's a fool's errand to try to become a carbon copy of them. It can be very easy to fall into the trap of wanting to fill the perceived gap to be more like them, and that if we try hard enough, we can turn whatever it is into a strength.
By all means, work towards increasing your competence in areas where you would like to build those skills. This shows commitment and demonstrates a growth mindset to those around you. Just accept that you do not have to excel at absolutely everything that you do.
The most effective individuals are those that recognise and amplify their strengths and seek out ways to exercise them in everything they do.
This article was written by career coach, Jane McKenna.
Jane set up Brilliant Me Coaching to support women wanting to rebalance their work/ life.
She can help you make changes to unlock your potential and build confidence if you are returning to work after a break.
You can find out more at www.brilliantme.co.uk.