If you’re asking yourself this question before revising your resume, networking, or going on interviews, you’re doing things in the right order.
That’s because self-awareness is the foundation of an effective job search. You’d be surprised, however, at how many people hit the pavement without even knowing what strengths they’re trying to market. The sad truth? If you don’t make it clear to them, prospective employers will not waste a minute of time trying to figure this out. Instead, they’ll just move on to the next candidate who can clearly and compellingly identify their strengths, and what they’ve accomplished with them. Without knowing this, you’ll also likely waste time applying for jobs for which you’re either unqualified or a poor fit.
So, how do you identify your talents and skills so you can find the job you really want?
Take stock. Reflect on your past paid, volunteer, or other work experiences. What did you do well and enjoy? Which experiences led to a state of ‘flow’ or complete immersion? Which made you feel accomplished or led to others’ recognizing your work? Did you love overseeing a successful fundraiser for your local museum and organizing dozens of volunteers? If so, perhaps you can consider project management or development as a career path.
Ask others. Talk to people who know you well or with whom you’ve worked, including past colleagues, fellow board members or executive directors of nonprofits for which you’ve volunteered. Ask them when they’ve seen you at your best. What were you doing when you stood out? How did they see you having impact?
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Use resources. Research to find the books and self-assessment tools that may help, including for example, the popular book StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath, which is based on a set of 34 strengths-related themes, and includes an online assessment.
The Highlands Ability Battery is another assessment tool that, taken online through a consultant, uses a series of exercises to measure natural abilities.
Career coaches and counselors can also provide support by either administering assessments, providing written exercises, or facilitating your development of clarity about your strengths through dialogue and powerful questions.
The bottom line: If you’re in or about to begin a job search, identifying your strengths is a worthwhile endeavor. You may confirm that you’re an outstanding communicator, highly analytical, or fiercely competitive—and that these are the very strengths being sought in your next job.
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