For career success, you are told to play to your strengths. Sounds simple except that you may not be fully aware of your strengths or of what is required in a particular job.
We aren’t very aware of our strengths because we discount them. Things we enjoy doing and find easy to do are indicative of strengths, but precisely because they come easy to us, we say that it is just our job or surely anyone can do that. When we get a compliment for doing something well, we are surprised because we thought there was nothing to it. Conversely, we are keenly aware of our weaknesses. As a result, we have an unbalanced self-perception. The reality is that we have many more strengths than weaknesses.
It also depends on who we compare ourselves with. If you compare yourself to Jack Welch, you may see more gaps in your portfolio of strengths than if you compare yourself to a junior colleague. Also, if you are in a specialist function, say finance, you may not know much about marketing, operations or human resources. So, you can always find people who know more than you do about something or who have strengths that you lack.
Strategic Strengths and Weaknesses
Skills are only career strengths if they relate to success at work. You might be a ping pong ace but this won’t help you get that management job you want. You might be hopeless at selling anything, but this is irrelevant if you don’t want a career in selling. So, we have strategic strengths and strategic weaknesses. The former are those that most closely fit whatever career direction you are pursuing while the latter are just those weaknesses that might block you from getting where you want to go. The good news is that you don’t need to fix all your weaknesses if they aren’t standing in the way of your preferred career path.
There is an excellent reason to play to your strengths, once you have identified them. It is well known that people have more confidence when they are doing things they are good at. Success is more likely, you will appear more decisive and you will inspire more confidence in the key people you need to impress. On the other hand, if you continually play to your weaker side, you will appear hesitant, clumsy and lacking in confidence. Worse, your discomfort could well undermine your confidence in your strengths.
When looking for a new job, start by assessing fit. Will your target job be a good match for your strategic strengths? There will always be some learning to do in a new role, but make sure that your major weaknesses won’t get too much exposure.