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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How to Identify and Leverage Your Personal Strengths

How to Identify and Leverage Your Personal Strengths

Finding your own path in life is a real challenge that we all have to face as we come of age and begin to look at how we might make our mark on the world. If only it were so easy that everyone was guaranteed success in their pursuits instead of the starker reality that most of us contend with in our daily lives.

The truth is that everyone will experience varying degrees of success and failure during their life. It’s an inescapable fact. No one who ever made it somewhere in terms of accomplishments did so by following a straight path to the top. For most it’s a zig zag of give and take, where one might take 2 steps forward followed by 4 steps back.

So then the question becomes this: If I am surely going to fail and succeed at different points of my life, how can I work to reduce risk and increase the likelihood that I spend more time succeeding and less time failing?

All of this has to do with identifying and leveraging your personal strengths.

How to Identify Your Personal Strengths

You may not be sure exactly what your personal strengths are, so how are you to go about leveraging them? If you first need to pinpoint your strengths, follow these tips.

1. Know Yourself

Step one in my mind is to exercise some self-awareness and start evaluating yourself in order to make a few key determinations about your personality and general outlook on life. Put simply, this step could be described with the phrase, “Know yourself.”

Who could be better than you in identifying your own core strengths and weaknesses? Taking the time to better understand those strengths and weaknesses will help to provide some context or foundational background for you to then project forward to try and imagine what your future may hold.

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If you haven’t previously taken the time to really evaluate where you stand as a person and analyze your own skillsets, strengths, weaknesses, and long term objectives in life, then you are definitely holding yourself back from where you could be as an individual. Knowing yourself and taking the time to learn even more about yourself is vital in working towards maximizing your strengths.

2. Ask a Friend

Interestingly enough, some research out there that suggests the near opposite of the above: perhaps others know you better than you know yourself. So ask!

On Oprah.com, the writer Barbara Sher suggests that one way to better identify your own strengths is to “Ask your friend to name three of your strengths.”[1] I also like this approach because it removes the potential for personal biases to impact your own self-assessment.

Our friends have a solid window into our personality and often are as equipped to help us identify our strengths and weaknesses because they have a valuable outsider perspective. It’s probably a good idea to take your own self-assessment, bounce that information off of a friend and compare notes.

If there are areas of overlap, then you might be headed in the right direction. If not, then perhaps you need to scrutinize either your own self-assessment or your friend’s assessment and see if the truth lies somewhere in between the two.

Whichever method you take, it is important that during this part of the process you take an honest assessment of yourself because if you are unwilling to make an honest judgement of your own strengths and weaknesses, then this exercise will be futile. We are probably all generally aware of the areas that we excel in as well as where we are lacking.

3. Find Clues in Your Attempts and Failures

As we all get older, the hope is that we also become more self-aware. Why? As we experience life in a one way direction, we ought to learn some things through the process of trying and failing. I learned how powerful love could be after I got my heart broken by my first girlfriend. I learned how much I appreciated a steady paycheck after I got fired from a job. I learned how to be a better driver after experiencing for my first major car wreck.

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Failure is indeed a foundational piece of building long term success in any pursuit.

Through our failures we become more equipped to recognize future hazards and engrain those lessons into the fiber of our being so that we ultimately see gains from what were once losses. In the middle of a failure, it is almost impossible to see these lessons. It isn’t until after the storm has passed that you begin to put the puzzle pieces together and find the lesson to be learned in that situation.

The important thing to remember is that in your failings, in your moments where you fall short, if you pay enough attention you might be able to start identifying the weaknesses in your own life that may have a hand in those failures, and if you are smart, you will start trying to learn how to minimize those issues and maximize what you are great at so that you see a path to success start to develop.

4. Analyze Your Successes

While failure can be a great teacher at times, success also begets more success. Any experience, whether positive or negative, can be a teaching tool for the individual if that individual is willing to utilize it. The key, of course, is to get into the thick of things and start finding ways to gain that necessary experience.

So often at corporate companies I hear the phrase, “You’ve got to put in your time,” referencing the idea that you have to put a certain amount of years into a company before you start to see that result in a positive correlation within your career.

5. Maintain a Hold on Your Identity

Whether you are trying to be a good parent or a good employee, it’s important that you as an individual have an extremely strong grip on your own identity. Knowing yourself will be paramount in your aim to leverage those strengths in order to experience future success.

6. Use a Strength Test

If at the end of this you still find yourself questioning what your own strengths are, then you can look into taking a “strength test.” These are designed to help users identify their own strengths with the idea that our own individual biases could have an impact on how we evaluate our own strengths, and the test is implemented to help erase those biases.[2]

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How to Leverage Your Personal Strengths

The idea of leveraging your personal strengths in order to capitalize on your skill set and propel yourself towards success is one that we should all consider and aim to pursue.

You can think about leverage by envisioning a see-saw. Typically on a see-saw, one person puts all of their weight on one end of the see-saw, which then propels the other person up into the air. In the same way, if you utilized your personal strengths as the foundation for your growth, you would see a positive correlation as your success increased.

Invest in Yourself

Another element to consider is to think about how investing in yourself is actually very different than how we invest in the stock markets. When you invest in the stock market, most experts will tell you that you should diversify your asset classes or invest in index funds so that you aren’t concentrated in a singular position that could potentially weigh down your portfolio.

This is the exact opposite approach that one should take when looking to identify and leverage your personal strengths. When it comes to capitalizing on one’s strengths, you should be looking to invest more of your time, energy, and money into a more singularly focused move that builds up your greatest strengths or skillsets.

Andrew Carnegie said of investing,

“The way to become rich is to put all your eggs in one basket and then watch the basket.”

I’d say that is a bad approach for investing when looking at S&P benchmark performance year after year, but when it comes to your own strengths as an individual, it is an excellent approach.

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Not only should you be putting your eggs in a smaller range of baskets when working on your strengths, but also when you work on your weaknesses. If you are fantastic at communicating and managing relationships but terrible at sales, then it makes sense to me that you’d pour more resources into making a sale.

Identify and Improve Your Weaknesses

In order to leverage your strengths, you should focus on what areas of weakness exist in your current body of work and then work to shore those areas of weakness up in order to create a broader foundation for success.

In decreasing your areas of weakness and growing their strength, you will doing what you are aiming to do in looking to leverage your strengths. Reducing weakness allows for you as an individual to perform at a higher level and naturally lends more power to the strengths that you have in your repertoire.

Final Thoughts

Whatever method you take in order to identify your strengths, remember that no success happens overnight. You as the individual have to work hard to identify your strengths and then work out a way in which to leverage them to your overall benefit and growth. It will take time and research, but if you are reading this article, you are already on your way!

More Tips on Personal Strengths

Featured photo credit: Julian Santa Ana via unsplash.com

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Colton Black

Motivational Coach, Self-Help Blogger, Recording Engineer, Professional Dad

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Have you ever caught yourself in a daydream where you’ve gone for that upcoming promotion, and you’re now the boss at work? Or how about the one where you’ve summoned up all your courage to quit a job where you’re feeling stuck in your career and live your dream instead? Or when you’ve changed career paths to do what really makes you happy?

Then, you snapped back to reality and realized that you’re not the boss, not living your dream, and not even happy in the career path that you’re on.

Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who’ve told me they feel stuck in their careers, that something had to change for them to break free and be happy, but they lacked the confidence to take that step. My mission is to make sure that nobody feels stuck in their career because of a momentary lapse in bravery that’s dragged on for too long.

Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work. .

Here are my top ten tips for becoming unstuck in your career.

1. Make Time for You

If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or unhappy with how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need to take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your day where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t, and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

For example, are there training days, evening courses, or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

By booking in a meeting with yourself, it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your day and filling it with a meeting.

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2. Grow Your Network Before You Need It

Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections, and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities[1].

When I was thinking about setting up my current company, Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did, to ask for advice, to unpick what their problems were, and to look for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

It paid off because, when I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them, and soon I had my first clients.

Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks and focus on how you can add value to other. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

3. Surround Yourself With People Who Inspire You

According to Tim Ferriss, “You are the average of the five people you most associate with,” and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve[2].

For example, if you are trying to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise–they help you to up your game.

If you want that promotion, a career change, or to set up your own business, seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead.

4. Work on Your Personal Brand

Jeff Bezos defines a personal brand as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. That can actually keep you feeling stuck in your career. It’s really about being your best “real you.” It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

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Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

Try these 5 Steps to Master Networking Skills and Perfect Your Personal Branding.

5. Be Accountable

Achieve your career goals faster, and grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline. and have them to hold you accountable.

For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable, and we are more likely to make progress faster.

6. Make Sure Your Values Are Aligned With Your Company’s

All the professional development, goal setting, and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your company’s ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allows employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business; others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck in your career and unhappy.

It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you, or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

7. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone.

It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy in your career than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know rather than risk the devil we don’t.

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This is true even if the devil we know is a boring, unfulfilling job because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then, tackle that in small steps.

For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking, but public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job, then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a “get out of your comfort zone club,” where they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

8. Learn to Embrace Failure

Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour[3]. Failure is simply the natural path to success.

The truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves: “Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?” We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of others, or even being fired for failure.

However, if you’re going to stop feeling stuck in your career, you must be open to learning from failure.

Reframe failure by viewing everything as an experiment because you can’t have a failed experiment—you just learn whether something works or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said:

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“I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

9. Build Your Resilience

Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup, and to keep going.

Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path, and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill, as well as a career skill.

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time.

Learn more about how to build resilience in this guide: What Is Resilience and How to Always Be Resilient (Step-By-Step Guide)

10. Ask for Help

It can be hard to ask for help, as it can make us feel vulnerable.

No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a group of people that we can go to for help, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

My advice is to be deliberate about creating your group. You can do that with a tool called a “Me Map”:

  1. Write down all the things that you might need support with, like help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
  2. Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
  3. Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

Final Thoughts

You can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work by applying the tips in this article. Start small by incorporating three new things in your first week, and then adding more as your comfort zone and capacity expands.

Remember, no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change and land the career that you truly want.

More Tips to Stop Feeling Stuck in Your Career

Featured photo credit: NEW DATA SERVICES via unsplash.com

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