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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

Reference

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Colton Black

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

How to Identify and Leverage Your Personal Strengths 15 Simple Things You Can Do to Boost Your Daily Motivation The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Critical (And How to Strike a Balance) What the Road to Success Actually Looks Like 7 Steps to Take When You’re Feeling Stuck in Life

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career

9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career

Congratulations, you’re starting a new job! You’re feeling relieved that the interviews and the wait for a decision from the hiring manager is over, and you’ve finally signed the offer.

Feelings of fear and anticipation may surface now as you think about starting work on Monday. Or you may feel really confident if you have plenty of work experience.

Remember to not assume that your new work environment will be similar to previous ones. It’s very common for seasoned professionals to overestimate themselves due to the breadth of their experience.

Companies offer different depths of on-boarding experiences.[1] Ultimately, success in your career depends on you.

Below are 9 tips for starting a new job and succeeding in your career.

1. Your Work Starts Before Your First Day

When you prepared for your interview, you likely did some research about the company. Now it’s time to go more in depth.

  • How would your manager like you to prepare for your first day? What are his/her expectations?
  • What other information can your manager provide so that you can start learning more about the role or company?
  • What company policies or reports can you review that can get you acclimatized to your new job and work environment?

You’ll need to embrace a lot of new people and information when you start your new job. What you learn before your first day at work can help you feel more grounded and prepare your mind to process new information.

2. Know Your Role and the Organization

Review the job posting and know your responsibilities. Sometimes, job postings are simplified versions of the job description. Ask your manager or human resources if there is a detailed job description of your role.

Once you understand your key responsibilities and accountabilities, ask yourself:

  • What questions do you have about the role?
  • What information do you need to do your job effectively?
  • Who do you need to meet and start building relationships with?

Continue to increase your knowledge and do your research through the company Intranet site, organizational charts, the media, LinkedIn profiles, the industry and who your company competitors are.

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This is not a one time event. Continue to do this throughout your time with the company. Every team or project you engage with will evolve and change.

Keep current and be ready to adapt by using your observational skills to be aware of changes to your work environment and people’s behaviour.

3. Learn the Unwritten Rules at Work

Understanding your work culture is key to help you succeed in your career.

Many of these unwritten rules will not be listed on company policies. This means you’ll need to use all of your senses to observe the environment and the people within it.

What should you wear? See what your peers and leaders are wearing. Notice everything from their jewelry down to their shoes. Once you have a good idea of the dress code you can then infuse your own style.

What are your hours of work? What do you notice about start, break and end times? Are your observations different from what you learned at the interview? What questions do you have based on your observations? Asking for clarity will help you make informed decisions and thrive in a new work setting.

What are the main communication channels?[2] What communication mediums do people use (phone, email, in-person, video)? Does the medium change in different work situations? What is your manager’s communication style and preference? These observations will help you better navigate your work environment and thrive in the workplace.

4. Be Mindful of Your Assumptions

You got the job, you’re feeling confident and are eager to show how you can contribute. Check the type of language you are using when you’re approaching your work and sharing your experiences.

I’ve heard many new employees say:

  • “I used to do this at ‘X’ company …”
  • “When I worked at “X” company we implemented this really effective process …”
  • “We did this at my other company … how come you guys are not …”
  • “Why are you doing that … we used to do this …”

People usually don’t want to hear about your past company. The experiences that you had in the past are different in this new environment.

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Remember to:

  • Notice your assumptions
  • Focus on your own work
  • Ask questions, and
  • Learn more about the situation before offering suggestions.

You can then better position yourself as a trusted resource that makes informed decisions tailored to business needs.

5. Ask Questions and Seek Clarification

Contrary to common belief, asking questions when you’re starting a new job is not a vulnerability.

Asking relevant questions related to your job and the company:

  • Helps you clarify expectations
  • Shows that you’ve done your research
  • Demonstrates your initiative to learn

Seeking to clarify and understand your environment and the people within it will help you become more effective at your job.

6. Set Clear Expectations to Develop Your Personal Brand

Starting a new job is the perfect time to set clear expectations with your manager and colleagues. Your actions and behaviors at work tells others about your work style and how you like to operate. So it’s essential to get clear on what feels natural to you at work and ensure that your own values are aligned with your work actions.

Here are a few questions to reflect on so that you can clearly articulate your intentions and follow through with consistent actions:

Where do you need to set expectations? Reflect on lessons learned from your previous work experiences. What types of expectations do you need to set so that you can succeed?

Why are you setting these expectations? You’ll likely need to provide context and justify why you’re setting these boundaries. Are your expectations reasonable? What are the impacts on the business?

What are your values? If you value work life balance, but you’re answering emails on weekends and during your vacation time, people will continue to expect this from you. What boundaries do you need to set for yourself at work?

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What do you want to be known for? This question requires some deep reflection. Do you want to be known as a leader who develops and empowers others? Maybe you want to be known for someone who creates an environment of respect where everyone can openly share ideas. Or maybe you want to be someone who challenges people to get outside their comfort zones?

7. Manage Up, Down, and Across

Understanding the work styles of those around you is key to a successful career. Particularly how you communicate and interact with your immediate manager.

Here are a few key questions to consider:

  • How can you make your manager’s job easier?
  • What can you do to anticipate her/his needs?
  • How can you keep them informed (and prepared) so they don’t get caught off-guard?
  • What are your strengths? How can you communicate these to him/her so that they fully understand your capabilities?

These questions can also apply if you manage a team or if you deal with multiple stakeholders.

8. Build Relationships Throughout the Company

It’s important to keep learning from diverse groups and individuals within the company. You’ll get different perspectives about the organization and others may be able to help you succeed in your role.

What types of relationships do you need to build? Why are you building this relationship?

Here are some examples of workplace relationships:

  • Immediate Manager. He/she controls your work assignments. The work can shape the success of your career.
  • Mentors. These are people who are knowledgeable about their field and the company. They are willing to share their experiences with you to help you navigate the workplace and even your career.
  • Direct Reports. Your staff can influence how successful you are at meeting your goals.
  • Mentees. They are another resource to help you keep informed about the organization and your opportunity to develop others.

Other workplace relationships include team members, stakeholders, or strategic partners/sponsors that will advocate for your work.

Learn more in this article: 10 Ways to Build Positive And Effective Work Relationships

9. Keep in Touch With Those in Your Existing Network

“Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” – Michelle Obama

You are part of an ecosystem that has gotten you to where you are today. Every single person and each moment that you have encountered with someone has shaped who you are – both positive and negative.

Here’s How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

Make sure you continue to nurture the relationships that you value and show gratitude to those who have helped you achieve your goals.

Summing It Up

There are many aspects of your career that you are in control of. Observe, listen, and make informed decisions. Career success depends on your actions.

Remember to not assume that your new work environment will be similar to previous ones.

Here are the 9 tips for starting a new job and succeeding in your career:

  1. Your Work Starts Before Your 1st Day
  2. Know Your Role and the Organization
  3. Learn the Unwritten Rules at Work
  4. Be Mindful of Your Assumptions
  5. Ask Questions and Seek Clarification
  6. Set Clear Expectations to Develop Your Personal Brand
  7. Manage Up, Down, and Across
  8. Build Relationships Throughout the Company
  9. Keep in Touch With Those in Your Existing Network

Celebrate, enjoy your new role, and take good care of yourself!

More Tips About Succeeding in Career

Featured photo credit: Frank Romero via unsplash.com

Reference

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