Before you apply for a new job, you generally do a self-assessment, evaluating your strengths and weaknesses, where your knowledge, skills and abilities lie.
But how do you best go about deciding what your strengths are, ones that really show your uniqueness, not just some boilerplate that many job candidates piece together? How can you come up with something new to describe your strengths?
Business consultant Bill Barnett gives an example of someone who did just that. This person was a marketing executive at a company that had been acquired by another firm. He was in a situation that he did not like and needed to come up with a new career strategy. In trying to decide on his strengths, he first came up with some run-of-the-mill stuff – his experience with growth markets, for example. But he needed something that really set him apart. And after several months of searching, he hit on it. Going over his work history, he found that one key characteristic that defined him was his empathy. When he thought about the times he had experienced real success, he found that it was because of his skill at understanding others. It had helped to come up with new products, to make relationships, and put together good business teams.
Eventually, he landed a new job, and there were naturally a number of reasons why he got it, but what really made him stick out, and one of the main reasons he got the job, was his emphasis on empathy.
So, in trying to come up with your strengths, you need to find what makes you distinctive, what led to your success. Barnett offers some tips on how to do this.
First, list what your strengths are. Usually, the first things you come up with here are the skills and knowledge that you’ve gained at work. But also consider your character strengths as well. Think about what you enjoyed the most, what you were good at. Look for surprises, Barnett ays.
Ask other people, men and women you work with now or whom you worked with before, for their opinion. And tell them you want their honest assessment. They might think of strengths you missed, or ask questions that may help you identify strengths.
Look at previous performance appraisals for ideas. Put yourself in the place of a hiring manager and think about why you would hire you.
And then go back to your initial list of strengths. Make changes to reflect what new ideas you have come up with. Make a ranking of your strengths and be specific, the more specific the better. Generalities won’t be very helpful.