Are you trying to figure out where you want to go in your career? Whether you’re just starting out, or looking for a complete career change, having a clear understanding of what you are good at, and the areas where you excel, can help you to identify roles that best fit your abilities and interests. What’s more, having a good understanding of your strengths can provide you with direction on the skills you might need to work on to advance your career prospects or pursue new opportunities.
Unfortunately, when entering the job market, many people find themselves focusing on their perceived weaknesses or things they don’t have. What skills they are missing; the qualifications they don’t have; what experience they still need, and so on. This can be a very disheartening approach to the beginning of a career or the start of something new – it can feel like you’ll never match up to the job requirements. Flipping this way of thinking to consider your strengths instead of weaknesses can provide you with three things:
- The realisation that you have valuable skills, knowledge and experience
- The ability to choose a career suited to your own strengths
- A positive foundation on which to build your personal development
So how do you discover your strengths?
There are many different tools and methodologies for doing this, all with their own pros and cons. We’ve put together a collection of some of the best resources to help you find yours.
Clifton Strengths Assessment
The Clifton Strengths Assessment is a web-based tool designed to help identify an individual’s unique talents. The company say that nearly 30 million people have used the assessment worldwide. It consists of 177 questions that measure 34 talent themes across 4 domains – Strategic Thinking, Relationship Building, Influencing and Executing. It takes approximately 30 minutes to complete, and the results report provides insight into an individual’s strengths and, importantly, how they can be used to reach their full potential. It is a paid-for assessment (around £60 in April 2023), but there are several free alternatives available online, such as High5Test.com, which offer similar insights into an individual’s strengths.
VIA Survey of Character Strengths
This test by the Psychology Department of the University of Pennsylvania ranks your aptitude in 24 possible strengths such as ‘love of learning,’ ‘emotional intelligence,’ ‘leadership,’ ‘humility’ and ‘fairness.’ The test is based on psychological research and great for getting a deeper understanding of what makes you tick. It’s free to take the test but you’ll need to register. The VIA Institute also provides a guide on using your results to inform decisions in your career here.
Wingfinder Personality Assessment
Red Bull Wingfinder is “designed to help individuals identify their unique strengths and how they can be applied to their personal and professional lives”. Created with the help of organisational psychologist Dr. Martin Robert, the assessment was developed to identify ten key strengths, or ‘wings’, which include areas like creativity, empathy, competitiveness, and confidence. The Wingfinder results include detailed feedback on strengths and leadership styles relating to both work and life situations, together with personalised guidance on how to leverage these strengths.
This test has a scarily accurate section on strengths and weaknesses and some great advice on utilising this knowledge. 16 Personalities works by placing you into one of 16 different personality types, then predicts how you are likely to behave. The aim is to give you insights to help you with personal growth and relationships and the results include things like how me make decisions and cope with emotions, our approach to work, planning and decision-making, how we see the world and how we process information.
Other ways to discover your strengths:
- Observe yourself at work for a day. What tasks excite you the most? When are you most animated and engaged? This could give you a clue as to where your strengths lie.
- Ask a close friend, colleague, or mentor what they think your strengths are. Often, it’s hard to recognise our own strengths, so this is a great way to get an objective point of view.
- Try a bit of everything and explore lots of different roles. You could enroll on an internship, graduate scheme or work placement where you get to work in several different departments to see what suits you.
- Focus on your transferable skills. Transferable skills are abilities, knowledge and training that can be applied to many different aspects of your life and career. It might surprise you to discover the transferable skills you already have that you can build upon with supplementary learning, for example:
People skills – such as communication and teamwork.
Management skills – the ability to manage or train others or manage projects.
Technical skills – IT knowledge, mechanical skills, construction.
Data skills – such as record keeping, maths, analysis or research skills.
Professor and Author, Adam Grant, argues: “If you want to excel at anything, it’s not enough to fix your weaknesses. You also need to leverage your strengths.” He gives the example of two successful people who focused on what they were good at rather than their failures. Albert Einstein failed a French exam and chose instead to focus on Physics. J.K. Rowling realised she was very disorganised but chose to hone her storytelling skills instead of trying to be orderly.
What are your strengths?