Understanding your strengths in 9 simple steps

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You’ve probably heard the often-cited statistic that men are comfortable applying for a job if they have 60% of the requisite skills, while women pass up the opportunity unless they feel they have everything the recruiter is looking for. We’re often so caught up in our weaknesses and what we can’t do, that we forget to acknowledge and nurture those natural talents that make us shine. Our nine-step guide to uncovering your worth shows you how can do just that.  

1. Discover your natural talents

Business author Tom Rath writes in Strengthsfinder 2.0 that our greatest strengths come from developing our natural talents, and not necessarily our learned skills. Work on our skills, he says, and we grow our skillset; but work on our talents, and we build strength. To distinguish your talents from your skills, take a moment to reflect on which elements of your job come very easily to you. They’re likely to be the tasks which give you the most energy and elicit the best feedback from others.

Self-awareness is probably the most important thing for becoming a champion.

Billie Jean King, tennis player

2. Go detective!

Once you’ve spent time compiling your talent list, gather evidence to support them. Against each item, document examples of how you’ve demonstrated this talent. Include evidence put forward by managers and colleagues past and present too, to get a rounded picture of your talent pool.

The only people who don’t need elevator pitches are elevator salesmen.

Jarod Kintz, author

3. Remember the 30-second rule

You should by now have an impressive set of evidence to support each of your strengths. In an interview or situation where you’re relying on your strengths to win you a promotion or other opportunity, you’ll need to be succinct. Imagine you’re in a lift with the most senior person you interact with at work. Which five strengths are the most valuable to convey? Sift through your evidence file and work our how to succinctly convey your strengths in an authentic way. Have a prepared elevator pitch for each of your strengths – you never know when you might need it.

Talent is what comes easy to you, but you still deserve the recognition.

Steve Supple, author

4. Take a moment to honour your talents

We often assume that work should be taxing and tiring. Talents, by their nature, come easily to us, and so it’s easy to dismiss as insignificant a talent for meticulous research, writing, arbitration or numbers because it requires no or little effort. Give your talents the recognition they deserve by listing all the many benefits they bring to you and others. Has your talent resulted in organisational growth, elicited better customer feedback, or achieved a business goal ahead of time? Has using it made you enjoy your job all the more? Has it eased a colleague’s workload?

Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.

Marilyn vos Savant, US journalist

5. Own your weaknesses

All too often we overcompensate and tie ourselves up in knots trying to excel at the things we dread, stress over, and which deplete our energy. But our weaknesses, by their very nature, cannot be turned into strengths. The best we can do is improve on them just enough to neutralise their negative effects. Once you have a list of the tasks that drain and discombobulate, eliciting poorer feedback, come up with a strategy for each, which will make each one less troublesome for you. Can the requirement for the task be reduced without sacrificing success? Can you share its burden with a colleague? Are there training, coaching or mentoring schemes available that will help?

Hide not your talents; they for use were made.

What’s a sundial in the shade?

Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father of US

6. Get emotional

We’ve all had those awkward moments of listening to someone brag about their strengths. Perhaps our reluctance to talk up our talents lies in a fear of coming across as arrogant or overly ambitious. But there are ways to convey what we do well at work without appearing egotistical. One is to use emotional language, framing our talents with what we most love about our jobs, what excites and drives us, and where our passions lie. Telling someone that you really look forward to a particular activity that makes best use of your natural talents is a sure-fire way to communicate your strengths without seeming self-serving.  

7. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes

There are times – in interview situations or when our superiors are considering us for projects and opportunities – that we need to re-frame our strengths to highlight its benefit. You already have your elevator pitch nailed, now it’s time to expand on each statement, focusing on the specific advantages your talent affords a person or business. If you’re in the running to create an event because of your recognised organisational skills, what tangible benefits does your talent deliver? Are you likely to come in under budget? Are you going to inspire and energise your project team so that the event is a brilliant success all round? Do you have a contact or insider knowledge that will give you an immediate head start on any other potential candidate?

The person born with a talent they are meant to use, will find their greatest happiness in using it.

Johanna Wolfgang von Goethe, poet & dramatist

8. Use your talents as often as you can

In every job there are targets, goals and objectives that must be met. But rarely is there a job that can’t be tweaked to best suit the style and talents of its owner. Look for ways you can utilise your natural talents as often as possible in your day-to-day activities. Drawing regularly on your strengths will not only benefit your organisation, it will energise you, and make your work life more enjoyable.

The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.

Émile Zola, writer

9. Supercharge your talents

It’s common sense that developing your natural talents even further will have a multiplying effect on your strength. People often forget to do this, thinking instead that they ‘should’ be focusing on areas they’re not as strong in. Look for ways you can develop your natural talents so that they really soar. Could you make more room for them in your day job? Could you coach or mentor others who are struggling with a skill that comes naturally to you? Is there an advanced course that will take your talent to a whole new level? Remember, even our natural talents become rusty through lack of use. As the author Stephen King wrote, ‘Talent is a wonderful thing, but it won’t carry a quitter’. Want more? Find more practical solutions for uncovering your talents in our everywomanNetwork workbook ‘Knowing Your Strengths’.  


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