Whether during your job search or in the performance management process at work it is likely that you will be asked about your strengths and weaknesses.Over the past 10 years in coaching sessions with clients during their career transition or trying to find their first jobs I know it is much easier for people to talk about the latter.
But in a competitive job market where vacancies are limited if the idea of emphasising your strengths and playing down your weaknesses doesn’t feel right it is important to recognise that those who you are up against might have no such concerns.I understand that it can be difficult to stay focused on the good stuff and I think that those who find it hard to get past the negativity fall into 3 main groups
- Those who say – “I am not really good at anything”
When we explore what this means it is usually around not recognising a skill that seems like second nature as being valuable or worth talking about. For example
- those who can start a conversation with a stranger do not realise that some people would avoid the conversation all together
- someone who uses their listening skills to get to the heart of what is needed does not see the value
- the person who takes responsibility for organising social events for friends can’t see how they could apply those skills at work
- Those who say ” other people are much better than me”
There are two sides to this one. Firstly how do you know that? And secondly even if that is true to what level is an employer looking for that skill. This is often offered up along with something like ” I only got a 2:2 in my degree” or I was never very good at school.
- Those who say “but I can’t do that thing…”
.. without really knowing if it would matter to a potential employer. As an extreme example I can’t ride a horse. I can’t imagine a situation or job where I would need to be able to though.
Of course much of this is linked to levels of confidence. Talking positively and persuasively about skills and talents will come far more easily to someone who truly believes it but in an interview you need to be able to persuade a potential employer that you are the “one”. So here are some of suggestions about how to get to that stage
- Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses – call them positives and negatives if that helps
- Spend some time expanding on the elements of those positives eg if you work well in a team what is it that you bring? What kind of feedback have you had to confirm that? What stories could you tell about a successful team you have worked in? Make sure you add any newly uncovered positives to your list. When you have exhausted that –
- – take a look at your weaknesses. Firstly check that you have not contradicted yourself in your “strengths” list? Then rank them in order of what you think you will really need to work on to be able to do the types of jobs you are looking at and work out how you will do that.
- What you have now is a good starting point for your development plan. Take a bit of time to think about your priorities for what to do first. How successful that will be will depend somewhat on your motivation though so the key to that success will lie in how honest you are with yourself about how committed you are to an outcome.
This exercise should help you see what you have to offer and decide what you are doing about filling the gaps. Now you need to practice talking about it – to friends, family members, trusted colleagues, a mentor – so that when you do get the chance to tell a potential employer you sound confident and clear.
If that all sounds too difficult why not book a coaching session with me to help get you started. A 2 hour phone/skype/facetime session costs only £180. Simply email me on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more .