Increasingly, employers are using strengths-based interviews to recruit new staff. But recognising your strengths can do more than help you to succeed in a job interview. By knowing what your strengths are, you can look for ways and opportunities, to use those abilities and qualities in your job search. You will also be in a better position to look for roles and sectors that complement your strengths. You can represent yourself more authentically in the applications process.
The theory behind strengths is based on positive psychology; everyone has strengths, but many people are not sure what these are. It is a concept popularised by the American psychologist Martin Seligman.
What do we mean by strengths?
- Activities that come naturally and are energising.
- Used frequently and performed well. A mixture of your talents, knowledge and skills.
- Not just what you are good at
Strengths differ from skills – which are acquired or learnt through your experiences and activities. You have practised or trained and have become good at these. Strengths involve doing something you are good at, feeling energised when doing it and participating in it frequently.
So, a key component of a strength is that when you are doing this activity it makes you feel energised, you feel good, fulfilled and look forward to carrying out this task. Have you been told in the past that you are good at a subject for an example and have felt obliged to pursue it? Perhaps your teachers at school told you were naturally good at their subject, so you choose it as an option to study if further. If you don’t feel energised whilst you do the activity, then it is not a true strength.
How to identify your strengths
To get to know your strengths you need to pay attention to how you feel when you participate in activities such as your studies, societies, voluntary and paid work. They are all giving you clues.
You are also receiving feedback all the time from your peers, your tutors, employers, friends and family. Now is the time to start paying attention to it!
To help you further, think about how you would answer these questions:
- What does a good day look like for you?
Is it that you completed all the tasks you had set for yourself (persistence/ drive/ time management)? Did you earn the highest commission for your role that month (competitive/ driven/ persuasive?)
- What do people know you for?
Are you happy they always come to you for tech support or is this something you are good at but do not love doing? What strengths does that demonstrate? Are you a planner that organises celebrations and trips? Do your friends discuss their problems with you because you are empathetic and a good listener?
- What achievements are you most proud of?
This reveals what you value and therefore are willing to put your time and energy into. It demonstrates what you are good at; be it individual success, teamwork or customer service, for example
Strengths and Your Career
By knowing what your strengths are, you can look for ways and opportunities to use them in the workplace. You can begin to seek out roles that complement your strengths. Align your values and strengths with organisations that will give you job satisfaction and quality of life. Equally, make sure you reflect on what you DON’T want from a future career and don’t waste time “trying out” jobs to find a good fit.
In their book “The Strengths Profile” by Alex Linley and Trudy Bateman, readers are reminded that there’s no need to be a good ‘all-rounder’ or develop a “full set” of strengths. Consider what you really want to be known for in your career and pursue that goal. Linley and Bateman advise that as you make decisions daily, consider the impact you want to have, and which strengths you want your peers and others to come to you for. They recommend that you should keep ‘strength-spotting’ in yourself and recognise when you learn new skills quickly. This could be a sign of a strength in action.