Knowing our strengths is key to navigating our careers or finding a new direction in life. When we do not know our strengths, we spend years slogging at the wrong role. We can feel demotivated and question our competence.
Here are 7 ways to find out our strengths:
1. Ask those you trust.
Riya was a homemaker. She asked a few people “What have you seen me do well? What do you think my strengths are? What have you noticed are my innate talents?” The majority of the people who gave her feedback told her she had a special gift for cooking. The pandemic came along and she found it a great opportunity to start her home catering business.
2. Join the dots
The patterns in life are many, provided we look for them.
Dilip started his career in pharma sales and went on to do customer management in the hotel industry. Towards the middle of his career, he moved to a client engagement and management role. At the core of all these roles is what we call ‘people skills’ and ‘communication skills’. Understanding the pattern allows us to see our strengths.
I was always great at listening to my friends’ troubles. People often told me I was a ‘wise soul’ even when I was in my teens. I enjoyed the basic psychology subjects in college and did well. I was great at my HR role and enjoyed the ‘developing people’ piece. Joining these dots was important as I shifted to a career in training, psychotherapy and coaching.
3. Doing assessments and tests
Personality tests and other assessments support you in knowing more about your personality. The findings confirm what you may have already been thinking about yourself.
Free tests give you broad stroke indicators. Once you do these, you may also choose some of their paid tools that give you more pointed direction.
https://www.thepersonalitylab.org/ or https://kevan.org/johari are ones my clients have used recently. This blog post by Caroline Forsey has some great ideas https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/personality-tests.
Vinay was in his 40s and found a tool like the Strengths Finder powerful. He was a person of varied interests and good at many things. He had been feeling the need to pivot into a new direction. The results helped him validate and decide between a few attractive options in front of him. This is especially valuable when one may be changing their career focus.
4. The 4-question inventory
A few years ago, a friend introduced me to these 4 questions that he asked me. He was doing it as part of a leadership course he was attending.
What do you think are my strengths?
What do you like about me?
What can you trust in me?
What is it that you cannot trust in me?
It was a delicate but revealing conversation. It provides us with pointers to our strengths and personal qualities that others value. Such feedback can help us feel validated about our identity and who we are. Knowing who we are enhances our confidence. This is invaluable if we are moving in a new direction of work-life.
5. Go over prior feedback:
There is plenty of feedback we do not use at all.
Meena realized that she did not pay attention to all the times she had received feedback at work. It can be during performance meetings or casual feedback from peers in team meetings. Even in her student life, there were many rewards, awards, and other recognition. On doing a review, she found that her strengths were often behind such recognition. Making such a list can be affirming and motivating for anyone.
6. Make your list.
Sit down in a happy space of yours. Get comfortable with a cup of coffee if you like. Allow yourself to keep some color pens, pencils, and a notepad. Now begin making your list of whatever comes to your mind as your strengths. Do not censor yourself. You will be surprised at what can come up. Keep yourself open.
If images and art are what you like then draw out what emerges. Be joyful, use colors you feel drawn to. This helps to tap into your inner world which can reveal some important things to you!
7. Do a life-mapping exercise:
Your varied life experiences hold some truths. Examining them can reveal your strengths.
I asked a coachee to map her experiences of :
- being good at some tasks
- being great at grasping new tasks
- being praised by the family for something
- being asked for favors by friends because she was being good at something
- feeling happy doing something even if it was the 100th time she was doing it
This kind of mapping revealed a lot about who she is, what she was good at, and what others see her as.
A mapping conversation with a coach can reveal a lot to you. A coach mirroring what you say and supporting you in exploring your life experiences can show you a picture of yourself you did not see before.
Do you feel drawn to any of these methods?
Where do you think you would like to start?