How to Get Some Clarity Around Career Direction (Part 2: Strengths)

‘Well, I’m good at erm…. playing football. And erm…maybe listening to others.’

It’s totally natural. Most of us don’t like talking about our strengths. Either because we haven’t really considered what they are. Or we don’t want to brag.

But that has to change when you start applying for placements and internships. Knowing your strengths is important for TWO reasons…

  • doing work that plays to your strengths will mean you enjoy your job so much more.
  • you will need to demonstrate at the application or interview stage what your strengths are. Employers want people who are self-aware and can give specific examples that show they have the necessary skills.

So, what’s the difference between skills and strengths?

SKILLS are something you learn through repetition - for which there is a best practice or a set way of doing something. (E.g. I have learnt how to speak French fluently.)

STRENGTHS, on the other hand, are defined as things we are naturally good at and didn’t really have to learn. Or they are seen as softer, rather more intangible character traits, such as courage, curiosity and empathy.

What are YOUR strengths?

Here are some questions to help you identify your strengths. You can choose answers from any area of your life. Keep drilling down to the detail by asking yourself ‘what’s specific about that?’.

  • What are you doing when you’re feeling really energised?

  e.g. I’m travelling abroad exploring different cultures. 

 What’s specific about this? I’m really curious about new people, new places and new   experiences. It brings out creativity in me. I have to be courageous and get out of my comfort     zone.

  • What comes especially easy to you right now?
  • What relationships bring out the best in you? Why?
  • What are you proud of in your life? What strengths did you use in this area?
  • What do you like about yourself?

   The things we like about ourselves are usually things we’re good at.

  • Think about some of the biggest challenges in your life? How did you overcome them?​

  Sometimes we take our experiences for granted, not realising that we use our strengths to            overcome and deal with difficult times.

  • Think about previous work experience, a job, volunteering activity or being part of a team. What tasks were you doing that you really enjoyed?

If you’re struggling to answer these questions, ask your parents and close friends what they would say your strengths are.

Looking at all the answers above, what are your top three strengths that you would like to use in a job or career?

After a varied career across marketing, recruitment and training Rachel Harrison qualified as a career coach and founded My Professional Hat. Her coaching and training business inspires students and graduates to set out on the right career path for them, by helping them with career direction, mindset, practical skills, and focused action planning. She is co-author of the Lonely Planet Volunteering Book, loves tennis, travel and hanging out with friends.