What Are Your Strengths?

From the cradle to the cubicle, we devote more time to our shortcomings than to our strengths.” ~ Tom Rath

“What are your strengths?” 

This is a question we’re often asked in a job interview. How do you respond? Can you speak to your strengths in ways that convey your value? Or are your responses along the lines of…

  • Engineer with a strong specialty in lean manufacturing;
  • Software developer specializing in C++ unity integration;
  • Attorney advising technology startups;
  • Agile project manager;
  • Forensic accountant;
  • HR generalist;
  • Marketing director.

These are job titles and they describe commodified roles. That is, anyone in that field can do the work. They don’t really speak to the value you bring to an organization, and organizations hire (and compensate) based on value.

Whether you’re seeking a role in a new organization or want to move up in your current organization, you need to be able to articulate your value — what you do really well; probably better than anyone else. Otherwise, why would a person that matters (your boss or future boss) want to hire you?

The challenge, especially with mid-to-late career folks is that what we do well, we do intuitively. We don’t think about our strengths. When confronted with a problem, we rely on our experience and expertise, and jump in and solve it. We rely on the same skills we’ve always used and that served us well.

Until now.

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

That’s the title of a book (Amazon link) by Marshall Goldsmith, the renowned executive coach. Goldsmith writes that as we rise in our careers, everyone is smart, capable, and accomplished. As we advance, it’s critical to distinguish ourselves from those with commoditized strengths, and focus on what makes us a higher valued strategic asset to people who matter.

I often use the CliftonStrengths assessment to help folks understand what it is they do well. It’s a 30-minute online assessment that reveals your top five strengths. We use the findings to frame crisp, concise stories that convey your value as a strategic asset. These stories are integrated into marketing documents: resumes, LinkedIn profiles, bios. They’re a more accurate portrayal of strengths and value than job titles and responsibilities. 

So the upshot is that you need to convey your value as a strategic asset when responding to that interview question: “What are your strengths?” 

If you respond with commoditized skills, you’re just like everyone else, and more than likely, there’s someone who can do the same work faster and cheaper.

Framing your strengths as a strategic asset connotes real value. The CliftonStrengths assessment can help with that.

If you haven’t taken the CliftonStrengths assessment, you can access it here. It’s about $20.00, and takes about 30 minutes to complete.

If you’d like some insight on the results, just send me your top five strengths or themes and I’ll share my thoughts. You can email them to me at scott@scottwoodardcoaching.com.

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If you’re struggling with how to achieve your career goals let’s chat about how I can help. You can use this link to my calendar to schedule the best time to talk.

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