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Discover your Strengths

Work Service’s career consultants work with over 100 000 job seekers annually to develop their skills to find meaningful employment. These people come from all walks of life, including students, recent graduates, retirees and seasoned professionals seeking new career challenges.

Before you can successfully find a job, you need to know what you are selling! We’ve created this guide to help you discover your real strengths – the one that distinguish you from other job seekers and make you unique in the eyes of the potential employer. Completing these exercises will give you a plan to find your strengths and develop your potential to realize your professional goals. Let’s get started!

What abilities do I have?

Accurate and objective assessment of your strengths is a difficult art. Before you can focus on the area of your job search and prepare an effective cover letter and CV, you need to know what exactly you can offer potential employers and match this with your career goals. Otherwise you may send out dozens of applications that may over or understate your qualifications and competencies. This wastes both yours and the recruiter’s time and can be very demoralizing and frustrating when you do not get the desired results. Therefore, it is essential that you determine what type of skills you have and to what extent they are developed.

Let’s take a look at a very typical example. The theoretical job requires both excellent spoken and written English. Rather than taking advantage of a free on-line test, or the actual grade you earned from any language training, you confidently assert that you meet this requirement. Imagine your surprise when recruiter switches to English during the interview. Will you be able to carry on the conversation on the level of English you claimed to possess on your CV? If not, you instantly lose credibility and most likely the chance for employment. Even if the recruiter does not conduct a language test at the interview and you get the job, your competence will eventually be put to the test. What happens when your supervisor invites you to participate in an important meeting conducted in English with international clients and your language skills are not up to the task? Your employer will now discover that you provided false information and thereby abused his or hers trust. Plus you may be responsible for the company losing a valuable contract! In the cover letter you can be honest about this weakness and how you will address it, for example, “Currently, my ability to converse in English does not reflect my reading and comprehension level. I am confident my demonstrated aptitude for English and the advanced class I am currently attending will enable me to reach the required speaking proficiency level within three months”. You can also underestimate your actual language competence, lowering your chances of getting the interview and eventually the job. Lesson learned, take a test and put the actual results and your plans on improving, on your application documents.

It is important that you base your assessments strictly on facts and not personal intuition. There are many on-line and other tests to objectively measure your competencies in a host of topics. These include languages, technical knowledge and other substantive fields as well as the often hard to measure categories such as creativity, teamwork, independence, interpersonal skills and the like. These psychological tests may reveal that you prefer to work in a team as opposed to independently. You then can target jobs that meet both your skills and personality. Getting to know yourself will help the employer get to know the real you and your abilities.

Equally valuable is the analysis of your own personal experiences and achievements, both in your professional and private life. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends, relatives and coworkers on their opinions regarding your strengths and weaknesses. Their honest advice and constructive criticism are very valuable in the process of determining your possibilities.

Who Am I?

Many of us taking our first tentative steps on our career path do so without mapping our strengths or even having a clear direction to reach our professional destination. Knowing where you want to go and your current strengths will put you on the map of job search success.

Recognizing and maximizing your strengths while working to improve your weaknesses gives you a better product, that being you and your potential, to sell to future employers. If you are unaware of your own abilities, how will you convince an employer to hire you? Let’s start the journey of self-discovery with several exercises, starting with a personal SWOT analysis.

Exercise 1 – SWOT:

 A SWOT matrix is a framework for determining your Strengths and Weaknesses, as well as the Opportunities and Threats you face. This will help you play up to your strengths while addressing your weaknesses to take advantage of all suitable opportunities.

Let’s see what we discover by completing the matrix form below. We’ve provided some sample questions for thought, but your SWOT analysis is unique and you need think of your individual strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. 

List your Strengths

List your Weaknesses

  • What can you actually tell the prospect employer about your, skills, certifications, education, or connections in the industry?
  • What activities do you excel in and conduct better than your peers?
  • Are you good at networking? Any influential people in your immediate network?
  • What personality traits do you possess? Leadership? Ability to work in a group?
  • What do other people see as your strengths?
  • Which of your personal and professional achievements are you most proud of?
  • List the tasks do you like to avoid because you are unsure that you can do them well.
  • What do your peers’ people see as your greatest weaknesses?
  • Do you possess the education and other skills building training to make you confident to perform the job you wish to have? If not, where do you feel that you are the weakest?
  • List your negative habits. Are you punctual? Can you keep your temper even under stress? Does paying too much attention to detail prevents completing tasks in a timely manner? Be brutally honest here!
  • Do others in your field possess better personal attributes to succeed in your chosen profession? For example, project management? Public speaking? What personal weakness do you have that are limiting your success? 

Opportunities

Threats 

  • Are you looking for a job in a growing industry? How can you take advantage of the current boom market?
  • Are you in an active professional network, that gives you information about opportunities before it hits the street?
  • What market trends do you see in your area? New companies moving in or growing their workforce? 
  • Is there a need in your industry that no one is filling? For example, rather than traditional marketing, is there a need for your expertise in social marketing?
  • Could any of your weaknesses lead to threats? For example a lack of confidence in your presentation skills prevents excellence in a sales role?
  • What obstacles do you currently face at work or in your job search?
  • Is your field or the demand for the things you do changing?
  • Does changing technology threaten your position by making your service’s obsolete?

An example of a Personal SWOT analysis

Take a look at this SWOT analysis that Peter made after recently graduating from a Polish university in computer science.

List your Strengths

Weaknesses

  • I graduated with above average grades.
  • I worked at several temporary jobs.
  • I had a successful internship at a small company placing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program at headquarters and their regional sales offices.
  • I am willing to relocate if needed
  • I can finish concrete projects without supervision.
  • I am very flexible about working hours.
  • I am too technical at times, not everyone shares my enthusiasm for technology.
  • I am impatient to those who don’t understand the technology.
  • I dislike fixed work hours.
  • I prefer being 100 percent responsible for a certain task and not be responsible for the outcome of a group project.
  • I do not handle competing demands well, I like to concentrate on one task at a time so I can make sure the job is done right.
  • I am not creative in a marketing sense.

Opportunities

Threats

  • The IT sector is currently booming.
  • There are more affordable IT and software solutions for smaller companies, expanding the market.
  • Many of my peers like the prestige and security of working for large international companies so there is slightly less competition in smaller companies.
  • My skills in using flash applications for mobile devices may be outdated as the platform is no longer supported.
  • Universities are churning out a lot of IT graduates; an economic downturn can cause a rise in unemployment.
  • Technology is always changing and it is difficult to keep up.

Sample Conclusions

After completing the SWOT analysis, Peter learned some hard truths. He realized that there are dozens of large international companies hiring hundreds of IT graduates, but he is uncomfortable in a corporate environment and answering to people who may not be as knowledgeable as he think he is. He also does not like to be responsible for any failures from a group project, especially if he completed his task well. He prefers to work to get a project done on a target date, working nights and weekends if required, and not being at work every day at 9:00 just to attend yet another project meeting.

He decided to concentrate his efforts on developing CRM platforms for small to medium size companies. Rather than managing an entire IT department or being on a team, he can concentrate on a single task. Unlike the more glamorous web design and other marketing services, CRM is more resilient to recession. He asked for and received letters of reference from the temporary work agency and from the company where he conducted his internship. He approached the company selling the CRM program and signed up for an advanced course in platform implementation. Part of the course was in communicating to non-technical staff the various features to get their customer input on customization.. , making him more comfortable in working with non-techies. ThisHe will use his  new communication skills  is a skill he will use on explaining technical issues on all applications and not just on this specific program.

He then researched companies requiring the establishment and constant maintenance of a CRM solution at multiple locations as travel was not a problem. He identified 33 such companies and customized his cover letter and CV for each opportunity. He found the appropriate contact person at the companies and addressed his application documents directly to them. Six companies invited him to an interview with two submitting a job offer. He accepted the position that had slightly less pay, but fitted his personality and overall career goals better. His dream is to be well known for this type of solution, enabling him to work as an independent contractor, traveling internationally to implement CRM programs at large companies but under his terms.

We highly recommend conducting a personal SWOT. Honest reflection on your professional abilities is both an invaluable experience, as well as a source of valuable information, providing the basis for concrete action on your road to self-development. By knowing your strengths and weaknesses, it will be easier to determine in what professions and positions you have the best chances to succeed. The SWOT analysis will also help you realize that the qualities you possess and why they are worth stressing in your CV and cover letter.

 

What do I want to achieve personally, not directly related to employment?

 

What motivates me to work towards achieving my personal and professional goals?

 

What are the personal and professional goals I want to achieve over the next six months, year, five years?

 

How do I intend to achieve them?

 

Have I created a concrete time plan to achieve these goals? 

 

Which of my unique personal traits are beneficial to my career goals and how can I develop them? What are my core strengths? What do I love doing and do well with enthusiasm?

 

I consider this to be my greatest professional accomplishment. I used these skills in realizing this success.

 

 

Exercise 3: 

Create your individual career goal objective statements.

The most successful companies create and closely adhere to a mission statement that clearly states, to customers and employees alike, its values, goals and aspirations. The mission statement guides the company, providing a foundation governing all activities and strategic decisions.

Now that you know yourself a bit better with the exercises above, its time to create a personal career goal statement to achieve your long-term plans. When you are searching for a new challenge, you can quickly ascertain whether you are following your path to your dream job or getting off track. Remember to consider the work-life balance you wish to obtain in exercise two.

Here is what Peter, the aspiring IT consultant we met above, may use as his career goal statement:

5 years career goals statement:

To become an independent consultant in the IT sector, focusing on CRM, database and similar solutions.

Done:

  • University Graduated graduate with above average grades.
  • Worked at a series of temporary jobs as a student to gain work experience and to fund education.
  • Completed internship, gaining practical skills in SQL and packaged CRM program.
  • Secured first job in chosen field.

 During these 5 years I plan on completing the following:

  • Be employed at a growing company or companies where I can develop CRM and similar solutions.
  • Continuous training in SQL and other database programs.
  • Work with people actually using the programs to learn what is important for different departments in a company, including bookkeeping, sales, production and logistics.
  • Volunteer at a computer camp for under privilege children to learn patience and communication skills as well as working with others from different backgrounds.
  • Take advantage of EU sponsored free training opportunities for business startups to learn additional skills, including sales of my services.
  • If the requirements of the current employer does not offer new challenges within 2 years, I will find a suitable position at another company for professional development or take on temporary assignments offered by an outsourcing company. 

After five years:

 Work as an independent consultant in the IT field.

Create you own statement; remember you can sum up this statement to use on your CV for the career objective section. 

5 years career goals statement

 

Done

 

During these 5 years I plan on completing the following:

 

After five years:

 

 

What do I want?

The shortest road to reach the ultimate goal of personal and professional satisfaction is to know the exact destination you want to reach. Without knowing what you are actually looking for, it is impossible to assess whether you can secure a job that matches your current skills, strengths and personal aptitude. It’s a widespread belief that on the current competitive labor market, a job seeker should accept every good offer, even those not helping then achieve their long range career goals or makes use of their real strengths. There is some validity to this strategy as every job provides experience and challenges regardless if it’s a perfect match or not. Nevertheless, it is important to be fully aware of the consequences you create by taking a series of random jobs both for you and your employers. You will likely be frustrated and leave for another job and the employer will once again spend limited resources on recruiting your replacement. Review the material you completed above and find a position that most closely matches the results. Taking any job without a real passion for the position is not fair for you or your employer.

For some people just getting any job is an end to itself and they feel lucky to be employed at all. Yet, you have the choice to work at a company where you feel you can contribute the most, indeed the company will be lucky to hire you! The job search stage gives you freedom of choice, to find the industry, environment, corporate culture where you will like to work.

Now that you now that you know your strengths and career goals, you need to know what is most important for you on a deeper personal level. What other factors, besides salary, come to play? Can you enthusiastically adhere to the company’s mission statement? Is the security at a long established company more important than the feeling of accomplishment in helping a new company succeed? Are you willing to make less money at a company that proves its family centered values by providing daycare and exercise classes? Do you hunger for continuous advancement and new challenges or are you happy to keep getting better in an established position? Does the job help you reach your priorities and goals for the next five or ten years? Will you be using your core strengths and do what you love doing and do well? 

Prioritizing your personal values and comparing them against the job offer is essential in choosing a job that provides satisfaction and helps you meet your goals.

Now that you know your strengths, have concrete goals and know what job you can excel in, let’s learn how to find and qualify potential employers.

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