The following is a guest post from Allison Cheston, a New York City-based career advisor who works with young adults, recent graduates and professionals to help them identify their unique value in the marketplace and explore alternative careers. She is also the author of an upcoming book.
Allison spent over 15 years in the design industry, is currently a Chief Marketing Officer and holds the following degrees: a BA from the University of Michigan in International Relations & Romance Languages, an MA in International Education and a Certificate in Adult Career Planning from New York University. You can stay connected through her blog In the Driver’s Seat, as well as at Forbes and The Examiner.
Strengths and Weaknesses
I’ll bet you can name your weaknesses with alacrity and do so regularly. And I’ll also bet that when you’re in a situation—a job interview, a cocktail party, a meeting with people you’d like to impress—you come up short when trying to enumerate your strengths. Well the good news is you’re not alone. The bad news is that if you don’t understand your strengths, both character strengths and work-related ones, it’s tough to make your own case.
I’m a big fan of Marcus Buckingham, the author of Now, Discover Your Strengths, who also helped develop the StrengthsFinder assessment with the Gallup Organization. In examining one’s talents, his thesis is that you are unlikely to make a weakness into a big strength; your chance for greatness resides in making your strengths stronger.
You can always hire or team up with others who can compensate for your weaknesses, but you should always focus on what you do better than most others.
In a different look at strengths, the New York Times examined the work of a NYC private school president and the co-founder of the KIPP Network of Charter Schools to identify and instill character traits in their students that would help predict future success. According to research done by Martin Seligman and his Positive Psychology team at the University of Pennsylvania and cited in the article, there are specific character characteristics that come into play.
Traits most likely to predict life satisfaction and high achievement
- Zest: approaching life with excitement and energy; feeling alive and activated
- Grit: finishing what one starts; completing something despite obstacles; a combination of persistence and resilience.
- Self-control: regulating what one feels and does; being self-disciplined
- Social intelligence: being aware of motives and feelings of other people and oneself
- Gratitude: being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen
- Optimism: being hopeful about the future
- Curiosity: taking an interest in experience for its own sake; finding things fascinating
The research showed that “cultivating these strengths represented a reliable path to “the good life,” —a life that was not just happy but also meaningful and fulfilling.”
So in the language of strengths there are both talents which manifest themselves in the physical world (which Marcus Buckingham and the StrengthsFinder team measure), and which are utilized both at work and in one’s avocations, and character strengths which are equally important and may be a predictor of long-term happiness. If you understand your particular combination it can be a great window into what you do best and what kinds of career paths would bring out the best in you. There are some excellent guides on how to put your character strengths to use.
If you concentrate on your strengths, you will gain confidence quickly as you realize how good you can be. You will stop apologizing for what you don’t do well, which diminishes you and prevents people from seeing your greatness.
So here’s how to get started understanding your top strengths. Take the StrengthsFinder test on the site listed above to find your work-related strengths. And then take this assessment to discover your character strengths:
Unlock your potential
Knowing your strengths (and weaknesses) will make you better able to craft a compelling unique selling proposition for why someone should hire you, have dinner with you—even marry you.
How will you use your strengths to Make Serious Plans for 2012?