Strengths And Weaknesses:
Your Signposts To Success

What Are Your Strengths And Weaknesses?

Growing up, I remember being asked to write out a list of personal strengths and weaknesses. The idea was that by identifying my weaknesses, I should work hard to overcome them so I could become a better person.

The same sort of thinking dominated my school years. It inevitably boiled down to remedial lessons for my weaker subjects, never "Let's talk about what are your strengths and how you can make the most of them". equates strength with "a natural or acquired power" in an area of activity. For instance, you might be proficient in the use of words or savvy at computers or a genius at getting people to do what you want. That is your strength.

The opposite of what you excel at is your weakness. You might be lousy at ball games or struggle to finish reading a book or be a really uninspired cook.

For the purpose of making the best career choices, it is immensely helpful to know what your strengths and weaknesses are. Once you know what they are, you can decide what you want to do about them.

How Do Strengths And Weaknesses Influence Your Career?

There are different ways you can apply your strengths and weaknesses strategically when finding or planning your career.

Here are a few:

  • Find a career that taps on your strengths.
  • Work on overcoming and eliminating your weaknesses.
  • Find a career that minimizes the likelihood of exposing your weaknesses.

There is no good-or-bad, right-or-wrong in choosing how you want to work with your strengths and weaknesses. But it is useful and important to at least acquaint yourself with the arguments used by reputable experts on both sides of the Strengths-and-Weaknesses debate so that you can make up your own mind.

Discover Your Strengths

On one side is the approach that says the best way to finding a career you love is to discover your strengths i.e. your area(s) of giftedness, and play to them.

Why the emphasis on strengths?

Here is how leadership writer John C. Maxwell explains it:

Whenever I mentor people and help them discover their purpose,
I always encourage them to start the process by discovering their strengths, not exploring their shortcomings. Why?
Because people's purpose in life is always connected to their giftedness, it always works that way.
You are not called to do something that you have no talent for.
You will discover your purpose by
finding and remaining in your strength zone.

What Are Your Personal Strengths And Weaknesses?

Your strengths are a clue to your lifework. If you believe that your strengths are gifts given to you for a purpose, you will see that these special and unique abilities are meant to be put to good use.

One could even say you have a duty to your fellow man not to waste your talents.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.
If a man's gift is...serving; let him serve;
if it is teaching, let him teach;
if it is encouraging, let him encourage;
if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously;
if it is leadership, let him govern diligently;
if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Romans 12:6-8 (NIV)

Why do we mention strengths and weaknesses?

Because you need to know what you are not good at, so you can work around these areas.

You may not be able to avoid doing all these activities all the time, especially in the workplace. But you can find creative ways to manage around your weaknesses so that they do not occupy most of your work schedule and drain your energy, leaving you little time or energy to maximize your strengths.

Strength Finder Action Challenge

Based on your personal experience and feedback that others have given, work out a list of your personal strengths and weaknesses: the things you naturally and effortlessly excel at, and the things that make you feel weak and that you prefer to avoid.

One way to know whether an activity qualifies as a strength is the effortlessness and enjoyment with which you do it, and how consistently you do it with near-perfection.

What do you do well?

What activities give you a sense of enjoyment?

What do you do flawlessly or almost flawlessly, every time you do it?

For instance, you may have the gift of effective communication skills. You have a knack of suggesting an idea in a tactful, non-intrusive way so that the other person comes to believe that the idea was really their own. The end result? They're more than happy to go with your (i.e. "their") idea.

Or you paint pictures in your spare time. Friends see your work on your website and email you excitedly. "I'd like to buy that! How much is it?"

You have a chat with someone about their work issues and they say, "I enjoyed talking with you. What you said really made sense. Could you help me with my career?"

Someone else who does not possess the same strength might marvel at how easy you make a task look and ask, "How do you do it?" Or they might tell you afterward, "I could tell from your expression that you really enjoyed doing that."

A musician must make music,
an artist must paint, a poet must write,
if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.
What a man can be, he must be.

Abraham Maslow

More Strength Exercises

Career tests are an excellent way to confirm what you excel at doing.

You can take a career aptitude test or career personality test through a psychometric tests provider, at career websites, as part of the career counseling process, or through your local career education center, such as the careers center of your college or university.

If building awareness about your strengths and talents is an area that interests you, you may find Marcus Buckingham's books on this subject insightful. I found them personally insightful and inspiring.

I recommend these two for starters:

Now, Discover Your Strengths

Go Put Your Strengths to Work:
6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance

Learn From Your Mistakes

A different approach is offered by James Waldroop and Timothy Butler, authors of Maximum Success and directors of MBA career development at the Harvard Business School.

They believe that people learn best from their mistakes and their weaknesses. The book discusses the twelve most common behaviour patterns that can derail a job or career and offers practical advice on how changing a negative behaviour pattern can help save your job.

If a behaviour pattern is hindering you from getting ahead, Maximum Success could help you get back on the career track and begin to love your job again.

Maximum Success: Changing the 12 Behavior Patterns
That Keep You From Getting Ahead

Inspirational Quotes About Strength

Women are like teabags.
We don't know our true strength until we are in hot water!

Eleanor Roosevelt

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face ...
we must do that which we think we cannot.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Life is very interesting... in the end, some of your greatest pains, become your greatest strengths.

Drew Barrymore

It does not take much strength to do things,
but it requires great strength to decide on what to do.

Elbert Hubbard

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13

Return from Strengths and Weaknesses to Career Change Confidence Home