Before I talk about the ‘how’ of figuring out your strengths, I want to talk about the ‘why’. You’ve probably heard the term ‘Imposter Syndrome’ before, particularly if you’ve read our ‘Is it just luck?‘ post. Imposter Syndrome is something that can more commonly affect women, wherein you feel that you are a fraud and you doubt your abilities. This can hurt in the workplace by affecting your confidence and self belief, in any area from requesting pay rises through to actual performance.
The reason I think it’s important to figure out your strengths is to help combat this feeling. Consider writing down what you think you’re good at, and if you can’t think of anything, check out these tips below as a starting point. If all else fails, don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it, whether from friends or a mental health professional.
Check in with people around you
An easy way to objectively figure out what you are good at is by asking people! Check in with colleagues and ask them what they think your biggest strengths are. They work with you everyday and see things in you that you may not see in yourself.
Another person to check in with is obviously your manager. This is not a conversation that has to wait for your performance review or some other formal occasion. If you have regular 1:1s you can discuss areas of strength and areas of improvement so you can work on both year round. If not, ask your manager to catch up on a regular cadence. Then by the time your annual review comes along and you’re ready to ask for that promotion or pay rise, you can talk about things you’ve achieved and things you’ve worked on to improve your performance.
Ask for feedback – and don’t be afraid of the answer
If you’re like me in a role that is customer or third party facing, you can also lean on the compliments that you get given for insights to your strengths. I’m lucky enough that at every engagement with a customer at work, they receive a satisfaction survey to provide feedback. If there’s no formalised process to get feedback, consider seeking it out by sending an email or having a phone conversation with the people you engage with.
When you get that feedback, reflect on the themes that normally come up in the conversation. Do you always get feedback about your work ethic, or perhaps technical aptitude? The feedback you get can help with identifying your strengths and also enhancing your self belief in your abilities.
What else am I good at?
I always try and relate career questions back to life in general, so try to think about your strengths in life. Are you a people person or very athletic? Sometimes it’s easier to identify strengths about yourself that don’t go hand in hand with your career, because these qualities don’t hang in the balance of receiving a paycheck.
Something I like to keep in mind is that a lot of my strengths in life are things that I enjoy doing! What in your day to day at work is keeping you happy and engaged? It’s likely that anything that brings you joy is linked to one of your strengths.
Lean in to your strengths
Once you figure out what your strengths are, show up with them every day. This can also link in to developing your personal brand in the workplace. For example if one of your strengths is training people, keep offering to train and mentor people, then before you know it you have the reputation of being the helpful coach at work.
Also think about how you can leverage your strengths to improve your performance at work in your day to day. Are there ways of making the things you do better or more efficient? Consider getting some professional development in an area that you are already passionate about to take that aptitude to the next level.
And once you’ve done all that, don’t forget to up-skill the people around you in the things that you’re good at. You’ll need someone to replace you when you get that well-earned promotion.