The most common interview question: “Give me an example of your strengths and your weaknesses.”
Identifying Your Strengths and Weaknesses
There are plenty of tests out there that you can use to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Some of them are a bit more revealing than others. The Forbes Coaches Council compiled a list of tests they recommend, and it’s a great place to start.
Maybe you are looking for something a little more basic and immediate – which is where Hyma Pillay’s exercise comes in. It is simple, fast, and free. It won’t give you the thorough, in-depth reports found in many of the tests above, but it will give you a starting point.
The key is to be honest. When you go into job interviews, you likely rattle off some impressive strengths. When asked about weaknesses, most candidates try to couch strengths as weaknesses – “I’m a perfectionist” or “I sometimes am too determined.” Those aren’t true weaknesses. You can’t improve by hiding from your weaknesses. Put them into open light, don’t be embarrassed by them. It’s all part of who you are.
Taking the Next Step
Unfortunately, many leaders often feel that they can let their weaknesses go by the wayside, building their strengths to the point where they are overwhelming. They can disguise their weaknesses, or make them irrelevant. They often feel that correcting their weaknesses just isn’t worth the resources.
A true leader will put the effort forth to do both. They will simultaneously continue to build on their strengths, while making an effort to address their weaknesses at the same time. They will grow as a person, and grow their career opportunities. After all, part of being an excellent leader is managing resources.
Building on Your Strengths
This is the easy part. Career coaches and professional gurus will focus on this time and time again. Take the strengths you have, and continue to build on them. Apply them to your professional area, and make sure that they are being noticed. By focusing on these strengths, you can help define direction and grow into a leader.
Take the strengths that you have, identify and figure out how they can best be applied to your business or company. For instance, maybe you selected the strength of “determined” from Pillay’s exercise. Expand from this strength and see how it can be applied in your job – maybe there is a team that is struggling with a procedure or goal. Approach your manager or leader and ask if you can help them with that project, and apply your determination. Similarly, if you are your own business owner, set goals that may seem slightly out of reach and use your determination to reach those goals.
These strengths can be extremely valuable when you are looking towards your future. Leverage them for different positions in your current company, or when you start looking for your next job. Playing to your strengths, and using them to drive your career, can lead to less frustration and a clearer path.
Working on Your Weaknesses
Maybe you’re not organized. Many of us aren’t. Becoming an organized person can be difficult, or even impossible. The good news is, today’s technology makes it easy to get organized, even if it is a natural weakness. By utilizing smartphone apps, management suites, or even just all the tools Google has to offer like Calendar and Drive.
Pairing up with someone who is complimentary to your strengths and weaknesses can also be helpful. In the case of teamwork, it allows each person to play to their strengths while learning from the other person. Maybe you’re organized but not the best at speaking to a group, and another team leader who is a great orator has the messiest desk in the company. Work together, even out of the same office or as co-leaders on a team, and you both can learn from the other. Call it the A-Team theory – you wouldn’t want Face to try and intimidate someone, or B.A. Baracus to try and charm someone. Over the course of time working together though, you saw B.A. learn some charm and Face learn enough to be a little intimidating if necessary.
The key with weaknesses is that you are not looking to shift them all the way to a strength. Instead, your focus is to reduce them to the point where they do not interfere with your professional life, or hinder your development. Be determined, but don’t over-commit and allow your strengths to wane.
It’s a delicate balance when you are trying to build on your strengths and shore up your weaknesses at the same time, but for the committed professional, it is doable, and will help you to set yourself apart from the crowd.