Each one of us has a unique combination of strengths, skills, and talents. But because it’s hard to view ourselves objectively, we often have many more marketable qualities than we give ourselves credit for. Studies show that we most enjoy doing things we’re good at, so when we take the time to figure out our skill set, we’re well on our way to finding a job that excites and stimulates us.
Here are five steps to uncover your hidden strengths:
Step 1: Review Your Education and Experience
Your resume will give you an excellent snapshot of your education and previous experience. Since it probably doesn’t include every job you’ve ever had — for the purposes of this exercise only — add them. Under each position, write down what you did each day, even if they were simple duties. Do the same for any volunteer work and/or hobbies. You can often find transferable skills in the most menial of tasks.
Step 2: Note the Skills Required for Each
Skills typically fall into four categories:
1. Communication and people skills – expressing yourself well, teaching others, relaying ideas, actively listening, and persuading.
2. Research & planning skills – identifying issues, brainstorming potential solutions, and setting goals.
3. Leadership & management skills – delegating and supervising others, motivating people, making decisions under pressure.
4. Knowledge-based skills – speaking another language or having substantial technical knowledge.
Write down the top three skills you needed for each job, hobby, and volunteer activity. Did your previous work as an office manager require strong organizational and planning skills? When you worked in sales, did your powers of persuasion help you rise to the top? Did your time volunteering at a pet adoption center demand a lot of energy and compassion? Don’t worry if you find yourself writing down the same skills for different roles — you’ll most likely see some overlap.
Step 3: Add Things You’re Good At
Think about the activities you show a natural aptitude for. Are you the person everyone just assumes will plan the next get-together? Do other people complain about balancing their checkbooks, while you handle yours with ease? Really think about what comes easily and naturally to you. People often take their innate gifts and talents for granted and assume everyone else possesses them too, when in reality that’s not always the case.
Do certain people compliment you over and over? Do they admire your hard-working attitude, your dependability or punctuality, or even how well you dress? Did past managers consistently praise you for having innovative ideas or achieving goals?
Remind yourself about any major difficulties or hardships you’ve overcome in the past. Potential employers love to see transferable strengths, such as determination and perseverance, in candidates.
Step 4: Ask Other People
Your coworkers, friends, and family, and even your boss can recognize strengths and capabilities you don’t see on your own. Ask them for the first three qualities that come to mind when they think of you.
Step 5: Look for Similarities
Now that you have a full list of strengths to work from, group your skills together under common headings. For example, coordinating meetings at work, putting together your family reunion, and planning a neighborhood party all fall under the umbrella of strong event-planning and organizational skills.
After you complete these steps, you’ll have a much better sense of your skill set, which you can then use to effectively market yourself to potential employers. A great way to showcase your talents is to highlight an issue or problem you faced in the past, show how you used your skills and strengths to solve it, and then explain the end result (i.e. an increase in numbers or any quantifiable, successful outcome).
Once you understand the full scope of your knowledge, talents, and expertise, finding a job that meshes your skill set with your interests becomes much easier. You’ll not only be more fulfilled, you’ll also be more productive and command a higher salary. So, take time to figure out all you have to offer.