How do I start to discover – and write – my strengths?

Q: Everything I read and watch about career progression tells me I need to know my strengths. I understand that this is true – but I’ve no idea how to go about it. Where does one start when it comes to articulating your own strengths. I started and ran a business for over 15 years. The sector changed in the last year and now I’ve got to close it down – it’s almost gone already – and start afresh in a job. Ergo, I need to write a CV and I probably need a new career direction. Any pointers you can give me would be appreciated. (IH, email ).

A: This is a more common problem than you may realise, IH. When it comes to ourselves, we are often the most unreliable judges. Others may see your strengths quicker than you – and perhaps you should involve family, friends, workmates, a career counsellor in the process of establishing your strengths.

You can start by going through the list below – do any of the statements ring a bell for you? Surely some do. And if they do, that’s you started. Once you start to agree on language about yourself, you are halfway towards writing a good CV and you also give yourself a better chance of identifying roles that suit your orientation

I communicate well verbally.

I communicate well in written format.

I interact well with people.

I enjoy managing people.

I love solving problems with clever ideas.

I love numbers.

I make decisions quickly and effectively.

I am able to digest large chunks of information.

I have good IT skills.

I can persuade people.

I like learning new things.

I love a fresh idea.

When it comes to quality, I never cut corners.

I can manage multiple tasks or projects at the same time.

I like selling.

I’m a good time manager.

I’m a good information manager.

I like organising other people.

I like speaking in public.

I am confident in a group.

I think about how things can be improved.

I’m good under pressure.

As you’ll see, we’re not talking here about your core skills – e.g., you’re a teacher, or you’re a nurse or you’re a solicitor – but rather on the strengths that underpin you. When you get to writing your CV, augment your claims with evidence – e.g., when you say, ‘confident public speaker’, elaborate by relaying how you acted as MC at events in your local community or at product launches in your business.

If you are saying you are a good time manager, illustrate the point with evidence that you completed a college course while working full-time and managing your local soccer team.

The trick in a CV – and interview – is to let the employer or recruiter see the strengths you have that match their needs. You diminish your chances of this happening if you don’t actually know your strengths. Hopefully this will push you down the road towards developing the kind of self-awareness and self-confidence that will stand to you.

Slí Nua Careers ( ) offer full online services, including CV preparation, LinkedIn profile optimisation, interview training and mock interviews. Email your questions to [email protected].


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