When building your resume, you need to project your work strengths: what you do well on the job. The reason to do this is to help managers focus on the business results of your work and to differentiate yourself from others. Candidates with a particular point of view can cut through the maze of corporate speak found on most resumes.
Fair enough. So, what are your work strengths? Truth is, it’s hard to know. In Now, Discover Your Strengths, authors Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton note that understanding them is difficult. Basically, our strengths are what is easy for us to do.
And what’s easy doesn’t seem like a strength. It seems like a given. Instead, a strength is something difficult that you have to overcome. Programming in sequel? Falling off a log. Understanding the billing process and how it relates to IT? That’s hard. The strength? Programming in sequel.
Problem is the person in the next cube could just as easily find programming in sequel hard, while how the billing process relates to IT as easy. His strength? Understanding the billing process.
When we try to figure out our strengths, most of us get it wrong. It’s because we’re too close to ourselves to see what we bring to the table. When we can’t articulate our strengths, we miss great opportunities that cater to them. In turn, that causes frustration. After all, we should work on areas where we’re the strongest.
Ask Others on Your Team
The first way to find your real strengths is to ask others on your team. Not, “What are my strengths, Mr. Coworker?” but “What areas bring out the best of my abilities to help the team?” Or, “When we’re working on a project, how do you think I bring out my best work?” Other people see us differently from how we see ourselves – there’s a lot of “what’s in it for me?” stuff going on – and that helps you find out what makes your work stronger for other people.
Ask Your Manager or Former Manager
If you have a good relationship with your manager or former manager (former managers will likely be more open with you on this subject), ask them what strengths you bring to the job. They’re more likely to frame their answers in terms of job skills or job performance – the exact kind of stuff you need for a resume.
Managers are also more likely to give you the Corporate Speak version (“You have outstanding process management and improvement skills.”) where your teammates are more likely to give you great examples from your work (“You saved us by explaining how billing issues could be helped on our UI screens and workflow.”)
Is It Easy?
The key is to then take these answers and check how easy they are for you. If you never gave a second thought about translating billing terminology and work flow to a programmer because that’s “just natural,” you’ve found a true strength.
Find a group of those talents that help others, and you have a package of strengths you can sell to any employer – and differentiate yourself from others competing for the job.
Discover your strengths by asking your team, asking your former manager, and then hitting the Easy Button. It’s a winning combination.