Knowing your strengths and weaknesses not only helps you answer one of the most popular interview questions, but helps you understand yourself, build confidence, and recognize the skills you excel in and areas that offer an opportunity for growth. Even if you are not preparing for an interview you can benefit from recognizing your strengths and weaknesses.
Strengths are not only traits you feel you are good at…you have to feel comfortable and confident doing them. Just as weaknesses are not faults! Defining a weakness is not a bad thing, it’s not negative, and it certainly does not define you. Being aware of a weakness, or two or five, is opportunity for growth or help realizing what field or hobby you don’t want to explore. A weakness is simply a skill you lack experience or knowledge in or can be something you do not feel comfortable doing. You can strengthen a weakness if you choose to; practice, research, read about it, explore projects at work or through volunteering that allow you to gain experience or knowledge. You can also become more comfortable by practicing or reaching out to a mentor and learning more about that particular weakness.
Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses and knowing yourself is a must for interviewing as well as building self-confidence. Of course you know you better than anyone. Right? Actually, it’s not always that easy…is it? I recall during some of my first interviews being asked to describe my strengths and weaknesses and saying ‘ummm and well….’ a lot. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves we have talents, skills, experience and a lot to offer, whether to an employer or just as a reminder to one’s self.
So, how does one recognize these important traits? Ask yourself questions, use keywords to describe each trait/skill/experience, and write out your pitch.
What is a pitch? It is also called the ‘elevator pitch’ – typically a two to three minute explanation of why you are the right person for the position, project, or describing yourself, etc. I have used a pitch for book ideas and article submissions as well as interviews.
Your pitch is a collection of information in a ‘short version’ quick response. When asked to describe your strengths and weaknesses your pitch is a perfect response. To create your pitch consider the following questions. I’ve focused on interviewing, but this can easily be used for personal growth (recognizing a goal to focus on).
- Summarize your work history, volunteer efforts, or other experiences that have helped you gain skills along with an achievement. What have you been accomplishing the past year, five years, ten years? Have you stayed in the same field; sales, nonprofit, education, retail, construction, etc.? Have you had your own business? For example you may say something like, “For the past five years I have worked in the non-profit field and coordinated several fund raising events including the largest event of an organization.” You can sum up your work field, history and an accomplishment quickly.
- Recognize your strengths. What are you good at and what do you enjoy? Maybe you have a knack for researching and solving problems or being a team leader or support within a team, you can sell anything, you can organize files, plan an event without breaking a sweat, bake a cake using unique ingredients, speak to a group, teach others, etc. For a simple example you can add a sentence to your pitch that goes something like this, “As a team leader I developed a solution to lower costs on shipping while training the shipping department how to use this new system.” Again, use examples to show your strengths (show don’t tell), backed by actions and facts.
- Recognize your weaknesses. What would you like to strengthen? What else would you like to learn? You may be the number one sales person or the assistant everyone else comes to with certain questions, but is there a skill you admire in others that you feel you aren’t quite as strong in? Could you learn more about a particular computer program, work ahead of deadlines, do you need to know when to delegate or how to set realistic deadlines and prioritize projects, do you want to dive deeper into a presentation program, or stop using post it notes for all your important reminders? For example you could add this to your pitch, “I can take on too many projects since I enjoy multitasking, but I have to set limits on myself to ensure each project is completed before the deadline.”
- Where are you going? End your pitch with your expectations, future goals, or five year plan (or year or ten year plan). For example, “I plan to gain knowledge by completing an Adobe InDesign certification program while providing my skills in an education based environment.”
Practice saying your pitch out loud until you can repeat it confidently and without it sounding rehearsed. Accept your strengths and be proud of them. Recognize your weaknesses and find an excitement inside you that wants to strengthen them!
When you leave a position ask your supervisor and coworkers to describe your strengths and weaknesses. This will help with your future interviews and boost self-confidence. Update your pitch as often as needed!
Tips to share? Contact me or comment here. Questions? Please ask!