Friday, October 29, 2010

Identifying and Selling Strengths Part 1

The following is one of my favourite quotes from the TV series Blackadder, where Blackadder is trying to get out of the trenches by trying to win an art competition.

[George is asked why he didn't reveal his ability at painting before]
Lieutenant George: I don't like blowing my own trumpet.
Captain Blackadder: You might at least told us you had a trumpet
"Blackadder Goes Forth"

Today, Job Search is all about competition, competing to get an employer’s attention, competing to get an interview, competing to get the job. The problem is, if the employer has no idea that you can paint, or ‘do the job’, why they should hire you?

When it comes to competing for jobs, you need to let the employer know just what it is you can do, the excuse of not wanting to blow your own trumpet, just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Unfortunately a lot of people either they don’t know how to sell themselves successfully or only do half the job and then stop for fear of appearing overqualified for a position. So how do we go about effectively selling our strengths to an employer or the world at large?

Well the first thing we need to do is to get to know ourselves. Start by determining what strengths and experiences you have that would be of benefit to a company. Here are a few pointers to get you started.

-          Carry out a skills inventory – make use of online assessments such as or to name but a couple to get a picture of where your skills, interests and strengths lie. (These sites are also great for pointing those that have no clue what they want to do when they grow up in the right direction).  

-          Create a list of accomplishments - Include everything you can think of, from the things you did to increase revenue to helping to organize the company's Christmas party

-          Examine your attitude – Write, in some detail, a personal profile. Note personal preferences i.e. working independently; also list your strengths and weaknesses. Prepare to discuss both, and in terms of your weaknesses, how you have overcome them and don’t forget to let your character shine through

-          Volunteer Work: Volunteering shows to employers and recruiters that you’ve got character, initiative and in looking for a job, it can give you an edge. It also has the benefit of raising your visibility and expanding your networking contacts.

-          Ask your network: I know how hard it is to try and think of good things to say about yourself, so instead turn to your network which is made up of friends, family, colleagues and ex-employers or coworkers. Ask those that know you at work or at play what they think your strengths are, you might be surprised by their answers.

-         Ignore dates: Sometimes people will ignore the contributions they made to previous employers or even communities, they either forget or believe them to be irrelevant because they happened a long time ago. That's not true any accomplishment is important.  

Once you have developed this list of strengths and skills, allow me to ask what can be a hard question for some people. Do you believe in the product that you’re selling? If you go into your job search, not believing in what it is you have to offer to an employer, than they won’t believe it either and your job search will quickly falter.

One of the best ways to build a sense of your own value is to look at your own accomplishments. Start your own personal accomplishment file, include special events, projects or moments that gave you a sense of achievement and then remind yourself of them. The more comfortable we are with talking about what we have done and accomplished the more self-confidence we display to employers.

In part 2, which I will post on Monday, I'll discuss just how and where we need to sell our strengths to get the most impact.

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