Our Moving Ahead Program has over 1,500 alumni, all who are welcome to visit St. Francis House at any time and seek us for support and resource advice in perpetuity.
The Alumni Resource Center bulletin board on the 4th floor hosts a new topic each month. This month, we’re talking about Strengths.
If I gave you one minute to list your greatest strengths, would you be able to do it?
For many people, talking about ourselves is one of the hardest things to do- but employers love to ask these questions. It helps them to decide who is a good fit for the company based on current or past experience, if you understand what is needed in this role and can communicate them adequately, and a little insight into your personality. That’s a lot of pressure for what seems to be a simple question!
With some leg work on the fore front to develop good answers to these, however, you can show case your personality, highlight your previous work, and ensure that you are a match for the role and company you are applying to- we like to think of these as the Gifts that you bring to the workplace table!
Determine your Strengths
Before you can start to think about how you’d talk about your strengths, you need to figure out what they are! Skills are typically placed into two categories: Hard Skills, and Soft Skills.
Hard Skills are the things you have learned, whether through training or on the job. They include things like languages you can speak, computer programs and software you know, writing etc. and are usually highlighted in your resume or cover letter.
Soft Skills are the things you can’t quite quantify- they’re the skills that relate to how you work and interact with others. Things like communication, patience, problem solving, time management and more.
Depending on the type of job you are applying for, discussing your hard skills as your strengths might work better, but what we usually see is that employers are looking for you to showcase more of your soft skills, the things that they can’t figure out by looking at your resume!
To get started, think about some of these questions:
- Is there a particular part of your job you enjoy the most?
- What accomplishments are you most proud of?
- Of your daily tasks, what gives you the most energy?
- What role do you tend to play on a team?
Another great way to get this question answered is to ask your co-workers or anyone you have worked with before in a professional setting. We prefer co-workers instead of friends, because they tend to be more relevant to your workplace strengths rather than personal strengths, but in a pinch anyone can work! Gather a list of 5-10 strengths you bring to any workplace to get you started on the next piece.
Demonstrate your Strengths
Review the job description, as well as the company website and create a list of words that seem to stand out or appear often. Those words could be an indication into what type of employee they are looking for, and you can try to narrow down your list of strengths to 1-3 that match their needs.
Now that you’ve decided what your strengths are (your gifts!) and have a decent list to focus on, you’ll need to make them relevant for the job you’ve applied to.
Craft a story to tell in the interview. Just listing your strengths isn’t enough- you need to show an example of a time you really put your strengths to the test! This isn’t a time to be generic or overly humble though. If the majority of people coming in would tell a similar story, or if all of your friends could claim the same strength, think of something else that makes you unique.
When all is said and done, you want to ensure that there is a clear relationship between the work you have done and want to do. Don’t leave the employer to guess whether or not you meet their most basic requirements for the position- lay it out clearly. You’ll be thankful you prepared!