Three Ways to Discover Your Professional Strengths and Put Them to Work for You

One of the key pieces of career-building advice career you’re likely to hear is to focus on your strengths. Good idea, but “focusing on your strengths” is only part of the equation – first you have to figure out what your strengths are.

Ways to discover your strengths

There are three easy ways to start identifying your individual strengths.

Check out the book. One way to figure out what your strengths are is to read Tom Rath’s StrengthsFinder 2.0 (Gallup Press, 2007), which basically pulls together all the research that’s been done on strengths and helps you identify which ones might apply to you. Examples of strengths include Activator, Communication, Deliberative, Focus, Ideation, Learner, Maximizer, Positivity, and Significance – as you can see from this small sample, we all make up a very broad and diverse spectrum of strengths. While you explore, keep in mind that one strength isn’t necessarily better than another. Instead, every organization needs people who can combine their multiple strengths to achieve the best results (and the best workplace).

To identify your particular strengths, you take an assessment that then identifies which of the 34 “talent themes” define your personal strengths profile. (You can take the assessment for free if you purchase Strengthsfinder 2.0 and use the code at the back of the book, or go here for an inexpensive basic test.)

Ask those who know you. Another way to figure out your strengths is to simply ask those who know you best – friends, family, coworkers – what they would say you’re better at than most other people. Although no doubt they’ve seen you at your worst (we all have those days), they’ve probably also seen you at your best, for example a time when you were successfully managing people or a situation, accomplishing something difficult for others to do, or being amazingly creative or innovative.

You probably didn’t realize that what you were doing was noteworthy, a unique strength, but others did and will point that out to you if asked.

Remember these conversations. Which leads to the third way to identify your strengths, which is to think back over the past years when people have said to you something along the lines of “wow, I don’t know how on earth you can do that, I’d never be able to…” do whatever it is you just did.

When most people hear a statement like that, they brush it off with a comment like “oh, it’s easy, anybody could do it,” because to them it was easy. And that’s the point. If you can do something easily that’s difficult for most other people, that’s most likely a key strength for you. So see if you can think back to when people have made an admiring statement about something you’ve done, and give it a bit more attention.

What cool abilities have friends, family, and coworkers noticed about you that you’ve never really taken seriously? And if you can’t remember any conversations like this, start paying attention now to any similar comments that come your way – they’re important indicators of your unique strengths.

Put those strengths to work for you and your career

How can your individual strengths improve your nursing/healthcare management career? First, you tend to perform at your highest level when you’re doing work that allows you to use your strongest gifts. If you know what those gifts or professional strengths are, you can shape your nursing or healthcare management career in a direction that creates those types of opportunities. If you’re just starting out in your career and aren’t yet in a position to land those best-fit jobs, see if you can find ways to shape the job you’re in to let you use more of your strengths.

Second, having a solid understanding of your strengths lets you describe them clearly and effectively in various situations where you need to market yourself professionally – for example,

  • in your LinkedIn profile summary,
  • in a “Summary of Strengths” statement leading off your resume,
  • in a cover letter describing how your strengths have enabled you to be highly successful doing work similar to that described in a job posting, or
  • when asked in an interview to “tell us about your strengths,” and you want to reply in a way that not only describes your strengths but also ties them back to the job requirements.

Third, if you make career choices based on building your career around your professional strengths, you’re much likelier to enjoy and find meaning in your nursing/healthcare management career. Not only will you be performing at your highest level, as noted above, but that “highest level” is likely to lead to excellence in your work and tremendous personal reward. Not a bad way to contribute to a profession you love and patients you care for deeply, don’t you agree?

This article was brought to you by American Sentinel’s career coach, Kim Dority – be sure to check out her other articles for more tips.