Know Thyself: Building a Strengths-Based Career

By Kristen Harris

You have a career, so of course you know what you’re good at, right? Not necessarily. Does your career feed your passions? Are you able to use your strengths on a daily basis? Are you headed down a path you want to be on long-term? Self-assessment can help answer these questions, and many more. Even if you love your job and career, self-assessment provides guidance for what’s next or how you can be even better at what you do. Clearly understanding yourself will help you develop a career you love.

While you may feel like you “know yourself” pretty well, or could just ask your friends, it’s much more effective to take advantage of the many self-assessment tools available. They often ask questions you would have never considered, and shed light on areas you weren’t even aware of. There are many books and online assessments you can explore. What’s most interesting is when you start to see overlap in the results. Those repeated patterns are very revealing.

Here are a few of my favorite tools and techniques:

StrengthsFinder 2.0. Put together by the folks at Gallup, the concept of this book is fantastic and extremely positive. You’ll take an assessment that helps identify your top strengths, and then learn how to utilize them to be more successful in everything you do. Applying your strengths to do what you’re best at every day (instead of fighting your weaknesses) will change your perspective of teamwork, individual contribution, and how you see yourself. The concept is that your strengths are what is unique about you and the best that you have to offer; take advantage of them to benefit yourself, your team, your employer, your family.

What Color is Your Parachute? It’s a classic, and still one of the best. Not just a job seeking guide, this book really helps identify your passions and strengths. Through the exercises, you’ll create a “flower” made up of your ideal Geography, Values, Special Knowledges, People Environments, Working Conditions, Responsibility and Salary, all connected by your Favorite Skills. I did mine almost ten years ago and it’s still spot-on.

DISC Profile. Perhaps the most well known of personality assessments, the DISC profile helps identify your natural personality and working style. Everyone falls into one of four categories: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. A DISC profile helps you understand both yourself and others, and can be a powerful tool in building stronger teams.

Make Lists. Let your brain run wild, and make lists of everything. Things people kid you about, and what they criticize you for. What you love to do, what you hate. What you choose to read in your free time, or how you spend your free time in general. What you would do if you won the lottery, or only had a year to live. Things you will do before you die. Some of these might seem silly or trite, but brainstorming and writing with no judgment will reveal truths. When you start to see patterns or items being repeated, explore what they might be telling you.

Understanding what’s really important to you and where your strengths lie can be extremely powerful and revealing. You’ll spend a tremendous portion of your life working, shouldn’t you do something you enjoy and are good at? Spend a little time with yourself; I think you’ll like what you find.