Research Paper By Alyson Garrido
(Career Coach, UNITED STATES)
According to Gallup, those who have the opportunity to focus on their strengths are six times as likely to be engaged at work and three times as likely to say that they have an excellent quality of life. These statistics, and many more like them, show that focusing on strengths can positively impact our lives. Knowing this information, however, is not enough. We are programmed from an early age to solve our problems. We are taught to find what is wrong and fix it. Problem-solving skills are highly valued in our society, but we lack education around identifying and using our strengths. This paper will discuss ways to identify strengths and help our clients in a job search.
As coaches, we oftentimes use Appreciative Inquiry to help our clients focus on positive aspects of their lives and grow what is going well. There are a multitude of assessments and tests to discover one’s strengths and tendencies, but a great deal can also be discovered through a combination of tools and self-reflection.
The following tools and reflection questions can be used to help our clients identify their strengths in the workplace to discover jobs that will best suit their strengths and increase their engagement.
Examine job descriptions
A job description is rarely viewed after an initial introduction. Encourage clients to review the tasks on a job description and discussing tasks that are particularly enjoyable, have been redesigned, or goals that have been surpassed. Strengths will quickly emerge.
If a job description is unavailable, or out of date, a job journal can be a helpful substitute. Suggest that a client keeps a list of tasks for one week. A journal will work like a job description and a thorough review of the week will elicit additional responsibilities that were particularly gratifying.
Revisit performance reviews
Performance reviews are often focused on problems or ‘areas of improvement.’ We can use performance reviews to gather information about our clients’ strengths from an outside perspective. This could also elicit information ideas for potential references.
Survey friends and family
Colleagues, friends or family members can identify where your client shines. Their praise and evaluation can also provide a boost in self-esteem during a time of transition and uncertainty.
Build a skill-based resume
A good resume is a log of one’s biggest career accomplishments. Creating a skill-based resume involves re-arranging tasks from chronological order to order of strengths. In other words, the proudest accomplishments and biggest strengths should be at the top to highlight what to look for in a future job description.
What comes naturally or is easy to learn?
Challenge your client to think back to the beginning of a job or project. Ask what your client picked up right away? Were there things he or she couldn’t wait to teach others? Strengths come naturally.
What do you contribute to your team or organization?
On your client’s team, are there things that are always his or her responsibility? No one could imagine another person writing the company newsletter or arranging the holiday party. For one of my clients, it was responding to the most difficult customers. He relished this task that most people shunned. Clearly this was a great strength of his. In other words, if your client left a team, what would be missing?
What would you do for someone else?
Ask: When you have plenty to do, or are on your way out the door, what are you still willing to take on? What would you stay late to do? It could be anything from making someone feel supported to creating a marketing presentation. Reflect on the tasks that are important enough to rearrange evening plans.
What activities make you lose track of time?
Prompt your client to think back to the last time they were in flow and lost track of time doing something enjoyable. How can that be replicated?
What makes you feel energized?
It may not seem like it now, but your client liked something about his or her job at some point. Ask your client to think back to a day when he or she was traveling to work and excited about a certain project, meeting or challenge. Reflect on that time and the components involved.
During a difficult transition, like a job search, it is helpful to reframe perspectives to leverage positivity and grow what is going well. With so many messages around using one’s strengths, it can be overwhelming to determine how to proceed without knowing what those strengths are. As coaches, we are able to help our clients reflect on their strengths to flow through the four D’s of Appreciative Inquiry. For a job search, they might look like this:
Discover – What do you like about your job now?
Dream – What is your perfect job?
Design – What do I do to get the job I want?
Deliver – How do I continue to grow in the new job?
These tools and reflection questions will allow our clients to reframe their perspective from a deficit mindset to one of growing strengths to achieve career goals.
Strengths Finder 2.0, Tom Rath, Gallup Press 2007