While career seekers routinely struggle with creating a powerful resume, a LinkedIn profile, and responding effectively to questions during interview, they often approach the process with a fundamental mental error. They seek a job when they should be seeking an opportunity to use their strengths. There are some key differences worth of discussion – and more important deserving of thoughtful consideration on the part of career seekers.
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First of all, there are certainly situations where it’s perfectly OK to be “just looking for a job.” If you’re a 16 year old, your job experiences offer opportunities to discover your strengths and can influence your educational pursuits. In college, your full time career activity is your studies, but you may require a “job” to provide funds. Still at this point, you should have some sense of your strengths and make that at least a partial factor in the jobs you consider.
Whose Responsibility Is Engagement?
Second, career seekers need to abandon – at least partially – the idea that it is the employer’s exclusive responsibility to provide engagement. It’s more your responsibility in making decisions about positions to apply for and, even more important, positions to accept. A real basic example: I had an earlier career in retail sales. It extended into a brief tenure in sales support for a manufacturer and still today occasional dabbling in product sales at concerts. I love it and have some evidence I’m pretty good at it. During the same time periods, I had some opportunities, better labeled challenges, to pursue direct sales including both door-to-door and phone sales. I didn’t like it to the point of not being able to do it – and felt incredibly weak when making the attempts. It is not a company’s responsibility to “engage” me in direct sales – it would be a foolish decision on my part to pursue something that makes me feel weak.
Skills Are Not Always Strengths
Third, your strengths are not necessarily your skills. You may be very good at something but find little or no pleasure from doing it. I tried not offending one of my sophomore year professors who insisted I’d be great at a particular profession. To which I could only respond by citing how boring I found the subject. A real strength is doing something well that makes you feel strong – that puts you “in the zone.”
Which brings us to the most important point. You should be pursuing career opportunities that are based on your strengths. You will, in fact, be a better candidate for a position if your accomplishments – which should represent your strengths, connect directly to the demands of the position. If you present your strengths in your responses to interview questions, it’s much more likely you’re meeting the demands of the potential employer. “Your strengths offered = employer’s strengths needed” is the logical connection for success and satisfaction.
Your strengths are not “I’m a people person” or “I work really hard.” Your strengths are things you do that make you feel strong. Think about how you felt in a position that really motivated you or when you accomplished something that made you feel strong. Complete the following: “I feel strong when…” For example: “I feel strong when I present an experiential workshop to an audience of 15-25 professionals.”
It is also possible to determine strengths through assessments like the Gallup StrengthsFinder, the VIA Survey, or the Careerealism Career Decoder. Many organizations use strengths as part of their recruiting or employee training programs. One fast food organization that focuses extensively on strengths tells the story of a manager wisely using the information. An employee did not like the “front-of-the-house” job because she felt the constant pressure to respond to customer demands made her uncomfortable (not “strong”). She did not like the food-prep area because it was too structured and had no customer interaction. A typical response on the part of the manager: this employee won’t last long. A typical response on the part of the employee: I’m looking for a new job. But awareness of her strengths led to a different solution: the employee was given responsibilities for upfront refills of supplies, e.g. napkins, straws, soda vending. Not only is it a very important position that needs regular attention, it played to both her strengths and a key need for the organization. She “felt strong” with the detail and organization of the supplies with the regular but not constant interaction with customers.
Listing skills, like “problem-solving” or “innovative thinker” on your resume does not indicate them as strengths. If they are strengths, they should be clearly represented in your accomplishments. LinkedIn allows “endorsements” for skills but it is dramatically different from your self-listing of skills on your resume. For LinkedIn, your skills are “endorsed” by people who know you. At the same time LinkedIn allows you numerous opportunities to indicate your strengths in your profile. These points increase the likelihood that you’ll secure an opportunity – not just a job.
This post was originally published at an earlier date.
About the author
Jim Schreier is a management consultant with a focus on management, leadership, including performance-based hiring, interviewing skills, and retention strategies. Visit his website at www.farcliffs.com.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.
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