Career tip: Play to your strengths

One thing that stuck with me from my  recent training session on mentoring high school students was the strengths based approach.

It seems so logical. Focus on your strengths, rather than solely on tackling your weaknesses. Yet I realised I have not been doing this at all.

For example, an ongoing goal of mine for, oh, a couple of years now, has been to brush up on my coding skills. Yet every time I dived in, trying to dig into CSS, or even starting the Javascript module in Codecademy, it was a CHORE. I didn’t enjoy it, and I wasn’t particularly good at it. The other day I managed to break my blog thanks to a stray < in one of the PHP files. I used to think the concept of testing was pretty cool – essentially trying to break things on your site – but actually doing it on my own blog and the site I work on is bloody tedious.

(On that note, there was a great piece on Mother Jones recently about how computational thinking is the new literacy – the ‘learn to code’ movement is great and all, but programmers need to be able to think about WHAT to build, too, in order to meet needs and solve problems. I definitely felt this during my brief brush with Javascript; it was cool to write code that actually DID something active, but realistically when would I use it?)

I don’t have the patience, I don’t have the natural bent, and I don’t have the desire, since there are no obvious benefits. I’m confident in tweaking code – poking around and figuring out what pieces to change in order to get elements doing what I want them to do. Writing code from scratch – not so much. Getting to the stage where I’d be good enough to do it in my professional life is beyond my capability – and it’s probably not going to be hugely helpful to me. Even if I want to go down the full stack marketing route later on, heavier back end coding skills beyond basic HTML/CSS are not going to be as important as commercial nous and/or analytics. If there is talent besides programmers that we are crying out for in today’s work world, it’s digital analysts! (Seriously, we’re hiring right now.)

I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of clarity about my immediate career path lately (this is my third job, and I finally feel like I’ve found my ‘story’ – a cue for me to tweak my LinkedIn profile soon, actually) and the way forward is not to try be something I’m not. My strengths are in content, not design or development. Focusing on that – particularly content strategy, building on my production and management base – is the obvious move.

In the next few weeks I’m going to have to create a development plan as part of annual reviews at work (a totally new process to me), so now I’ve really got to think about what kinds of specific goals to commit to and how I can get there.

Any tips?

5 thoughts on “Career tip: Play to your strengths

  • Reply Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way July 9, 2014 at 14:22

    My husband just got his interview last week and got hired immediately! He told me that during a job interview, he focused on his strength and not on his weakness, it really plays a big part during the job hiring process.

  • Reply Kate @ Money Propeller July 9, 2014 at 23:28

    One thing that I had read also in one article is that you can turn your weakness to become a positive one. It just depends on how you will deliver it right and I agree with you that we should focus to our strength.

  • Reply Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter July 16, 2014 at 01:26

    I’m in HR, and I wouldn’t agree with Kate in that turning a weakness into what is perceived as a positive one (ie “I take on too much!” , “I work too hard”) is a great idea (we generally see through that), telling the recruiter/hiring manager what you are doing to overcome your weakness is the best bet. If you are interviewing.

    IF you aren’t interviewing, then focusing on strengths is definitely something we should all be doing!

  • Reply SP July 17, 2014 at 02:30

    This is awesome advice. I recently read “First, Break All of The Rules”, which essentially says this (in lots of words & tries to sell you on assessments!).

    It’s so smart though, and contrary to normal advice.

    I mitigate some of my weaknesses (I mean, you have to), but I spend a lot of time thinking about how I could best use my strengths. My current job isn’ it, by the way.

    I do sometimes imagine my ideal situation working side by side with someone who can balance them out. For example, a very bubbly, talkative person who was obsessed with proofreading. 🙂

    • Reply eemusings July 18, 2014 at 08:46

      A very bubbly, talkative person who was obsessed with proofreading. — Haha I don’t think these two often go together, but my desk buddy at new job is one of these! We get along well – both publishing refugees who break out in sweats at spelling/grammar/layout crimes.

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