This is a guest post from Jennifer Seaver Stokes, Career Transition Coach and Strengths Specialist at RiseSmart.
As important as your résumé and LinkedIn profiles are for your job search, you are much more than they will ever convey.
You are a unique combination of natural talents that you have been consciously and unconsciously investing in your entire life. Every time you invest in a natural talent, it is closer to becoming a lifelong internal strength—something you do better and with greater ease and impact than anyone else.
Your résumé and online profiles contain information about your expertise, professional experience, skills and education, but your combination of strengths is as unique to you as your DNA. I like to call your particular brand of strengths the “tools of your personality,” connected to and separate from your skills, knowledge, and experience.
Job seekers who focus on their strengths, not their weaknesses, are more likely to remain engaged and experience success throughout the job-search process.
Some strengths are about the ability to think strategically—to create a vision of the future, analyze, intellectualize or connect with the context of the past. Other strengths are in the area of influence, storytelling and persuasion, actively supporting a cause or taking on a leadership role. Those who are especially talented in execution and achievement find it easy to work hard and feel driven to focus and complete tasks and projects. Relationship builders are great connectors who are empathetic, stay positive and strive to create harmony and consensus. Each one of us wants the opportunity to deliver on our brand of strengths and do what we do best every day!
One of my clients told me a story about how, when he noticed errors in his high school textbooks, he would document them and contact the publishing company to have them corrected. This led him to realize that his attention to detail was extraordinary, a natural talent he did not even consider unique. Once we reframed his perspective and identified it as a strength, he was able to interview with a level of confidence beyond what was on his résumé.
Here are some tips for building your unique brand of career transition through your natural strengths:
Take time to engage in self-assessment and discover your natural strengths. The Gallup StrengthsFinder, PSI and other assessments will help you get started. Remember, this is not about your knowledge, skills or experience; it is about the core of who you are and how you operate.
Choose job-search activities that align with your strengths. For example, someone who loves to tell stories may choose to write an article for LinkedIn that leverages natural storytelling strengths with his role as a subject matter expert. Another individual who has always provided exceptional customer service will reach out to build a strong network by continuing to help others as a volunteer. Someone very strong in analytical, data-gathering skills will excel in company research.
Be aware of aspects of the job search that trigger the dark side of your strengths.
Many of my clients have a strong desire to influence and drive the interviewing and hiring process. However, today’s job-search process is not based on candidates’ responsiveness to answering questions, setting up interviews and making decisions. It is understandable that individuals with these strengths become very frustrated, discouraged and judgmental! Learn to drive your strengths with the flow of traffic under these circumstances. Know when and how to push and how to let opportunities to come to you. Road rage has no place on the job search!
If you are a strategic thinker with great ideas and solutions for the future, deliver one idea if asked and be ready with specific stories to meet the needs of an interviewer who is more focused on past performance success.
Acknowledge the unknown in the career transition process. You may be doing everything right, but nothing is happening. Access your internal strengths to help you go outside your comfort zone—check in with your gut on whom to call, where to go and for what to look. There is mystery in this process, which is much like finding a long-term relationship. You never know whom you will meet at a coffee shop or when you might have the opportunity to network!
Finally, take a look back at the stories you remember about your life before adulthood—all the events that will never show up on a résumé. What is the thread of talent that runs through each of those stories? Use these insights to define your unique contributions and to understand what you need to fully contribute and perform with excellence.