By Crystal Cory, CPDC Undergraduate Career Coach
I recently read the book, “The Leader’s Guide to Turbulent Times” by Kris Taylor, which lists two main reasons that we can’t easily identify our strengths:
“The first is that our strengths come so easily and naturally to us, we can’t imagine that the same thing does not happen with others. As such, we tend to underestimate our natural gifts. Secondly, many of us may lack the ability to accurately assess how others see and experience us – and as such, are blind to our strengths.”
When I read this quote, it definitely hit home for me. As I’ve moved through my life, most of the time I think I’m just doing my job or what is asked of me. I’ve struggled to identify what makes me stand out compared to others.
I recently completed a simple activity that helped me understand myself in a whole new way. It can help you explore your personal image. Everyone around you, from your family to friends to neighbors, has an idea of who you are and what you represent. Your professional image, which is what people at work/school think of you, is within that overall personal image. This activity measures either or both, depending on who you ask to complete the activity.
Here are the activity’s steps:
- Identify people that you trust.
- The ideal person for this activity is someone who knows you well, is honest with you, and cares about your development as a person. Ideas for these people are those listed above: friends, family, coworkers and supervisors (both past and present), etc.
- Ask 3-5 of those people if they’re willing to answer three questions for you.
- Feel free to go into as much detail as you feel necessary when explaining why you’re doing this. Are you measuring your personal image? Are you trying to better understand your strengths? Are you interested in learning how others perceive you? Whatever your motivations are, make them clear to those you’re asking for help.
- Send them these three questions:
- What are four words that describe me?
- What is one positive word that does NOT describe me?
- What problems am I good at solving?
- Sending via email is best so they have time to reflect.
- Compile results and reflect on what you’ve learned.
- Because I’m that type of person, I put all of the responses in a chart so that I could see all of them easily. Feel free to use whatever method works best for you!
Knowing your strengths and how others perceive you is beneficial for many reasons. You can use this information to boost your self-awareness, identify how you come across to others in positive ways, describe yourself in job interviews, and even think of and share new ideas with your boss.
This activity takes very little effort, and produces some very rich results. Go forth and learn more about yourself and your image! It’ll only benefit your life and career.