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Career Ideas: Understand your strengths to unlock success!

March 13, 2014

Sawa_B_100pxToday’s post is courtesy of Benjamin Sawa, Corporate Development Manager at GEI Consultants and Vice President of SMPS Boston. He can be reached at

Buddha (yeah, that Buddha) said that “We are what we think.” That quote is especially true in the context of being successful in work and in life. Self-awareness of your strengths, how you work, and what you value is the basis of building a set of skills, attributes, and experiences necessary for achievement.

Legendary management consultant Peter Drucker wrote an influential paper in the late 90s titled “Managing Oneself.” In it, he argues that the greatest achievers are often ones that learn how to best develop themselves:

“Successful careers are not planned. They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their method of work, and their values. Knowing where one belongs can transform an ordinary person…into an outstanding performer.”

What are your strengths?

Drucker explains that most people think they know what they are good at, but these assumptions are often wrong. And yet, people can only perform at a high level when they work from their true areas of personal strength. Therefore, it’s important to truly understand your own strengths by a rigorous process of self-assessment.

One way to understand your strengths is through constant feedback analysis. Drucker suggests creating a decision journal, wherein you record every decision you make, or key action that you take. He advises that you continually look back six months in your journal and reflect upon how past decisions turned out. Knowing with hindsight what you might have or should have done differently, you can effectively fine-tune your decision-making skills while gaining a better understanding of where your strengths truly lie.

While I think creating a decision journal would certainly be enlightening, the popularity of Drucker’s argument has led others to create tools that can help you understand your true strengths much easier and much faster. One that I especially like is Strengths Finder 2.0, a bestselling book that was created by researchers at Gallup. The authors assessed millions of people and identified 34 common strength themes based on their research. After completing a rather exhaustive online assessment tool, Strengths Finder tells you which of these themes you have a stronger tendency towards. It’s great way to learn more about yourself, and applying your newfound knowledge of your own strengths can help you become more successful in your career.

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