How to Find Your Strengths & Weaknesses

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Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses is more than just an exercise in preparing for a job interview. Being aware of your strengths can help maximize your potential and get you closer to achieving your lifelong goals. Knowing your weaknesses, which often walk hand-in-hand with your strengths, can be key to avoiding self-sabotage or failure. A clear self-assessment is often the first step toward breaking a logjam in your personal and career development and moving toward being the person you want to be.

Take advantage of self-assessment tools available in books and online. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can help you understand your own personality with a clear vision of both the strengths and weaknesses that go along with your personality type (see Resources). Other tests can give you vital insight into your career preferences, your management styles, your emotional intelligence, your IQ and your skills levels. Ask a bookstore employee to help you find these tests, or scan the self-help section.

Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses. Allow yourself to acknowledge areas where you are not strong and may never be strong. Separate those areas from ones where you might be able to change. Pinpoint weaknesses where you know that, no matter what you try, you will not be able to conquer them, and resolve not to beat yourself up about that. Monitor negative emotions and the reactions they cause you to have, and develop a plan to keep them in check.

Analyze your strengths. Look for areas in which you shine. Focus on the things that make you proud of yourself and the activities that give you energy and power. Think about how to maximize those areas in your life.

Distinguish your strengths and weaknesses from your skills. Just because you can do something doesn't make it a strength. On the other hand, an analysis of your natural strengths may lead you to develop new skills that will go hand-in-hand with your personality and talents.

Find ways to turn your weaknesses into corresponding strengths. For example, if you're not an extrovert and find being around people all the time draining, use your solitude to dive deep into projects where you can shine. If you don't work quickly, develop a depth of focus that will allow you to be more thorough and meticulous than anyone else.

Ally yourself with people whose strengths and weaknesses are different from yours. If you are insecure, surround yourself with encouraging people. If you are not a natural salesperson, find a partner or teammate who can promote you and your work on your behalf. If you find self-discipline difficult, ally yourself with someone who will keep you on track and on schedule.