The Ultimate Guide to Using Your Strengths to Get Hired
Part III: How Do You Use Them in Your Job Search?
Your understanding of your signature strengths can be a huge asset in finding work that fills your soul and makes you feel like you’re living “on purpose.”
You don’t need to have a firm list of never-changing signature strengths — few of us do!
After all, you’re always growing and changing, and that’s a good thing.
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The more you know about what makes you truly happy and satisfied, the more you can bring it into your life.
Once you identify your strengths, you can identify what you want in your life. You can hone in on the types of activities you’re best at and that make you happiest. Then you can work backwards from there to figure out the types of jobs where you can find those activities… and what types of companies hire for those jobs!
This is the opposite approach that 99% of the world takes. Most people look at what they think their options are and try to make the best of those. They make their own barriers and limits by not considering what they really want and instead focus on what they think is probable or possible.
Unintentionally limiting yourself in that way will also unintentionally limit your happiness!
This is going to be a sort of career matching game. We are going to take everything you have learned about yourself, your past, your career, etc. and implement that valuable information in identifying opportunities that suit you.
Focus on what you already know you might be interested in (or “think” you’re interested in — absolute certainty is not required here!) in any of these three areas. Take your best guess as to where your signature strengths align:
Area (e.g., HR, operations, finance, teaching, research)
Industry (e.g., alternative energy, travel and tourism, broadcasting)
Sector (e.g., education, manufacturing, government, non-profit, for cause, etc.)
Figure out what is most important to you in your career environment. Is it essential that you work in a small, start-up tech organization? Would you prefer a more structured environment? Would you be happier at a Google or at an IBM? Do you work around creative-types or lawyers and accountants? Is every day “casual Friday?” Are you willing to sacrifice pay for a flexible work arrangement?
Know what your priorities are.
In our Career Change Bootcamp, we lead students through the creation of an entire “Ideal Career Profile,” a description of your ideal opportunity without worrying about what the job title on your business card is.
"There's this interesting pressure, I think that a lot of people put on themselves in terms of their career and having to make the right moves and do everything right."
— Lisa Lewis
If it seems like it “might” fit, write it down!
Based on your answers in Steps One and Two above, make a list of companies and organizations that might fit the profile and priorities you’ve determined.
For instance, if you would love to be in a high-tech startup in Austin, Texas, you can easily Google “startups Austin” for a list of possibilities.
If you’re looking for a position in finance in a larger company, you can find a list of the Fortune 500 or 1000 and cross-reference by industry, geographic location, etc.
Don’t be too quick to rule out possibilities at this point.
Take the list you created in Step Three and hit up your network. Who knows someone whose cousin works in tech in Austin? Who in your LinkedIn network is connected to University of Phoenix? Start working it, and reach out.
But you’re not going for the traditional “informational interview” that’s really “hire me” in disguise. You really are just trying to confirm if the work you were born to do (i.e., your signature strengths) exists within these companies.
The conversation might go something like this:
“Hey there. I got your name from my cousin, Sal. He mentioned you’ve been in the startup scene in Austin for a while. I’m in the early stages of investigating a career shift, and I wanted to know if you had 15 minutes sometime so I could learn a little more about what you do and your company.”
Can you see what you’re doing here? You’re stacking the deck in your favor!
You’re interacting with these potential colleagues, managers, co-workers on YOUR terms. Not only are you taking the lead in reaching out, you’re doing so from the foundation of your strengths. In other words, you’re interviewing them (but don’t let them know that!).
This approach, of course, makes the traditional job search method seem downright ridiculous. If you curtail your job search ONLY to advertised “open positions,” then you’re focusing on a lot of organizations that are unlikely to be a good fit at all
… of course you could shove yourself into them like Cinderella’s stepsisters trying to fit the glass slipper.
This doesn’t even touch the idea that what Company A defines as a “business development agent” could be VASTLY different from Company B’s definition. You’re basically shooting blind!
Instead, if you start with the companies that are most likely to be a fit (or you’re best guess), and are most likely to need your particular strengths — regardless of the job title — you’ve got a leg up. You’re halfway to “Hired!”
We want you to take charge of the process. Think of it as a reverse recruiting process… you’re doing to them what they do to their applicants. If they have a bunch of possible employees, they’re going to search through that stack of resumes pretty fast, looking only for the ones that have a hope of fitting. You’re doing the same thing!
Then, by the time you get to the interview stage, you already know your strengths are a great fit for their organization. And it’s much easier to position yourself well in the interview, as you’ll see in the next section.
While I REALLY want you to go through the four steps outlined above, I’ll start you out slow.
Write down three jobs or opportunities that fit your criteria and DON’T QUALIFY YOUR ANSWERS!!!
What I mean is, don’t start automatically filtering out possibilities before you even really consider them. Your brain says to you, “That’s not realistic so don’t consider it!” or “That seems unreasonable, don’t put that down.”
As a result, you are capable of so much more than you let yourself believe, because the really great ideas, the really great careers and the really great life is filtered out as “unrealistic” or “unachievable” almost as quickly as they come in!