This is the ninth article in our twenty-part series on how to accelerate your career in your twenties and it's all about analysing your strengths and weaknesses. We all want to perform well in our roles at work. If you’re a twenty-something trying to make your way in a busy working environment, you should absolutely use your initiative and play to your strengths wherever possible. At this stage in your career, it’s okay to make mistakes so long as you can rectify them and learn from them. However, a big part of knowing your own strengths and value lies in understanding your weaknesses.
Weaknesses aren’t necessarily a bad thing
None of us are good at everything. In figuring out what your strengths are, you’ll no doubt uncover a few weaknesses along the way. Identifying these weaknesses is just valuable - if not more so - than identifying strengths. Being comfortable with your weaknesses will earn the respect of your fellow colleagues and cause your less frustration as you attempt to climb the career ladder.
For example, you may be fantastic at writing speeches or presentations, but terrible at public speaking. Now you have choice: you can either do what you’re great at and write lots of excellent ones for the business, or you can spend your time trying to get a little bit better at public speaking. While it’s always good to try and work on your weaknesses and turn them into strengths, sometimes it’s better to make your peace with them and focus on what your good at. The chances are one of your colleagues will shine as a speaker but not be so good on the writing side.
This is just a basic example of course, but it does highlight the importance of knowing your weaknesses as well as your strengths, and not being afraid to accept them as you move forward. Business is a team sport, and everyone should feel free to play to their strengths.
Where to focus your efforts
It’s easy to say play to your strengths, but what does that mean? It’s not always easy, particularly if you feel your strengths might lie in another area of the business or you’re still figuring things out. Take your time. Get involved in a few different projects and work hard, and you’ll soon discover what you’re good at. As a junior employee it can be tempting to push yourself out of your comfort zone to get noticed. This is admirable and actually pretty good advice, but be careful not to over-do it and only stick your neck out for things you feel are worth it. If you’re terrible at programming but throw yourself into a programming task to help someone out, there’s a good chance you may make things worse and it may be hard to bounce back from. It’s good to have that level of commitment and willingness to help, but make sure you’re playing to your strengths and be honest with yourself about where you can help and where you can’t. There’s no shame in recommending the perfect person for the job if you’re not confident you can handle it.
A strength isn’t about being ‘better’ than anyone else or comparing yourself to others. It’s about knowing your inherent value to the business, and being able to identify where you can have the most positive impact. Sometimes that might mean throwing yourself into a problem head first, and other times it may mean asking for help or alerting somebody else to the issue.