Discovering Your Unique Professional Strengths

By Reesa Staten, Robert Half

Like fingerprints and snowflakes, no two people are exactly alike. We all have individual strengths that define who we are and distinguish us from every other person on the planet.

Do you know what makes you unique? If you can describe to a potential employer what you bring to the job that no one else will, it may be all you need to convince that person to hire you. Knowing your strengths also will help you choose a career that will give you the greatest job satisfaction.

Whether or not you know it, you are a specialist at something. Maybe you are great at solving problems, or perhaps you’re known for your ability to create order out of chaos. These are life skills, but they also are highly transferrable to the job market. For example, problem-solving abilities are essential in any customer service or technical support role. If you can help someone troubleshoot an issue he or she is having with a product or service, and keep that person happy in the process, this is a highly marketable job skill. Likewise, if organizational skills are your strength, you may excel at leading projects and people. If you have worked in a particular industry for many years, you likely have a level of knowledge that makes you a specialist in that field.

If you’re not sure what your strengths are, ask people you know. You will be surprised at how quickly they can name them. Take this information and build on it. Consider jobs in which you have excelled in the past or courses in school that engaged you the most. These are clues into the type of work that will give you the most enjoyment and be the best match for your personality.

Remember that you are unique, and your dream job may not resemble those of your friends or family. I have a friend who is a top salesperson for a Fortune 100 corporation. She travels constantly, juggles half a dozen major accounts worth millions of dollars to her company, spends a fair amount of her day solving problems for her customers and knows she is only as successful as her last commission. Her job is like climbing Mount Everest every day. Her unique strength? She loves tackling big challenges, which means she loves (and excels at) her job.

You may also love a challenge, or your ideal career could be just the opposite. You may be looking for something more predictable, and you may choose routine over volatility. Jobs that appeal to you probably involve close attention to detail and adherence to specific, repeatable processes. There is an employer out there looking for someone just like you, so don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself about what most makes you happy.

Some professionals have specialized skills but fall short when it comes to marketing themselves.  Robert Half recently released a research paper that describes the importance of specialized job skills in the workforce.

Following are six tips to help you showcase your unique strengths:

1. Create a specialist resume. Your resume should highlight your individual specialty areas and interests. For example, if you’re an accountant who has worked in the healthcare industry, emphasize not only your accounting skills but also your healthcare expertise. Add a “Summary” section that briefly describes your most relevant attributes and experience. Remember to customize your resume for each job opening.

2. Be seen online as a specialist. Add keywords to your profile on sites like LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter that reflect your areas of specialization and participate in online groups in your areas of interest.

3. Know yourself. Remember that you have transferrable skills that will benefit you in almost any field or industry, such as being great with people, highly organized, creative, detail-oriented or something else. If you’re just beginning your career, choose a specialty area that strongly interests you and acquire additional skills and training in that area. A career focus that you are passionate about is more likely to lead to long-term success.

4. Acquire more education. The unemployment rate for professionals 25 years or older with a bachelor’s degree or higher is roughly half that of the general employment rate. Depending on where you are in your career trajectory, consider completing a degree or certification in your field that you never finished — or never pursued.

5. Fish where the fish are. For example, one of the fastest-growing fields right now is healthcare. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that one-third of the projected fastest-growing U.S. occupations are in the field of healthcare. Job demand is expected to remain high across the healthcare spectrum, including for doctors and nurses, pharmacists, physical and occupational therapists, medical lab technicians, and more. Professionals who provide support to healthcare organizations, such as dental hygienists, medical records clerks and medical assistants, are also seeing rising demand for their services. If your strength is helping people, the healthcare field offers tremendous opportunities to do just that.

6. Work with a specialized staffing firm. A staffing company that specializes in your field can help you accurately highlight your strengths and specialty areas in job search materials.

Once you to identify what you like doing and are good at, direct your job search accordingly. You will be much more successful in a career that inspires you, and employers will value your enthusiasm and motivation.

Reesa Staten is senior vice president of Corporate Communications and director of workplace research for Robert Half International, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Staten has been writing job search advice for more than 15 years and oversees Robert Half’s extensive workplace research program. Write to her at reesa@roberthalf.com.

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