In a recent conversation with a mentor, I received a mild scolding for not giving myself credit for one of my strengths. I was praised for my ability to take a project from the strategic phase to the execution phase. This is a core strength of mine, and had been crucial to our team. To me, this is just what needed to get done. In my mind, everyone has the ability to do this, because it seems natural to me. Apparently it isn’t.
I think this is very common. We often think that what is familiar to us is familiar to everyone. This is obviously not the case, and I’m glad it was pointed out to me. I think this is especially true with “softer” skills. We either don’t recognize these as skills that make us valuable, or we downplay them because they don’t come with a degree or certification. It is important that we understand that your soft skills – the ability to deal with ambiguity, persevere in a stressful environment, presentation skills – those are all important.
Since these aren’t easily marketed on our resume or LinkedIn page, it is very important to become good at articulating these. While it is worth pointing out that companies and hiring managers could focus more attention to softer skills, job applicants can’t control that. What they can control is how well they articulate their soft skills. They can organize their thoughts around examples of how this has helped them and their teams succeed.
This requires that we spend time to think about strengths, speaking with friends and colleagues that know us best. Then, sitting down and writing out why this benefits your current or future employer. It is exactly the kind of thing that I hate doing (we can talk about weaknesses later), but it is absolutely imperative.