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Workplace strengths
and interests

Workplace strengths and interests are the unique abilities, talents, and passions that you bring to your work. These can include both technical and soft skills, as well as personal values and interests.

Understanding your workplace strengths and interests can be a valuable tool in choosing a career that aligns with your unique abilities and passions, and can lead to greater career satisfaction and success over time.

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Questions for strength spotting

  1. What tasks do you like doing? 
  2. What activities make you feel fulfilled? 
  3. What activities make you feel energised? 
  4. When are the times you feel fully engaged as opposed to merely pretending or being partially engaged? 
  5. What skills would you like to challenge yourself by learning more and developing further? 
  6. What are you willing to sustain some discomfort doing for the contribution you want to make? 
  7. When in life do you play? 
  8. When are you self-disciplined? 
  9. When are you creative? 
  10. What activities make you feel completely absorbed? 

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  1. Where do you feel calm and productive? 
  2. When do you feel like you are doing what you are supposed to be doing in life? 
  3. What activities make you feel completely absorbed? 
  4. When do you experience the feeling of being in the ‘zone’? 
  5. What did you do as a child that you still do today, only probably better? 
  6. Where does your attention naturally focus? 
  7. What have you found it easy to learn quickly? 
  8. When do you feel motivated? 
  9. What are you looking forward to in the future? 
  10. What do you choose to do in your leisure time? How does it involve your strengths?

Take a strengths and interests assessment

Free

myIDP/Imagine PhD 
These two tools (one for STEM researchers, one for arts, humanities and social science researchers) were created specifically for PhD students and postdocs. They help you identify your skills, interest and values.  

National Careers Service:
Discover Your Skills and Interests 
This multiple-choice assessment, helps you identify your interests, motivations and preferences, it may help you to identify a career you would enjoy working in. 

VIA Strengths Assessment 
The VIA Survey is a scientific survey of character strengths in the world. Take this simple, 10 minute character test and to discover your character strengths. You need to register with the site in order to use this site. 

Cost associated

Strengths Profile 
This UK-based tool identifies your strengths and indicates areas of potential growth. You get a personalised report upon completion. This has a cost associated. 

SkillScan 

SkillScan is a USA-based tool for a general audience provides a personalised report outlining your skills and interests. This has a cost associated. 

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Ask for feedback from seniors and peers

Questions to ask:

  • What skills or attributes do you think I bring to the team or organisation?
  • What are some examples of when I have excelled in my work or achieved significant results?
  • What feedback have you received from other team members or stakeholders about my performance?
  • Are there any areas of my work that you feel I excel in or have a particular talent for?
  • What types of projects or tasks do you think I am best suited for?
  • Are there any particular behaviors or attitudes that you feel are strengths of mine?

Identifying skills gaps or weaknesses: 

  • Are there any specific areas where you think I could develop or improve my skills?
  • What areas of my work do you think I could improve on?
  • Are there any specific tasks or projects where you have noticed I struggle?
  • Have you received any feedback from team members or stakeholders about areas where I could improve?
  • Are there any particular skills or competencies that you feel I could develop further?

Here are some tips on how to effectively solicit feedback:

Be specific: Ask your seniors and peers for feedback on specific projects, tasks, or areas of responsibility. This can help you get targeted feedback on your strengths and areas for improvement.

Be open-minded: Be open to feedback, even if it's not what you were expecting or hoping for. Try to see feedback as an opportunity for growth and improvement, rather than a criticism.

Ask for examples: Ask your seniors and peers to provide specific examples of when you demonstrated a particular strength or skill. This can help you better understand how your strengths are perceived by others.

Seek out diverse perspectives: Try to solicit feedback from a variety of people, including those who have different roles, backgrounds, and experiences than you. This can provide a more well-rounded view of your strengths.

Follow up: After receiving feedback, take the time to reflect on it and think about how you can use it to improve your performance. Consider following up with your seniors and peers to thank them for their feedback and provide updates on your progress.

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Reflect on work, volunteering and other activities to find strengths

Phil, a postdoc in geological science, reflecting on his strengths and interests, thought about how one of his chosen voluntary activities, mentoring widening participation undergraduates, plays to his strengths and interests.  

Phil loves guiding students and is highly engaged in both the interpersonal aspect of the mentoring and the process of helping them to understand and apply methodological detail.  

Digging deeper, he identifies areas of strength and career interest related to this situation: 

  • He is good at sensing the feelings and perspectives of others and applies this in 1-2-1 situations with students. 
  • He listens well and retains important details about the person he is mentoring, this enables the students to feel seen and heard. 
  • He cares about the perspectives of others and is passionate about widening access to higher education. He draws energy and courage from defending the rights and access of underprivileged groups. 
  • He is intrigued by the process of other people's learning and growth.  He likes to see the small increments of growth that you get to experience in a mentoring relationship. 
  • He is also intrigued by the process of the activity. He revels in breaking activities down for students into their discrete parts, and then showing them how to do each discrete part.  
  • He wants others to understand the "how," the "method," and when he can show others the "how," he feels delighted. This is when he feels he has enabled real learning to happen. 

How can Phil link these insights to potential career ideas?

When Phil thinks about teaching, he feels positive, more specifically when he thinks about nurturing and guiding the underserved. He feels a strong sense of purpose because in his view nobody is a “lost cause”. 

He decides to research organisations that support the education of vulnerable people, such as prisons and young offenders' institutions, charities, voluntary organisations, and local and national government roles. 

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Strengths can be powerful tools

When you have a clear understanding of your unique talents and passions, you can leverage them to make informed decisions about your career, pursue opportunities that align with your values, and achieve your goals.

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