If you’re reconsidering a career direction, you need to understand your current strengths and weaknesses. This is part of being self-aware. In our previews blog we discussed how to gather information about you through free on-line tools. This blog will provide you with some tips on how to gather practical information about you from your peers, friends, and family.
Remember the goal, you are trying to figure out your strengths and weaknesses so that you can plan your career path for effectively and you can write a resume that best portrays your strengths.
Gather Feedback from Others
Hearing or remembering what your peers, subordinates, superiors, family, and friends think about you can help identify your strengths and weaknesses that you haven’t noticed before or have been reluctant to acknowledge. There are two ways to get feedback from others. You can either watch how they act around you to figure out what they think of you or you can ask them directly. Your supervisor has an explicit role to be involved in your development.
Exercise: Watch How Others Act Toward You
Watching how other people act toward you and the decisions they make that affect you will give you an idea of what they think about your skills and expertise. When observing others:
- Make several observations on different occasions. Watching the same person several times will help you see trends that may be a sign of a firmly held opinion of you. Watching someone once isn’t very reliable, as their behavior may have been a result of other issues.
- Consider the circumstances. What outside factors influenced the person’s decisions and actions? For example, if your supervisor selected someone else to perform an important task, was it because you were too busy or unavailable?
Answer the following questions about your supervisor, peers, and subordinates to help reveal their opinions of you.
- Who gets the most challenging assignments in your work group?
- Who does your supervisor go to in an emergency or to get tough problems solved?
- Who does your supervisor praise the most in your work group?
- What kinds of tasks does your supervisor give you versus others?
- How does your supervisor react to your suggestions compared to others’ suggestions?
- Does your supervisor listen to your opinions on certain subjects much more or much less than the opinions of others in your work group? If so, what are those subjects?
Peers and Subordinates
- Do peers and subordinates come to you for help or advice? On what topics?
- Do they understand you or seem confused or overwhelmed by what you say?
- Do they repeatedly contact you for help, or do your contacts tend to be one-time interactions?
- Does their enthusiasm and interest remain high or increase when they interact with you, or does it seem to diminish?
- What does their body language communicate? Is it relaxed, apprehensive, reserved, etc.?
After you consider these questions, analyze your answers to determine the opinions that the person may have of your strengths and weaknesses.
Asking for Feedback
You can learn a lot about others’ perceptions of you by observing their interactions with you, but your conclusions will only be educated guesses unless you ask them directly. When asking for feedback, try to talk to people who know you in different ways. The goal is to find out:
- What a person actually saw you do and that person’s impressions of your actions
- That person’s impression of how well you did
- How you react in certain situations. For example, “When a subordinate challenges your authority in front of others, you seem to get flustered and be at a loss for words.”
To gain as much insight as possible when getting feedback from people, use the tips below.
Who to Ask
- Ask people who have been able to observe you enough to offer useful information.
- Ask people who have observed you from different perspectives.
- Ask a former or current supervisor, mentor, or teacher who may have greater experience in an area of interest.
Types of Questions to Ask
- Get descriptions of your behaviors and what they thought about your behaviors.
- For feedback about a recurring problem, ask about the situation in which the problem occurs, your actions in the situation, and the usual outcomes that result.
- Ask for suggestions for other ways of handling problem situations.
Things to Remember When Asking Questions
- Be respectful of other people’s time, and prepare questions ahead of time.
- Listen carefully and respectfully.
- Ask for clarification and examples when points are unclear.
- Summarize the points to make sure that you understand the person correctly.
- Thank the feedback providers for their time and assistance. Compare the feedback you receive from different people to look for common themes. These themes will help to identify your strengths and weaknesses.
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