Graduate Education

Capitalizing on Your Career Strengths at Every Stage

Professional Development

What are your strengths?

It’s a question you can expect during almost any job interview. It’s also something you should ask yourself periodically, even if you’re not considering a job or career change. By identifying the types of tasks you excel at and enjoy doing, you’ll have an easier time building a successful, fulfilling career.

Strengths generally fall into one of two categories — either hard or soft skills. Hard skills typically are developed through a combination of education and experience. Some, such as computer proficiency and writing and communication skills, are required for almost every type of job. Others, such as coding, data mining, accounting and financial modeling, tend to be more career specific.

Soft skills can be more difficult to define and evaluate, but are just as valuable to employers. Unlike most hard skills, soft skills usually aren’t job-specific and are transferable, meaning they can be utilized across all career fields. Examples include communication, creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving and time management skills, as well as other traits that enable you to work well with others.

These are the skills that make you a more effective team member — someone who is productive, collaborative and reliable. Because they’re transferable, they’re also the traits to identify, hone and highlight when you’re considering a career change.

Where do you shine—and why?

Honest self-assessment can be difficult, but it’s also the place to start when considering your professional strengths and weaknesses.

  • First, take a look at what you do well. Then, dig a little deeper and ask yourself how you developed these skills. Some may have come easily, while others may have taken more time to develop and refine. In both cases, you will gain a better understanding of what you’re good at and what you like to do.
  • Next, ask a few trusted colleagues or objective family members for input. What would they identify as your strengths and where do they see opportunities for improvement? Do their opinions align with yours? Have they identified additional strengths you may have overlooked?
  • What about strengths you wish you had? Can you identify specific skills that you need to develop or strengthen to advance in your current career or make you more marketable in general? Is there a reason you haven’t developed these skills yet? Could it be that you find them more difficult or that they don’t reflect your interests?

Putting your assessment information to work

Once you’ve identified your strengths (and weaknesses), it’s time to consider how well they align with your current job and your short- and long-term career goals.

Are your skills essential to your job performance? Do they add to your job satisfaction? Do they help position you for advancement in your current field — or to make a career change? How can you best demonstrate your strengths to current and future employers?

Finally, use your answers to these questions to help chart your career path and make the necessary adjustments and goals. Ideally, your career path should reflect your personal growth and changing perspectives. Routinely assessing your strengths can help make that happen.

As a Clarkson grad, you have access to a full suite of services from the Clarkson Career Center at any stage of your professional life. William Jeffers, assistant director of professional and alumni career services, focuses exclusively on providing career support for Clarkson alumni. And, if your goals include earning an advanced degree, Clarkson offers excellent graduate programs in business, engineering, education, health professions and the sciences. For more information, contact Graduate Admissions.

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