Have you ever been to an interview and asked what your strengths are? If you were not quite sure how to respond, this guide will help you identify your strengths. Knowing your strengths is not only essential for promoting and branding yourself to employers, professors and collaborators - it can help boost your overall confidence and enable you to work more efficiently. With this self -awareness, you can identify a career path in science that will best fit with your personality and skills.
2. Exam time: take online tests. My favorite free online resource is workuno.com which offers a free self-assessment to discover your strengths. The test is long (170 questions multiple choice questions), but once completed, you will receive a list of all your strengths in ranked order with helpful videos (A similar but paid version is the Clinfton Strengthsfinder®). You can also take the free 15 minute VIA strength test which will help identify your core values. Your values directly relate to your strengths. For example, if you value discipline, you may have the Organizer or Structure strengths. Together, these tests can enable you to gain a better understanding of who you are and how you can apply your unique combination of skills and strengths. For more science focused strength resources developed primarily for graduate students, complete the Individual Development Plan or DocPro. These resources will compel you to think critically about the skills you are developing in your laboratory.
3. Seek outside feedback. There may be skills you have that you are not even aware, so to identify them ask family, friends, coworkers what they think your strengths are. If you are not comfortable asking directly, you can ask them to tell a story where you contributed to their lives in a meaningful way. Once you have the feedback in hand, identify common patterns and themes that emerge from these testimonies.
Once you have your top strengths in hand, you can use them to your advantage! You will be able to confidently discuss your strengths and what you can bring to a new team or laboratory group. You can also seek opportunities that best utilize your top strengths. Most importantly, you will likely gain a better understanding of your unique talents and what you can bring to science!
Julie F. Charbonnier is a 4th year PhD candidate in Integrative Life Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her research focuses on amphibian and population ecology. She is also interested in scientific writing and public policy.