As I meet college juniors and seniors on the campuses I visit as a speaker, I consistently find that I’m meeting students with the same goals and objectives but with vastly different skillsets.
From a work skillset standpoint, I’ve watched my son Ryan grow from a Computer Science major at Boston College into a Virtual Reality and now a Computer Programming expert. But these are skills that he’s expected to have a vast knowledge of when applying for a specific role at a company. You no doubt have the same type skills in your current field of interest. The skills–or strengths–that I’m referring to here are more about your hobbies or your enjoyments away from the business world. You’ve acquired special skills in your life that will no doubt help you to stand out amongst the competition in your continuing job search (music, dance, performance, sports, and so much more). If there’s a chance that mentioning these strengths in an interview will help, by all means talk about them. Make sure to add this set of skills to your resume, and do some research on the company you’re meeting with to see if their executives share some of the same outside strengths that you have.
Let’s say you were a college runner or an active marathoner. How many executives in business are marathon runners, bike enthusiasts, swimmers, or ironman competitors? In this health-conscious world, a lot of them! That connection may take you far (and remember, many companies have sports teams that play in leagues against other companies and your background may just be of extreme interest if you were a star softball player or soccer star in college).
When I think about using your strengths to succeed, I’m reminded of an important sports analogy–and it was one of my son’s experiences from just a few years ago. Ryan’s an ocean swimmer who got on the Triathlon bandwagon when he was a senior in high school. By his first year in college, Ryan’s hard work had paid off as he had become one of the top junior triathletes in America. Here’s the catch: 90% of triathletes come from a running background. And in a sports that orders swim, bike, and then run, a strong runner always has the advantage in that final kick. Ryan knew that running was the strength of his competitors, but not his strength.
Fast forward to Cincinnati for the USA Triathlon Junior Nationals. 75 competitors vying for the National Crown. It’s Ryan’s final chance for a place on the podium at Nationals before aging out of juniors. He’s out of the water quickly and then on the bike with the lead group. As he eyes the names on the backs of the jerseys that he’s surounded by on the bike route, he knows that these are all world-class runners who will smoke him on the run that’s about to take place. With one long lap of the bike to go, Ryan’s understanding of his strengths (or in this case, his non-strengths) takes over and he goes out on a solo breakaway to gain as best an edge as he can against this group. Ryan enters the final running segment of the race with a 35-second lead on the pack.
One by one, the leaders pick Ryan off on the run. But he will always be the first to tell you that he did the right thing by recognizing his strengths and giving it a shot.