Want More Confidence? Know Thyself!

Socrates is credited with the quote, “The beginning of wisdom is to know thyself.” I suggest knowing thyself is also the beginning of the road to confidence.

socratesI’ve partnered with career coaching clients who’ve been at the proverbial bottom of the pit, and their confidence has taken a beating. From clients whose spouses have died or left them – never needing to be the primary wage earner before, to executives that were surreptitiously​ ousted coup-style by their colleagues, to countless others whose managers beat their spirits down through criticism (despite their own managerial deficits which contributed to my clients’ inability to be successful in their roles).

When doing career discovery and transition work with clients, my goal is simply to show them what they do best and help them determine the most desirable and feasible career options that align to those insights so they won’t dread Mondays anymore.

Not only do my clients and I accomplish that goal together, but I began to notice a trend. From the first time we spoke, until we finished working together, their confidence increased. They shifted from feeling uncertain, to feeling inspired about their future and their ability to pursue it. This has happened again, and again which has led me to conclude that people who are clearly aware of their strengths and abilities not only project confidence, but have achieved authentic confidence by internalizing it.

Some of the comments clients make after they go through the exercise of self-discovery have been:

“I’m so excited to learn so much about myself!”

“I felt so confident when I went into that interview!”

“I took my strengths for granted, and didn’t recognize them as unique abilities.”

“I have you to thank for guiding me in the right direction to have more confidence in myself and my abilities​.”​

This is why I love my work so much. I don’t just help people gain career clarity and the steps to achieve it, I help them gain confidence!

How do you increase your self-confidence? A potential first step is to understand your strengths. I highly recommend the Gallup StrengthFinder assessment. Read the Strengths Insight Guide that comes with it, and discuss it with people who know you, both at work and at home.

Ask people to share examples of how you’ve used your strengths, and then contemplate how you’ve used them from your perspective.

Next, take a free assessment​ to evaluate your character strengths.

From the VIA Institute on Character:

“Research tells us that individuals who use their character strengths lead happier, more satisfying lives. Only when you understand your unique character strengths can you begin to live a life that is engaging, exciting and rewarding to you.”

Again, share the insights you gain with people who know you. Ask them to share observations of when you’ve used these strengths.

Finally, assess what’s most important to you: your values. This brief exercise provides a third leg of the stool to have a source of pride in what makes you unique: your strengths, your character, and your values.

Our human tendency is to focus on what is wrong with us. When we focus on our assets, everything changes when we begin to appreciate what is right with us. We embrace our strengths, and hopefully start intentionally leveraging them!

All the best to you,


Why My Clients Get Job Offers!

In the past few weeks I’ve coached half a dozen people on interview preparation, all of whom were made an offer. I’ve made one crucial observation.

Most people answer the question “What are your strengths?” incorrectly, and poorly.

When I speak with prospective clients I ask them to describe their strengths to me. Here are some examples I’ve noted:

I’m organized and detail-oriented.

I’m committed and hard-working.

I get things done.

I’m good with people.

I am passionate and driven.

Now, let’s set aside the fact most of these are not strengths. A strength is a talent, yet most of these are behavioral traits. I won’t split hairs about this, however, because there is a greater problem afoot.

Let’s take these traits and juxtapose them next to the following question:

Would you, as a decision-maker, hire me if I told you the following?:

I’m unorganized and often miss the details.

I lack commitment and I’m not very hard-working.

I don’t get much done.

I’m bad with people.

I lack passion and drive.

All I’ve done is rephrase the prior answers as opposites, which strongly reinforces a salient point: The traits most people provide as strengths in interviews arerequirements of every candidate in the mind of the interviewer.

When you are explaining your strengths, be sure to share natural talents that you possess – those things that set you apart  that are not in abundant supply. What did you do in your previous jobs that others did not do nearly as well?

Here is a client example of two strengths, defined:

Achiever – You have a great deal of stamina and work hard.  You take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.   Your drive is the power supply that causes you to set the pace and define the productivity levels for others.

Learner – You have a great desire to continuously improve.  Learning enables you to thrive in dynamic work environments where you are asked to take on short project assignments and learn a lot about the new subject matter in a short period of time.

Instead of simply saying, “I work hard and like to learn things”, a more effective strategy is to create a strength narrative that both explains the strength, andprovides a story to back it up:

“Two of my strengths are Learner and Achiever, which means I catch on quickly and have interest in many things. When these strengths work together they influence strong goal achievement. I enjoy learning, and then doing something productive with that knowledge. It’s where learning meets application for me. For example, the last two jobs I’ve held I didn’t meet the minimum qualifications, but because of my strong ability to learn and ramp up quickly, and my desire to be productive every day, I consistently outperformed tenured team members in exceeding productivity goals.”

 The best way to hone in on your most natural strengths is to take the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment, and receive a debrief on your strengths. This provides both the awareness and the language to help you convey your strengths effectively, naturally, and confidently.

Once you know your true strengths, you will knock the socks of an interviewer like no other candidates.

So, what are your strengths?

How to Figure Out the Work You’re Wired For

The world of work, at its most fundamental level, boils down to four focus areas: Working with peopleideasthings, and data. Most people are oriented to more than one.

The first step in discovering what you’re wired to do best is decide which of these resonate most with you.

PEOPLE FOCUS (leading, caring, supporting, serving, selling)

If any of these activities appeal to you, you might have a people focus:

  • Entertain a Child
  • Listen to a friend’s personal problem
  • Teach someone how to do something
  • Help someone who is sick
  • Lead a group or club activity
  • Run for an office
  • Work with the public

(numbers, facts, filing, procedures, inspecting)

If any of these activities appeal to you, you might have a data focus:

  • Research a topic of interest to you
  • Be a treasurer of a club
  • Work with scientific experiments
  • Work with numbers/statistics
  • Figure out a car’s gas mileage
  • Balance a bank statement
  • Write a computer program

 (knowledge, theories, creativity, insights) 

If any of these activities appeal to you, you might have an idea focus:

  • Decorate a room
  • Write poems or stories
  • Publish a newsletter
  • Write lyrics
  • Perform or act in a play
  • Play a musical instrument
  • Invent a new product

 (machines, tools, animals, natural resources, creating items)

 If any of these activities appeal to you, you might have a things focus:

  • Bake a cake
  • Repair a car/machinery
  • Sew or make crafts
  • Build something from wood
  • Take care of animals
  • Do landscaping or lawn care
  • Operate camera or video equipment

As you combine categories, it starts to reveal interesting information.

For example, if you like things, such as computers and software, and ideas, then a more creative endeavor would be in order, such as graphic design to develop creative digital content using computers and software.

Alternatively, if you like people as your secondary area of focus to your primarythings focus (using the computer example), then a desk side support technician where you’re working with computers and going to people’s workstations all day, would be more appropriate.

See how the secondary work focus preference changes the primary interest considerably? 

When you combine these four areas of work focus, you end up with six kinds of job content. They are:

Realistic,  Investigative, Conventional, Artistic, Social, and Enterprising jobs.

  • realistic job is where you work with your hands or outdoors (e.g. firefighter, mechanic, contractor).
  • An investigative job is where you solve puzzles, research, detect, or experiment (e.g. police work, scientific research, laboratory technician).
  • An artistic job involves being creative, such as writing, photography, graphic artistry, architecture, or interior decorating.
  • social job involves serving society, such as teaching, social work, counseling, health care, or a minister.
  • An enterprising job is where you would make, sell, and manage a product or service.
  • conventional job is in an office such as management, financial transactions, information technology, etc.

After you’ve identified areas of focus, you can leverage  a tool called the World of Work Map to select job families that fall within your areas of focus to gain ideas of work that’s likely to be most appealing to you. This interactive World of Work Map graphically illustrates how occupations relate to each other based on work tasks.

Here’s an example from the map. I chose the Engineering & Technologiesoption under Ideas and Things:

Once you find options of interest, you can research jobs using O*Net Online, which provides comprehensive information on what those jobs entail, from salary, education required, daily tasks, and much more. In addition, you can speak to people in that line of work to get their assessment of how they spend their day-to-day at work.

For career exploration, I use a tool called the SchoolPlace Big Five Career Guider for students 14 – 22 years of age, and WorkPlace Big Five Career Guider for adults, in conjunction with a StrengthsFinder assessment.

I hope this manual exercise I’ve put together is somewhat helpful to you, particularly to early careerists, or those in career transition.

The Job Search Step You’re Missing

Most job seekers begin their search with updating their resume (CV, for international readers). If that’s your approach, I hope to convince you to take a step back, because it can make all the difference.

From the time I started working at “the golden arches” at age 16, I’ve held exactly 13 positions. In 27 years, every interview I’ve had resulted in an offer, yet it’s notbecause I was the most qualified candidate. I wasn’t. Not once, in fact. I’ve had two hiring managers tell me I wasn’t technically qualified, but they wanted to hire me anyway. Why?

I know myself. My mother is an Executive Coach, and she’s had me take every assessment known to man. I know what I can’t do (and what I can), and I only compete for jobs where I know I’ll succeed.
I can articulate my strengths. Because I know myself, I ‘m able to easily demonstrate to an employer how and why I will do a job with excellence.
Peter Drucker was a leadership genius way ahead of his time and was a pioneer in the conversation on strengths. Really it was more of a monologue, because the conversation had not yet begun in the corporate world.

Here are two of my favorite Drucker quotes:

“Most [people] do not know what their strengths are. When you ask them, they look at you with a blank stare, or they respond in terms of subject knowledge, which is the wrong answer.”

“It takes far less energy to move from first-rate performance to excellence than it does to move from incompetence to mediocrity.”

If you don’t know your strengths (your actual strengths, not trendy buzz words sprinkled throughout your resume) you are taking a shot in the dark. Your cover letters, resume, networking conversations, interviews, and over-all branding, will be substandard to what could have been.


In my experience, the most insightful strengths assessment is the Clifton StrengthsFinder, created by the Gallup organization. It’s an assessment based on a 40-year study, and is a catalog of the 34 most common talents in people.

Why do strengths matter?

According to Gallup, 1 in 33 million people share the same top five strengths. This means your job performance will have a unique approach. You won’t accomplish the job the same way as another candidate.

It’s your job to explain that your approach is better. Simple awareness of your approach is compelling and powerful.

Also, working within one’s natural talents impacts productivity, stress, and quality. If you know your strengths, you can target roles that will use them. Your stress will decrease, and your productivity and quality will rise. Awareness of your natural talents equips you to be intentional in using them every day. When you play to your strengths, your work is energizing.

Where do your strengths lie?

In addition to knowing what your strengths are, you can learn where your strengths lie. There are four thematic buckets for the 34 strengths:

Relating Themes – These themes explain how you build connections with other people

Impacting Themes – These themes explain how you motivate others to action

Striving Themes– These themes explain what pushes you toward results

Thinking Themes – These themes explain how you analyze the world

Knowing where your strengths lie not only reveals your advantages – which you should leverage and develop – it also highlights blind spots, which enables you to target strengths you can use to compensate. I do this all the time. Most of my strengths are Thinking Themes (Strategic, Learner, Intellection, and Input).

I can’t impact people or build relationships if I live in my own head, which is the tendency of Thinking bucket dwellers. To avoid this, I rely heavily on my Impacting Theme: Maximizer.

StrengthsFinder advises people with Maximizer: “Seek roles in which you are helping other people succeed. In coaching, managing, mentoring, or teaching roles, your focus on strengths will prove particularly beneficial to others.”Hmm…That’s interesting. My desire to help people succeed draws me out!

I have a client who told me she was in a job interview last week and was asked what words she would use to describe herself. How convenient! I had created a one-page summary of her assets based on the assessments she’s done. She pulled it out and summarized her results for them, something like this:

I’m committed, accountable, independent, trusted, and conscientious.(Responsibility)

I’m a problem solver, troubleshooter, and I find improvements and solutions.(Restorative)

I’m always learning and I catch on quickly. (Learner)

I grow talent in others, and enjoy helping others succeed. (Developer)

I’m a negotiator who sees both sides of a situation, enabling me to arrive at consensus. (Harmony)

You can bet the employer was impressed!

I know my top five strengths. Now what?

First, become intimately acquainted with your strengths.

The true value of your strengths is the interpretation. Too many people take the assessment, read their strengths, and place the report in a drawer. This is a missed opportunity. Transformation comes through the powerful narrative of knowing who you are and how you operate.

I have a client that has Communication as her top strength, and her next two strengths are Discipline and WOO (Winning Others Over). I explained to her that when WOO and Communication are working together, she’s the life of the party — she’s networking, making friends, building connections.

However, when Discipline and Communication are locking arms, she is communicating policy, standards, and ensuring people are following guidelines. One of those presentations of her personality is very task-oriented (Communication + Discipline), while the other is relationship-oriented (Communication + WOO).

Understanding how she’s perceived has enhanced her emotional intelligence and increased awareness of her effect on co-workers, who may be confused by shifts between the two personas. This is the kind of insight that can have great impact in your life.

Second, ask yourself some questions:

How do your strengths impact your current, or a desired, role?
What are some ways your strengths are unique in how you approach your work?
Are you able to identify potential gaps between critical strengths a role requires, and your strengths?
How might you leverage your other strengths to meet those gaps?
Finally, take action:

If employed, explain your strengths to your manager so they can find better ways to leverage you.
Be mindful of strengths when setting goals (you’ll perform better).
Look for special projects that need your strengths (it’s a chance to shine).
Keep strengths in mind when identifying your next career step.
Embed strengths in your networking pitch, interview answers, cover letters, and resume.
Practice discussing your strengths. It’s a language — the more you practice, the more fluent you’ll become.

All the best to you!

Discover Your Character Strengths

This is a free assessment ​to discover your top character strengths. It helps you have a more rounded self-awareness, which is critical to your success!​