Rethinking your Weaknesses

The idea of doubling your strengths by transforming the way you look at your weaknesses sounds good in theory but is it practical or realistic? A recent article in Business Week by Marshall Glodsmith discusses psychologist Tommy Thomas’s theory that weaknesses are actually strengths and what effect this altered view can have on professionals’ overall achievement.

In terms of career development, the word “weakness” always takes me back to the common interview question, “Tell me about your areas of development.” Interviewees are encouraged to take their weakness and make it a positive. Looking at your all your characteristics in a positive light actually makes answering this question easier. The trick is researching the company you are interviewing with and determining what the company deems a strength/weakness. Here are a couple common “weaknesses” as seen by many U.S. Fortune 500 companies and a way to look at them as a strength.

Prefer working alone
I naturally work well independently and have had to learn to be an effective team member, sharing the roles and levels of responsibility. In my MBA program we are assigned to a team each semester and all of our projects are to be done as a team, with a team grade, etc. This has helped me learn my strengths when working in a team, how to be productive within the team and how team work can actually be beneficial when done right.

I can talk too much
As you can probably gather I am very communicative and enjoy conversing with people. I have learned to determine when it is appropriate to chat with clients and coworkers and when to tone it down. My ease with communication has served me well in many areas but my experience with working with people with varying engagement styles has been invaluable in my professional development.

The entire conversation made me think a bit harder about the verbiage we use to define strengths and weaknesses and the cultural framework these are defined by. In the US we live in an individualist culture where assertiveness is praised and should be noted in behavioral interviews. The opposite of assertive, as defined by Webster’s is self-effacing, not inclined to draw attention to oneself. In many collective cultures this would be a positive trait, one to bring up in an interview. As the business world becomes largely global and technology keeps various cultures more and more connected the idea of strengths and weaknesses intertwining make sense. Learning when to rely on both your strengths and conversely your weaknesses is crucial when working with global clients and expanding your overall professional network.