If you’ve been out of the job market for a while, and are planning to go back to work, you might be in for a bit of a shock. The world of work looks very different than it did just a few years ago, but that doesn’t have to be bad news for you and your job search. It’s all about finding your strengths, and aligning them with an employer that will appreciate you.
Job searching today is about fit. Most employers aren’t looking for candidates who look good on paper, but don’t work with the team. As a professional looking to jump back into the workforce, it’s important to do some due diligence and find a job and a company that’s the right fit for you and your career goals. The last thing you want is to find out that you’re in another dead-end job because your eyes were on the paycheck and not the real prize: a successful and fulfilling career. Here’s how to figure out what you’re good at in the working world when you really don’t know where to start.
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What are your strengths, according to the expert? (That’s you.)
Before you do anything, grab a piece of paper and jot down what you believe are your strengths. For instance, keeping to-do lists to manage your day-to-day activities can be a sign that you’re organized, which is highly desired in the working world. Likewise, if you’re a social butterfly who loves meeting new people, then networking is definitely one of your strengths. If you’re having difficulty with this task, try and keep a pen and notepad (or use the notepad on your phone) handy and write down strengths that come to your mind as you navigate through the day. Try not to think overthink this task, because the point is to write freely and honestly. You can refine the list later.
Phone a friend.
One of the best ways to pinpoint some of your strengths is to get an outsider’s perspective. Call up a few close friends, family members, or colleagues to get their opinion on what you’re good at – you might be pleasantly surprised by their answers. Be sure to request that they cite specific examples of when you exhibited your strength(s), because this information will be great for when you write your cover letters and revamp your resume. The feedback you get from your friends and peers should help point you in the right direction. You’ll get a sense of what you’re good at and maybe not so good at, which is also valuable insight to have as a candidate and professional.
What successes have you experienced in your career so far?
Most likely, the bright spots in your career are the result of the your strengths, so look back and try to figure out what helped you triumph. Maybe your effective time-management skills enabled you to ascend the corporate ladder, or maybe it was your self-disciplined nature that kept you on track and able to deliver projects on time. Whatever the case may be, reflect on your past victories and start making a list of all the positive traits and skills you brought to the table, so that you can apply those in the near future.
What if you want to change careers entirely?
Going back to work doesn’t necessarily mean returning to the same career path you left. In fact, now that you’ve done some soul-searching, you might discover that your areas of strength are a better match for another career. However, unless you’re a job coach, chances are that you’re a little vague on exactly which career that is.
PayScale has a few features that can help, starting with the Best Jobs for You tool, which can help you translate your strengths (and weaknesses and wants) into a better career fit. If you’re debating between a couple careers, then check out the Career Path Explorer to see the past, present, and future potential of various paths. And of course, while money isn’t everything in a career, it’s necessary for keeping a roof over our heads and food on the table, so it’s an aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked. Learn more about a job’s earning potential by plugging it into the Salary Data & Career Resource Center and seeing if the dollars make sense.
Last, but not least, it’s crucial to know your worth before heading out into the job market, so that you don’t feel cheated when payday rolls around: PayScale’s Salary Survey will generate a free report that gives you a salary range based on your skills, education, and experience.
Tell Us What You Think
Did you make a successful and seamless transition back into the workforce after taking some time off? If so, tell us what you did to ensure that your return was a successful one. Share your tips with our community on Twitter or leave a comment below.