I believe that everyone feels that some of their skills are more regarded or needed than others. I know it’s true with many of my clients. In fact, they’ve often tried to suppress particular tendencies that they dismiss as weaknesses. Often these traits are valuable in the right scenarios.
Any skill is worth touting in the right light. Here are some examples from my clients’ job searches (all names changed) where an embarrassing trait was turned into value.
- Chatty: Mary said, “I have an irresistible desire to talk, even though I know others would like me to shut up for awhile!” Mary took on the role of representing her employer with the Chamber of Commerce. She was the one who reliably greeted new people, made them feel welcomed and engaged conversation.
- Confrontational: Jerry said he could not help being direct with people. “I say what I’m thinking, usually regardless of outcome.” Guess what Jerry was handpicked to do at the bank where he works? He’s the guy who deals with customers who have borrowed money and failed to make payments.
- Antisocial: Tina relayed that she really preferred to work on projects that allowed her to be by herself for long periods of time. She called herself antisocial; I think of her as introverted. Tina was the perfect choice to pour through volumes of legal briefs at the law firm where she worked. A “talker” did the welcoming, entertained visitors with conversation; Tina did what some others considered tedious and boring. She loved it!
- Compulsive: Marna really believed her obsessive tendencies were a drawback. “I do everything in the same order; and it all has to be on schedule. I’m afraid people will find me inflexible and resistant to change.” Marna came to accept that this was part of who she is. She found a job that had her keeping perfect, orderly records of all visitors, correspondence and activities in a mid-sized insurance office.
- Snoopy: Cara confessed to being nosy. “I admit it; I pry into other people’s business.” Well, Cara had been working in a small machine shop at the front desk. This trait annoyed the owners and her co-workers. Guess what she did? She got a journalism degree and is working as a part-time reporter for a small affiliate TV station. She’s the one who will hit the pavement and go out into the town to uncover the latest news and events.
- Dull: John has been described by others as a bit methodical. In his words, John said that he prefers to go at an even pace, steady with no highs or lows. He doesn’t want to deal with uncertainties. John has been the perfect choice to take care of the voluminous mountains of paperwork that pass through his department with an accounting firm. He’s been called their best proofreader and auditor.
- Finicky: Patricia told me that she cannot leave a task until no stone is unturned. At the end of the day, everything has to be ready for the next day. Every thing prepared and ready. It was the perfect choice when she got promoted from server at a fine-dining restaurant, to its manager. She’s the one who shines the pots, puts every chair in place, has the schedule lined up and has fresh flowers out. Her detail fixation still bugs staff sometimes; but they also know that no one cares more about making things nice than she does.
It’s very likely that the above styles (skills) have been sneered at for these clients. There are so many others; you have some and so do I. As your advocate, I ask you to remember that you can benefit far more by acknowledging your particular traits, valuing them, and searching for contexts in which they are marketable, than by trying to alter these traits according to some perceived mythical status. It’s all about fit!