If you’ve ever been interviewed, you’ve likely been asked, “what is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness?”. You might’ve taken the completely honest route, disclosing your weakest area, or you might’ve found a way to spin your weakness into a strength. In reality, we all have things we’re naturally good at other things that don’t come as easily. So, rather than crafting an explanation of how a weakness can be seen as a strength, how can you start transforming your true weaknesses into actual strengths? Here’s where you can start:
Identify weaknesses with constructive feedback
You might think you have a sense of where your weaknesses lie, but you may be overlooking key areas or misjudging your performance. Instead of relying solely on yourself to determine your weaknesses, asking for some feedback from others can provide you with important insights. Managers and mentors are a great place to start, and coworkers and friends can also offer unique perspectives. Outsider input can help reveal things you might not have seen otherwise. For example, you might think you’re weak in the area of communication, believing you can’t express yourself clearly, while a friend might be able to pinpoint this as a lack of confidence. The aim is to pinpoint weaknesses so you can work on your growth and improvement. Be clear about your intentions when you ask for feedback, try not to take it personally, and ask people who you trust to be respectful and constructive.
Reflect and analyze
Next, take a close look at your believed weaknesses and those highlighted by the constructive feedback. Reflect on the circumstances in which these weaknesses come into play, and try to get specific. Narrow down things like ‘communication skills’ to a more specific area, like listening skills, for example. Then you can look deeper for the source of these weaknesses. Perhaps nervousness or distractedness is at the root of your listening weakness.
Create your action plan
Once you’ve pinpointed your weakness and determined some possible causes for them, you create a plan to start transforming them.
1. Seek guidance
You don’t have to tackle them on your own. Rather than being ashamed of weaknesses, being open about them can start a conversation for helpful advice. You might find others who have overcome similar weaknesses or who have the strengths you’re looking to cultivate.
If you know your weaknesses, you can better learn to counteract them with some specific strategies. Preparing for the situation when that skill will come up will help immensely. For example, if active listening is an area of weakness, prepare the tools you might need to succeed. Let’s say you’re meeting with a client. Let them know you’ll be writing down some key points during your conversation to help you better provide them with what they need. If you can set yourself up for success, those weaker points will become more manageable.
3. Practice that skill and get immediate feedback
Often, our weak areas are a result of a lack of deliberate practice, and as they say, practice makes perfect. So, make sure part of your action plan includes practicing your weaker skills under realistic conditions. Focus on repeatedly practicing those areas to help accelerate your learning. If possible, seek out someone who can observe your skills in action and offer you immediate honest feedback. This kind of “guided mastery” is how many people learn to work with their weaknesses. After practicing, reflect on your stress levels and your progress. It’s not likely to be an overnight turnaround, but with time, you’ll see those weaknesses transform.
The key mindset when it comes to your weaknesses is not to fear or avoid them. Tackle them head on, accept them, and seek opportunities to practice them. They may not turn into your greatest strengths, but they can become areas where you feel confident and capable.