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Conveying Your Strengths
Be prepared to explain the value you bring to the table

By Dan Gomez-Palacio
Director of the Grossnickle Career Services Center
Published Winter 2016-17, Affinity magazine

I recently had a conversation with a non-traditional student who had worked primarily hourly jobs for the last 10 years. She was just beginning her college career and needed employment to support her education, so we talked about how to start a job search.

As part of the process, I asked her what positive qualities she would bring to her next employer. Usually when I ask this question, I get a general answer about being a good team player or communicator, so I wasn’t expecting much.

However, to my pleasant surprise, the student gave me a full three minutes of clear messaging on the strengths she brings to the workplace, including examples and manager recommendations. Her wonderful response reminded me of a very important part of growing your career – knowing how to clearly convey the value you bring to your work.

Whether it’s during an interview, detailed on a resumé or written in a cover letter, effectively conveying your strengths is a key to your job search. Here are three questions we ask at the Career Center to get you thinking.

What do others recognize as your strengths?
How others positively perceive your work can be an excellent clue into what you are known for in the organization. Look at performance reviews or evaluation tools that can provide insight. Talk to trusted co-workers about what they would say in a reference call. Think also about what compliments you have gotten from your clients. What key words keep coming up?  

What is the hardest part of your job where you have seen success?
Every job has its challenges. Think about your work and the bigger obstacles you have faced. Getting through those difficult parts of your job can say a lot about you. Examine those challenges and you’ll see how you used your strengths to get a positive outcome. 

What impact have you made on your workplace? 
Think through the successes you have had at jobs. Did you improve processes? Increase revenue?  Advance customer retention? Guide transition to different software? Develop new training? These are a few examples, but think about what impact you made on the workplace and what skills you used to build that success. This can lead in to insight of what you do well for a potential employer.

Dan Gomez-Palacio is the director of the Grossnickle Career Services Center. Career counseling, networking and resumé assistance are available free of charge to all students and alumni. To get started, contact Career Services at (800) 231-2391 ext. 7425 or visit