Identifying Your Strengths: Drill Down to Specifics

Pharmacy TimesOctober 2015 Diabetes
Volume 81
Issue 10

Individuals who maximize their strengths and sublimate their limitations are better at directing their energy into useful activities.

The vast majority of pharmacists balances our strengths and limitations, and works with or hires other people who complement our skills.1 It is the rare individual who is a true jack-of-all-trades: individuals who maximize their strengths (and sublimate their limitations) are better at directing their energy into useful activities.2,3 They also tend to be happier in their work.2 What are your strengths and how can you present them—and use them—well? By knowing your strengths, you can find the most satisfying career.

Table 1: Identifying Your Core Strengths: A 360-Degree Approach




  • To start, keep a diary of activities that energize or drain you during a regular week. Do this without input from others so you are working from a blank slate and are uninfluenced by their opinions.
  • Include a chart that has 4 columns: successful endeavors; instincts that paid off; joyful, exciting, or absorbing activities; and necessary but fulfilling work
  • Note things that you approach differently than others and complete successfully. Ask these questions: What sets you apart from others, such as education or certifications? How strong is your network, and who does it involve? What resources can you access? What are your unique values and ethics?

Supervisory Assessment

  • Instead of asking supervisors or mentors to list your strengths, ask them to: Note times when you appear most animated or absorbed in your work over the course of a regular week Describe the types of tasks they assign to you over other employees, and why

Colleague Assessment

  • Ask colleagues: When they most like working with you or watching you Which tasks they think you do better than they do and what you have done exceptionally well over the past few weeks If they admire any of your skills

Formal Assessment

  • Several online surveys can help you identify and rank your greatest strengths Try the VIA Character Strengths Test Available from the University of Pennsylvania’s Authentic Happiness website ( in the questionnaires section. The full version has 240 questions, and a short version is also offered. Registration is free. The Multiple Intelligences for Adult Literacy and Education website ( allows you to assess your strengths using a free 56-question assessment.

Adapted from references 1-7.


I see you are thinking that strengths are simply what you are good at, and weaknesses the opposite. Let’s adjust your thinking. You may reconcile volumes of data by necessity and do it well, but truly dislike it. So, that is not a genuine strength. True strengths are natural talents that consume you, ignite your ardor, and make you feel useful and alive.3,4 Weaknesses are the opposite: activities that you can do and may do well, but drain you.2 A weakness is also something you do not do well but may or may not want to do better.

A 360-degree approach (Online Table 11-7) can help you identify your strengths: assess yourself, ask your supervisors, ask your colleagues, and use some assessment tools.

Naming Unique Strengths

After collecting your data, you will be able to use your strengths to flourish. Typical strengths include good communication skills, ascertaining others’ needs, patience, dependability, accountability, flexibility, paying attention to detail, and problem solving. In interview situations, however, these answers may sound canned and scripted.

You will sound more natural and fluid if you describe your skills creatively. By giving them unique names, you are more likely to understand yourself and portray your passions clearly.4 Table 21 lists some strengths that are advantageous for pharmacists. End Note By identifying your strengths and using a few concise words, you will define yourself better and demonstrate your creativity and ability to communicate well.

Ms. Wick is a visiting professor at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy where she teaches management and career planning.


  • Smith J. How to identify your workplace strengths. Forbes website. Available at Published August 30, 2013. Accessed July 30, 2015.
  • Ramsey D. How to find your strengths. Dave Ramsey website. Published January 10, 2012. Accessed July 20, 2015.
  • Braime H. 10 ways to find your own personal strengths. Lifehack website. Accessed July 20, 2015.
  • Maxwell JC. Finding your purpose: identifying your strengths and going for growth. Success magazine website. Published August 4, 2009. Accessed August 28, 2015.
  • VIA survey of character strengths. University of Pennsylvania website. Available at [see the Questionnaires drop-down menu]. Accessed July 20, 2015.
  • Salpeter M. How to develop your strengths at work. U.S. News & World Report/Money magazine website. Published May 5, 2015. Accessed July 20, 2015.
  • Giboons M. How can I find my strengths? SelfDirected Learning website. Accessed July 20, 2015.

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