How to turn your weaknesses into strengths at work

We’ve all been asked the ‘strengths and weaknesses’ question at interview. Accepted wisdom tells us to extol the virtues of the former and put a positive spin on the latter, seeing so-called weaknesses as something that can in fact be beneficial. Take obsessive attention to detail, for example. True, it can drive others mad and inevitably means you take longer to complete certain tasks, but such a fastidious nature could also save time and money further down the line, because you’re less likely to make mistakes.

Turn weaknesses into strengths

Few things are more satisfying than turning people’s negative perceptions and criticisms of you on their head and using them to your own advantage. Forget about trying to subdue your weaknesses and focus instead on changing how and when you deploy them. It’s time to rewrite the rule book and see attributes conventionally classed as weaknesses in a much more favourable light. Here are a few examples of typical ‘weaknesses’ and how you can rebrand them as strengths:

Being hot-headed and reckless – rebrand these characteristics as ‘passionate’ and ‘innovative’.

Going off on a tangent – creative thinkers are often accused of being easily distracted and having a lack of focus, yet abstract thinking and the ability to see beyond immediate parameters will strengthen all teams and all organisations.

Perfectionist tendencies – having high standards may slow you down but it means you’re striving for improvement, which is a strong selling point in most employers’ eyes. Just make sure you have realistic expectations about what can actually be achieved given the limitations of your resourcing, budget, timescales and other operational factors.

Being indecisive – if you’re calm, measured, pragmatic and reluctant to rush into things you’re sure to have had this criticism levelled at you, but there’s nothing wrong with taking your time to get things right.

Having a rebellious nature – conforming doesn’t facilitate innovation or revolution, but if you do go against convention, ensure you have good reason rather than doing so aimlessly and without cause.

Dislike of confrontation – being averse to heated situations is acceptable, so long as you don’t avoid resolving tough or challenging issues. Target your approach to get the best out of everyone and ensure all voices are heard. Facilitating such processes and acting as peacekeeper will help hone your diplomacy skills, which is a major strength in the workplace.

Being overly meticulous – for those who prefer to rush through every day without so much as a second glance at the details, anyone who pays close attention to the finer nuances of making a project successful is likely to be seen as slow and dithery. Either stand your ground, to avoid having to mount a clean-up operation later on, or plan said clear-up operation so competently your doubters have to eat their words when you swoop in and save the day.

Having bravado – there’s a fine line between confidence, self-belief and the courage of your convictions on the one hand and blind arrogance on the other. Back up your claims with evidence and win people over with your charm.

Being a workaholic – do you live and breathe your work and struggle to switch off because of all your ideas, energy and drive? Strengthen your appeal to employers by using words like ‘dedicated’ and ‘conscientious’.

Knowledge gaps – not having all the answers will inevitably drive you to do extra research, ask questions, build new contacts and challenge the status quo, all of which are seen as major strengths by employers because they prove how proactive you are.

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