Know your strengths and weaknesses when planning your career

May 22, 2007 6:39 PM EDT
Knowing (and admitting) your strengths and weaknesses is a very important step in determining the direction of your career. I have tried for quite a few years now to make sure I am honest with myself whenever I look at possibly changing jobs. I want to make sure the job is more weighted on the side of my strengths so I can be a better employee and so I can help my career. Well, I was at a customer site last week, and this lesson was displayed very clearly to me by the client in how he had chosen his career path and why.

I had been talking to my client (kind of distracting him while the IDS / IPS vendor got their equipment up and going), and I asked him if he had ever considered working for a consulting company like the one I work for since he seemed to have a very good idea how to do testing of products (he had a lot of experience testing IDS / IPS and SIEM products). He said that he had considered it, but his main problem was working with customers. He knew and admitted that he was not good at working with clients because he knew that he would not be able to handle jerks very well. We talked about that a while and kind of joked about the subject. But it struck me that my client was very honest about his weakness in working with people, and he had made appropriate moves in his career to avoid such situations. I had to admire that.

As an aside, the discussion was made timely by a call I received while I was on site. A client called me and basically proceeded to chew my buttocks about an upcoming project, and I had to take 20 minutes out of my day to listen to him rant while I tried to calm him down. I am generally very good with people, and while I never enjoy getting verbally abused and wouldn't choose for that to happen, I dealt with the problem and ended up getting things worked out in the long run. I know dealing with difficult people will sometimes be a part of my job, and I consider that a strength of mine.

Notice that I did not say that a strength is always a preference.  You can be good at something and not like doing it.  That has to factor in as well.