Amidst the hectic pace of the modern world, we may often forget to acknowledge our skills and achievements. We should all occasionally take a step back to appreciate and be proud of everything we have already accomplished. Even failures and setbacks can teach us important lessons. The exercises listed at the end of this letter will help you reflect on your skills and achievements.
Our strengths may be hidden in plain sight. We people have a tendency to assume that others think like us – until we get more closely acquainted with people who see the world differently and realise that their worldview is equally valid. The same goes for our skills and abilities: if our closest friends work in the same field as we do, we may easily begin to believe that our skills are nothing special because “everyone knows how to write code” or “everyone speaks fluent French”.
Like all skills, identifying our strengths takes practice. Our ability to articulate our skills likewise improves with practice. Modesty is a value that is deeply ingrained in our culture, as demonstrated by the proverbs “self-praise is no praise” and “modesty is a virtue”. However, self-flattery is not the same as knowing your strengths and being able to describe the things you are good at.
This spring many of our students have been worried about their future and concerned about finding a summer job in a largely locked-down country. Luckily, there are other ways for you to accrue experiences, develop your skills and improve your self-awareness: you can connect with non-profits to help them advance their mission, complete summer courses, or attend Y-kampus courses to work on assignments provided by employers. Or you can take a relaxing holiday to recharge your batteries and reflect on your interests and goals.
We all possess a broad range of skills and competencies that we have acquired in both formal and informal contexts. An effective way to identify and reflect on your existing strengths is to listen to others talking about their career paths and describing their competencies. You can, for example, watch videos where university graduates share their career stories (in Finnish; Urapolulla.fi).
Alternatively, you can identify your strengths by reflecting on your experiences from a practical perspective. Think about a challenge or a difficult situation that you overcame or a tricky assignment that you successfully completed. What skills, approaches or actions were required? You can reflect on any difficult situation that you have encountered, such as the time when you applied for admission to university or faced challenges in your personal life. You could continue the process by describing the situation you overcame to a friend and then asking the friend to identify the strengths and skills you used when handling the situation. This will bring a fresh perspective to your competency profile.
When reflecting on your strengths, you can consider the following questions to help you get started: What are the things that you have been praised for in the past? What are the things that you know more about than others? You could also take, for example, the VIA Character Strengths Survey that is based on positive psychology. After you complete the survey, you will receive a profile report that provides an in-depth view of your main strengths.
You should also take a moment to consider what your strengths say about you and how knowing them will affect your choices and actions. What are the situations, environments or tasks where you have or would be able to tap into your full potential? When you have to make choices and narrow down your options, it helps if you understand your strengths and know how to utilise them to the fullest. Still, you can also make choices based on new or emerging skills that you want to develop further.
While we may worry about not possessing a specific skill, there are numerous career stories demonstrating that seemingly wrong choices and a bumpy history of career detours have served as eye-openers and helped in finding the right career path. How about this spring we all shift our focus to all the valuable skills and knowledge we already possess?
We hope you engage in productive reflections over this spring,
Career specialists Terhi, Reeta, Kaisa and Mariska
This spring, our study psychologists will write letters about well-being to support remote working and learning and promote well-being among students and all the members of our community. The visiting writer sharing her expertise in this letter was Career Specialist Terhi Erkkilä. All the letters written to students this spring to help them maintain their well-being are available in the Ryhmäohjaus (Group counselling) channel.
Please note that the services of the career specialists, study psychologists and other centralised academic guidance and counselling services remain available to students as usual during the current exceptional circumstances. See the Student’s guide for more information.
Visit the website of Aarresaari, a nationwide network of academic career services, to read more about career planning.