The Ticket to Career Advancement: Work on Your Strengths, Not Your Weaknesses

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The following is a post by MPFJ staff writer, Kevin Mercadante, who is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry.

Do you want to make more money? Work on your strengths!

That’s often the exact opposite of what most of us do. We instead try to improve on our weaknesses, hoping to find career salvation in that. That’s also a natural response – the fewer flaws we have, the more approval we get from others. In truth, it’s unlikely that an absence of weaknesses will move you forward in your career, if it’s even possible to achieve that goal.

Every one of us has a certain market value in our careers. That market value is mostly defined by our strengths, and not by an absence of weaknesses. Our strengths represent what it is were good at – what others are most likely to see in evaluating us. If you’re not moving as quickly as you hope in your career, it may be the you’re spending too much time working on your weaknesses rather than on your strengths.

Step One: identify your strengths

Usually, we’re our own worst critics. We can become so focused on our weaknesses that we’re hardly aware that we have any strengths. It’s easy to see how this comes about. While we don’t always get credit for what we do well, were often quickly criticized for what we do wrong. That tends to raise the importance of our weaknesses in our minds.

A critical step is identifying your strengths, and we all have them. Think about what it is that you do well – what it is that you’re primarily responsible to do in your job – and you’ll find one or more strengths. Get input from others, from your superiors, from your coworkers, and even for people outside of work. Other people will be able to quickly identify what your strengths are, because it is what they have come to rely on you for.

Once you identify those strengths, make a commitment to improve them and to do so constantly. If your strength is sales, work on increasing your production. If your strength is management, concentrate on being a better manager and improving department performance. By improving on your strengths, you’re making them more visible, and that will help you stand out in a crowd.

Think about it – if you needed to hire a master carpenter or a top salesman, how concerned would you be if you found out that they were weak in organizational skills? Probably not much. You’d be hiring them because of their primary strength.

“Do what you do best and let others do the rest”

A good friend of mine – a successful salesman who later opened his own business – always said, “Do what you do best, and let others do the rest.” He was really good at sales, but pretty weak in a lot of other areas. He chose to concentrate his efforts on improving his sales, then relegating other tasks to the support staff.

The people who worked with him were not always happy about his weak administrative skills, but it was his sales ability that not only determined his income, but also kept a few of his coworkers in a job. Whatever other weaknesses he had, management was willing to overlook. He was there to sell, not to fill out forms or make phone calls. He delegated that work to others.
I think most people today do the opposite. We’re so concerned with multitasking, with getting all the work within 50 feet of our desks done, that we rarely work in the functions we are primarily hired to handle. Eventually, we wonder why we aren’t making more money or being promoted.

Determine what it is you’re best at, then do your best to delegate the areas where you are weak to others. My sales friend’s weaknesses may have displeased some of his coworkers, but at the same time none of them would (or could) take on his sales work either. He was doing what he was strong at, and relying on them to do what they were best at.

Concede on your weaknesses – nobody’s perfect

None of us are – or ever will be – perfect. Accept it and move on. You can waste a lot of time and effort trying to be perfect, and despite your best efforts, you won’t achieve it. It will be better to work on improving what it is you are good at, since that is usually where your greatest income earning capabilities are.

Unfortunately, it will not be easy to ignore your weaknesses. It often seems as if businesses these days insist that we’re nothing less than perfect. That can be tough to stand against. But stand you must, because your career and your future rely on what it is you are good at.

This isn’t to say that you should ignore your weaknesses completely, but rather that you must concentrate most of your improvement efforts on your strengths instead.

Playing your own game

In order to be good at anything, you have to have high levels of comfort and confidence in what you are doing. That often flows naturally where your strengths are concerned. Your weak spots, however, can cause conflict and take you off your game.

If you look at anyone who is good at anything, they have the uncanny ability to focus on what is most important and to block out everything else. If you spend too much time trying to improve on your weaknesses, you’ll be giving in to distractions that will keep you from doing what is you do best. It’s also likely that you’ll never become particularly good in your areas of weakness. And, your best efforts will probably not improve either your performance or your income. Only becoming better at your strengths can do that.

Admittedly, this is going to be difficult to do in today’s job market. Nearly everything seems to be pointing in the opposite direction, that we need to be generalists or at least competent in everything. It’s a trend we have to resist. Being a generalist makes you just like everyone else. But by being a specialist in something you’re good at is where you stand out from the crowd.

That’s where money and promotions come from.

How about you all? Have you identified your strengths and do you work to improve them? Do you get resistance to that effort on the job? 

Share your experiences by commenting below!

    ***Photo courtesy of


    1. myfijourney says:

      Even in the world of specialists, you still have to do lots of things you aren't good at. I routinely get assigned tasks or project areas that are outside of what I'm good at. In my opinion, flexibility is the key. You may get hired because you are an expert at something. But there's no reason to think that your job description and your yearly objectives will end at that.
      My recent post Recent Buy – Lockheed Martin (LMT)

    2. So I can analyze data like it's going out of style, but when it comes to selling an idea, my coworker is better than I am. In order to become a more well rounded person, I've been focusing on increasing my “sales” ability. But you might be right, if I spend even more time on what I already rock at, that's where my “market value” might me. It's worth thinking about…
      My recent post The Frugal February Challenge Recap

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