Building on Your Strengths to Earn Promotion

The usual advice to chemical professionals desiring a promotion or coveted job transfer is to focus on their weaknesses and overcome them. However, there is an alternative approach that may be far more effective, particularly for individuals with no glaring weaknesses: focus on your strengths and emphasize using them in your current job assignment to obtain outstanding results and recognition from your management.

Identify your most important strengths

To begin doing this, identify these strengths. Don’t forget to list “soft” skills such as managing projects and organizing the work of others. Make your list specific.

Identify your best accomplishments

Identify the accomplishments you achieved because of each specific strength in your list. For example, in developing a particular new product, Product A, your skills in designing meaningful laboratory performance tests may have been critical.

Sometimes two or more strengths may have been major contributors to your success. For example, after developing Product A, you may have worked with sales and marketing personnel to develop technical bulletins and run field tests to bring the product to full commercialization. Here are at least two more skills that contributed to the commercial success of Product A.

Look at your target new job assignment

This may be a promotion or job transfer with your current employer. Alternatively it may be a new job with a new employer. Determine the strengths essential in the new position. If you can, rank order these strengths. Then decide which of these skills you have demonstrated in your current or previous job assignments. For you to be a strong candidate for the new job there should be a substantial overlap in these two lists.

Focus on your top strengths and demonstrate them

Don’t rush off and apply for the new job. Focus on your top two strengths and look for opportunities to demonstrate these strengths on the job and further develop them.

Keep track of your efforts

Keep an accomplishment sheet that summarizes each of your accomplishments and the strengths you drew on to accomplish them. Discuss these in your performance review. If your performance review is a long way off, find other opportunities to discuss them with your supervisor.

This is essential for the next step in your program to be successful.

Ask for the new job

When you do, be prepared for disappointment. Your supervisor may inform you of additional things you need to do to qualify for your desired promotion of job transfer. If you are prepared for this meeting, you may be able to cite things that will convince your supervisor that you are indeed quite qualified for the new job. Alternatively, you can work with your supervisor to utilize your current strengths or develop new ones that will qualify you for your desired promotion or job transfer.

Consider working for another employer

If the position you desire won’t become open for a long time, use what you’ve learned to hunt for another job. Emphasize your accomplishments and the skills you tapped to achieve them in your résumé, résumé cover letter and all your interviews with potential employers.

John Borchardt is a chemist and freelance writer who has been an ACS career consultant for 15 years. He is the author of the ACS/Oxford University Press Book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers.” He has had more than 1200 articles published in a variety of magazines, newspapers and encyclopedias. As an industrial chemist, he holds 30 U.S. and more than 125 international patents and is the author of more than 130 peer-reviewed papers.

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