Need to find the perfect career? This is where you need to start

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It's all about you.
It's all about you.
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Struggling to find your dream job? You’re not alone.

It’s a tough decision – and most people battle with the question of what they really want to do.

If you’re lucky, you might have a passion – but finding the right job is not just about doing what you love, it’s also about finding the right fit for you. And that means finding out more about you – digging deep to ensure you know yourself even better than you think you do.


A favourite interview question is, “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses.” Sounds simple, right? But it’s not as easy as it sounds, and it takes time to establish exactly what these are.

In order to identify your strengths, you need to assess your skills and make a list with three sections:

  • Knowledge-based skills that you get from education and experience, such as computer skills and languages
  • Transferable skills that you can use in any job, such as problem-solving ability and communication
  • Personal traits are your unique qualities, such as being a hard worker, a team player and being reliable.

Once you have made your own list, take a leap of faith and ask others for their input. Most people are poor judges of their own capabilities, says Erich Dierdorff, a management lecturer at the Driehaus College of Business at America’s DePaul University.

“Self-awareness is understanding who we are and how we are similar to, or different from others,” Dierdorff wrote in an article in the Harvard Business Review. For a complete picture of ourselves we also need to know how others see us, he adds.

Alexis Kitchen of Afrizan Personnel in Joburg agrees. “One of our favourite interview questions is what you think your references might say if asked about your strengths, followed by what they might consider your weaknesses or areas which need development.

“This requires that the candidates consider feedback they have received about performance, rather than their own perception of it, and this is often telling. We always ask their referees these questions.”


What do you do when asked about your weaknesses? It can be a tricky one, but you’ll need to have a few answers up your sleeves.

“Don’t say ‘I have none’, because nobody is perfect,” says Brenda Bensted-Smith, CEO of Ad Talent recruitment specialists.

It shouldn’t be a personal failing – no one wants to admit to those, especially to people who they don’t know and might end up being their boss.

 “You can use a professional weakness, such as lack of experience (not ability), or turn a weakness into a positive and explain how you are working at improving it,” Bensted-Smith says.

“For example, you could say, ‘I’m reluctant to let go and tend to do everything myself, feeling like nobody can do it as well as me, but I’m learning to delegate, with excellent results’.”


It’s not easy to find a job that requires only one skill.

“Employers want people with a spectrum of talents,” says Jack Molisani, author of Be the Captain of Your Career (2014). And it’s important to focus on developing skills that will make you appealing to future employers.

Depending on your field, you may have to complete certain training. Set a goal to get the skill or degree within a specific time. However, before enrolling – and potentially taking on debt – think about why you want the qualification, and if it’s going to make a difference in your career.

Do your research and find out if there are online courses or if you need to study at an institution. Take advantage of training courses your employer offers.

“Most companies have access to Seta (Sector Education and Training Authority) funds for training, so talk to your HR department and see if they can assist you to fund a relevant course or qualification,” says Lorna O’Brien of O’Brien Recruitment in Cape Town.


Once you’ve done your research and assessed your strengths and weaknesses, make a list of what you need to do next:

  • What skills do I need for the job I want?
  • What weaknesses must I address immediately?
  • Which strengths should I improve?
  • How much time do I devote to them? 

Top tip:

“Tell me about yourself.” This should be a familiar statement to anyone who’s attended an interview.

“It’s the most commonly asked question, so rehearse it because it’s important,” says Brenda Bensted-Smith, CEO of Ad Talent recruitment specialists. “Describe your qualifications, work history and your acquired skills, emphasising the skills required for the position on offer.”


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