Workology: Embracing strengths is great for careers

When her accounting firm made it known that it was looking for a new partner, Robin Peaker decided to put her name forward as a potential candidate.

“I went to them and I said, ‘Why not me?'” she recalled. “And that’s when I was surprised when they said, ‘OK, sure.'”

Peaker, who graduated with an honours bachelor degree in commerce from Hamilton’s McMaster University in 2002, has been with Toronto-based accounting firm Stern Cohen LLP for just over five years.

In that time, the 30-year-old ascended the ranks from an entry-level staffer to manager. As of Feb. 1, she’s a newly minted partner. Still, Peaker admits to feeling a little nervous about initially raising the issue of becoming partner.

“I figured that the worst that I would hear would be, ‘Not yet,’ or ‘Not quite now,'” she said. “And the bright side of that was that it fosters a discussion that I want to have. I want them to point out where I need to make improvements, where I’m weak, where I’m strong, and what to work on, and focus on in the future.”

Career coach Shirin Khamisa, founder of Careers by Design, said an important starting point for those looking to advance their careers is to ask themselves about their definition of career success.

“Often, we think it might be moving into management or moving forward on a certain track that you’re on,” she said. “But when you really ask that question, that really allows you to build or construct a career or advance it in a way where you’re really going to be fulfilled.”

Khamisa said the time early on in careers can be marked by some uncertainty or confusion. What can help is both knowing and embracing your strengths.

For example, she’s seen people who have a creative skill set that can bring a lot of value to their role, but they believe there’s a more direct career path for someone who is analytical.

“They may try to shape themselves into that person or they might set to fit into that skill set to advance further and not tap into that skill set they have that could really propel them further.”

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Career Knowledge Centre