Today, I want to share a story because I met this person a few days after my workshop: Leading with your Strengths. It is a great example of how you can apply your strengths and skills to find your intersection or sweet spot in a job search process.

Sitting across from me is an accomplished man. He feels beaten down, having heard he was a finalist in not one, but two jobs that he lost out to his competition. It is quite clear that the spark and enthusiasm he needed for our networking meeting was on low flame.

During our conversation he apologized for his lack luster mood.  It was one of those days – the thought of going through the motions of yet another networking meeting probably felt more like work than fun.

Fortunately for him, I was not a recruiter or potential hiring company, but a career coach who understands the roller-coaster ride that job hunters face every day. It is time to ask him about his background and let him talk.

Prior to the meeting, I had looked on LinkedIn and noticed he was a couple of courses away from obtaining a Master’s Degree in Organizational Development. I was curious about his choice of study, especially coming from a traditionally technical career.

The excitement in his voice comes alive when shares a highlight in his career as an operations manager – especially at one company.  In partnership with colleagues, he developed a team based operations group whose performance soared because they were specific roles and responsibilities. Each team member had an area of specialty and understood how they contributed to producing a quality product.

Soon, there was little doubt that he was passionate about organizing and managing people. This focus differentiates him from other operations manager candidates who are more technical and lack people skills.

The question is: Is he leveraging his strength or differentiation to his advantage?

The answer was: NO.

When you try to compete against everyone on their terms, you’ll lose more than win – especially if you are different. You have to change the rules or playing field to win.

The greatest advantage you have is finding the intersection between two sets of skills or strengths and using that uniqueness to your advantage in any interview or job situation.

Think of the intersection for two skills or strengths as your sweet spot. It might mean you have fewer opportunities to pursue, but it means the ones that you do pursue are a better fit.

Finding your sweet spot is a challenge because you may be blind to what your strength or differentiation is.

For example, you may use your strength or skill so regularly that you think it doesn’t stand out but to others it does. Another example is your strength is something you used in the past and have not been able to use recently so your strength becomes dormant.  Your strength is still there; it just needs a jump-start. Finally, sometimes your strengths come from areas that are unobvious or overlooked.

There were companies where the operations manager worked and did not stay because of differences with the owners or company culture. Not all operations manager roles are created from the same template and the strengths required inside companies could vary widely.

Once you know your strength or skill intersection/sweet spot, develop a focused plan and you will increase your job-hunting efficiency. Getting interviews with the right companies is better than getting interviews with every company.