My biggest weakness

Much effort in the MSU MBA program is aimed towards the job search process of applying, interviewing, etc. Looking at certain jobs is very exciting to me, but the preparation and interviewing often seems like drudgery to me, especially the aspects that do not really relate to your performance in the position.

I have spent some time going through example behavioral interview questions, looking for good answers I can give to display my skills and abilities. Questions like “What is your biggest weakness?” are so simple they might not even be on the list from career services, but I should definitely be prepared. Today, I realized a good and very honest answer to that question.

My biggest weakness is that I quickly develop a reputation for critical thinking and quality ideas. That may sounds like a strength, but I have recently been realizing how I am used to operating in an environment where I have a reputation. Because of my reputation, I do not have to use a lot of explicit persuasion nor do I have to focus on my image; people value what I say because of who I am. I have been very good at continuing my reputation, but I rarely need to establish a reputation from scratch.

In high school and earlier, my last name came with a reputation. It was the same way at work. In college, I established my reputation for performance by scoring well on tests. I don’t have any data to back this up, but I suspect my grades on subjective assignments like essays and reports were higher in classes when I had previously done well on an objectively graded assignment compared to classes where there were no previous assignments. I can remember taking an electrical class in 4-H and being confused why I was being treated like I wasn’t very smart. It was a really strange feeling! I now realize that it was because they knew nothing about me.

Talking and interviewing with recruiters is a critical time to establish a reputation from scratch. You want to tell them how incredibly wonderful you are, while not sounding cocky or arrogant. Quite honestly, I can do either one but am not very good at doing both. Not only that, but I have very little drive to do so. Typically I am quite aware of my limitations, and others do the work of promoting me. This is quite the opposite of “selling myself,” which has been highly recommended by the people here. The alternative to doing this is to employ my network of contacts. If I have an associate of mine talk to a potential hiring manager about how great I am, I can walk into the interview with a positive reputation already started.

Much earlier I said something about aspects of the job search process not relating to your performance in the job. I realize that some jobs, such as sales, require that you “sell yourself” and quickly establish your reputation among complete strangers. That is a job I certainly do not want, probably because of that exact reason. I would much rather work somewhere where my performance impresses people and they sing my praises for me.

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