It’s Time to Tap Into your Dependable Strengths

what are your strengths
Play your strengths. Disregard your weaknesses.

That works playing poker and taking exams. It can also work in getting hired.

Odd statements for those of us with disabilities, right? After all, whether we’ve acquired a disability at some point in our lives or lived with it since birth, we’ve been urged by well-meaning others to focus on how we can become “more normal” in walking, talking, seeing, hearing, interacting, perceiving etc. As a result, we usually find ourselves focusing primarily on what others consider our “weaknesses.” We then fool ourselves into thinking that we’re less than “normal.” For instance, as a person with cerebral palsy, I realize that I’m a “little off center” due to a slight curvature in my spine when I look at myself in the mirror. That’s a downer. I feel less than who I really am. But, having a slight curvature in my spine doesn’t matter. What really defines me as a person (and a job seeker) is my “dependable strengths.”

The Dependable Strengths Articulation Process

What really counts is personal strength – not individual weakness. That was the basic philosophy of the late Dr. Bernard Haldane, originator of today’s Dependable Strengths Articulation Process (DSAP) for college students. In the 1940s, the Society for Advancement of Management asked Dr. Haldane to help World War II veterans find jobs. He picked the brains of executives and followed job candidates and realized many didn't know how to market their potential. So, he asked veterans about what they did well, summarized their dependable strengths and tailored their sales pitches according to those strengths. He started calling his approach to discovering “good” personal experiences the pathway to identifying "dependable strengths."

Here’s one approach he taught job seekers: Go into an interview and, before any questions come up, list your four personal strengths and then ask, "Which one do you prefer I tell you about?" Prominent business consultant Peter Drucker called Dr. Haldane a "pathfinder in finding human strength and making it productive."

Today, Dr. Haldane’s DSAP takes college students through specific steps to help them identify their unique pattern of core strengths (their dependable strengths) -- those things they naturally do well and enjoy doing. With this as a foundation, students then build a "report" on their dependable strengths and are taught how to use the report to gather information from others as to how and where they might best express their dependable strengths. That report becomes a useful tool for tapping into the hidden job market (jobs not listed on job boards) where 80 percent of the available jobs initially become available, but only become known to 20 percent of the job seekers because they hear about them through personal networking. According to the DSAP, the report makes a personal resume irrelevant.

Full Disclosure

I first became acquainted with Dr. Haldane in 1992 when I became one of the first job seekers with a disability to pay for the services of Bernard Haldane Associates, which had grown into a national career-consulting firm. I was making a career transition and became intrigued by the Haldane philosophy about how to get hired. In 2013, I became certified as a Dependable Strengths facilitator for College Students. Part of that training was developing my own Report on my Dependable Strengths.

The New Path to Personal Growth

Old tradition says, "Find out what you did wrong and never do it again."
New wisdom says, "Find out what you did right, so you can be sure to do it again."
The old way suggests moving ahead while looking back over your shoulder.
The new way suggests moving forward by finding safe footholds and continuing to climb.

The Benefits

As an intervention, the DSAP for college students:
• Increases self-esteem.
• Provides a motivation to achieve.
• Leads to responsible, productive behavior.
• Changes the locus of control from the external to the internal.
• Promotes a feeling of empowerment to make further education, training and career decisions.
• Reduces stress through improved relationships and authentic interpersonal communication.

This enables us to determine college majors, internships, work, future careers, etc., that match our strengths. In addition, going through the DSAP promotes connectedness and provides a base for building teams and/or study groups. Exactly how all this happens is, in some ways, a mystery. But, here’s one way to look at this phenomenon. We all want to grow at our own pace and at own style. But, growing requires change, and we fear that change because it involves the unknown. What is known is that people rarely apply as much as 20 percent of their potential, so there is much room for growth. When we come to know more of our resources and potential, we become less afraid of stepping into the future.

The idea that we learn and grow through our mistakes is commonly accepted today. Yet, the DSAP for college students takes a different path. By learning from our successes and recalling our good experiences, we can recognize and use more of our potential. As a result, we become free to use, develop, or combine our good experiences in different ways to accommodate change. Change, then, comes to mean adaptation and flexibility instead of the unknown that needs to be avoided and feared.

For me, as a person with a disability who treasures being a part of the competitive job market and living independently, that is the ultimate definition of “freedom.” Realizing that type of freedom, of course, assumes I have come to terms with my feelings of vulnerability. Making peace with my disability is another introspective journey that I found I needed to pursue before tackling this exercise in identifying my dependable strengths.

The DSAP Process

We need to see a true reflection of ourselves (like looking in a mirror) before we can take advantage of our strengths. And, one way to do that is to get honest feedback from others who have our best interests at heart. As an interactive, group intervention, the DSAP can be delivered in a workshop or college course format. You can even go through the process yourself in an online environment.

But, I find the best way to tap the potential the DSAP offers is by joining a group of three other individuals who are each dedicated to helping one another discover dependable strengths. That’s where can help you. By working together with three of your friends (perhaps fellow job seekers you’ve met through your community), you can uncover the dependable strengths you had no idea you have. It will bolster your confidence as a job seeker. Even if the others in your small group don't know you, having to explain to those group members what a “good experience” means to you will help you put your job marketing campaign on a sound track. Working alone in trying to find a job, you may just not recognize those answers that have always been there for you.

This is a self-help approach. You need to come up with your own analysis about how you can become a more engaging job candidate. Employers hire individuals they personally like. Face each other, preferably in person, and collaborate on finding answers for yourselves. Ask yourselves “what,” “how,” “when” and “who” (your behavior -- what’s the evidence?) -- but never ask, “Why?” If your group can’t meet in person, try meeting regularly through telephone conferences, Skype, instant messaging, private forums etc. At any rate, form a group of four people (including you) who are willing to mentor and support one another -- all with one purpose: identify the dependable strengths in each other.

Here’s a paperback guide for helping you do just that: “Articulating Strengths Together (AST): An Interactive Process to Enhance Positivity” by Jerald R. Forster.

Copyright © 2015. Hasse Communication Counseling, LLC. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Jim Hasse (, Global Career Development Facilitator, has compiled and edited the recommendations of HR experts and the personal observations of both jobseekers and hiring managers into Perfectly Able: How to Attract and Hire Talented People with Disabilities (, a comprehensive disability recruitment guidebook for hiring managers published by AMACOM (September 2010), the publishing arm of the American Management Association. He’s the founder of, a comprehensive career coaching guide for parents of youngsters with cerebral palsy, and owner of Hasse Communication Counseling, LLC, which develops win-win direct mail fundraisers for champions of disability employment.