Imagine you enter an interview for a job and an executive asks you: “What’s your superpower?” How would you respond? Your answer would require the insight to know how your differentiators contribute value to your prospective employer and fuel your passions at the same time. Knowing your superpower – something that is different about who you are and how you behave that has contributed to your success – is essential for your career journey and your organisation’s growth. Based on recent research by Lauren Noël and Christie Hunter Arscott, discover actions you can take to unleash your signature value add for the benefit of your company.
In our conversations with colleagues around the world who are interviewing for jobs across industries – consumer goods, technology, professional services – we have noticed a growing trend. In the interview process, they have been asked an interesting question: “what’s your superpower?”
We were recently talking to an early career woman who had just joined one of the world’s top employers for millennials. She was talking to us about her experience with her interview for the job. She shared that the only question she was asked during her final interview before the offer was made was: “So, what’s your superpower – what makes you-you?”. We know how important it is to hire the right person.1 We thought it was odd for her not to be asked about her work history, specific accomplishments, or even the expected question about where she saw herself in five years. She then shared that it was arguably the most important question she had ever been asked in an interview. Why? It made her reflect on who she really was – what was it within her that made her tick; what special edge did she have that would make her a great contributor at work?
These conversations got us thinking about our research and work with early career women.2 Imagine you were about to go for an interview for a job that you were excited about and were asked that same question. How would you respond? Your answer would require the insight to know how your differentiators could be used to contribute value to your prospective employer and fuel your passions at the same time. This has nothing to do with being boastful, but rather entails being clear and confident about your signature value add.
Let us make one point clear: Reflecting on your superpowers does not mean, in any way, that in addition to all the other stresses and expectations in your life, that you now need to be Super Woman! To the contrary, instead of trying to be all things to all people, we are simply asking you to think about what makes you-you. What drives you? What unique skills and insights do you have that have served you well over the years? What do you really enjoy doing? Then ask yourself: How can these inner drivers, qualities, and passions be unleashed to produce tangible and unique benefits to your company?
We were in conversations recently during a leadership programme with two colleagues, Professor Linda Hill from Harvard Business School, and Professor Doug Ready from the MIT Sloan School, who co-authored, along with Jay Conger, a highly popular Harvard Business Review article: “Are You a High Potential?”.3 The article is filled with important insights into what traits companies are looking for to have employees placed in their companies’ high potential talent pools. With its organisation-centric perspective, this is a very helpful article for companies. But we believe there’s another part to this story – the employee-centric piece. With that in mind, here are actions rising star women can take as they set out on their career journeys.
About the Authors
Lauren Noël is the Managing Director of QUEST, a global leadership centre for early career women. In 2017, Lauren was named to the Thinkers50 Radar list of the 30 management thinkers most likely to shape the future of how organisations are managed and led and was shortlisted for the 2017 Thinkers50 Talent Award. She holds an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christie Hunter Arscott is an expert on gender and generational strategies. She is a Rhodes Scholar, World Economic Forum Global Shaper, and Managing Director of QUEST. In 2017, Christie was named to the Thinkers50 Radar list of the 30 management thinkers most likely to shape the future of how organisations are managed and led and she was shortlisted for the 2017 Thinkers50 Talent Award. She can be reached at email@example.com.
1. How to Hire the Right Person, Adam Bryant, New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/guides/business/how-to-hire-the-right-person
2. QUEST Special Report: What Executives Need to Know About Millennial Women, Lauren Noël and Christie Hunter Arscott, https://www.herquest.org/inspire_millennial_women.php
3. Are You a High Potential?, Douglas A. Ready, Jay A. Conger, and Linda A. Hill, Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2010/06/are-you-a-high-potential
4. Companies Drain Women’s Ambition After Only 2 Years, Orit Gadiesh and Julie Coffman, Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2015/05/companies-drain-womens-ambition-after-only-2-years
5. The Confidence Gap, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, The Atlantic, www.theatlantic.com/magazine archive/2014/05/the-confidence-gap/359815/
6. QUEST Special Report: Taking Charge – A Roadmap for a Successful Career and a Meaningful Life for High Potential Corporate Women Leaders, Lauren Noël, https://www.icedr.org/research_taking_charge.php
7. QUEST Special Report: Taking Charge – A Roadmap for a Successful Career and a Meaningful Life for High Potential Corporate Women Leaders, Lauren Noël, https://www.icedr.org/research_taking_charge.php