By Andrew Eason, Management Intern, Career & Professional Development Services
When exploring careers, sometimes the focus tends to be on what industry best suits your skill set, but often your work value gets left behind and you find yourself cornered into a job you do not enjoy. A popular interview question often heard is “What are your strengths?”. The interviewer is hoping to learn about your skills, but also who you are as a worker and a team member - this can be a tricky question to answer.
A poll by Gallop revealed that only 39% of college graduates are engaged at work and 11% are thriving in all five elements of their well being (Career, Social, Financial, Physical and Community). Skill is important, but finding your strengths will engage you more at work, allow you to find your place within a team, and narrows your values to best optimize your work and overall well being. A method to figure out what these strengths are is to use the test CliftonStrengths formerly known as StrengthsQuest.
Personally, I have taken the test multiple times while attending different higher education institutions, and at different points within my career path. In fact, each professional team I have been involved with has used CliftonStrengths during training and staff developments. I have found it to be a great tool to self reflect on my own values and learn what unique skills I can contribute to my team. With 34 total themes and 5 unique strengths, there is only a 1 in 33.4 million chance that someone would share your exact top 5 strengths.
Once you take the test, you will be given your top 5 strengths categorized within 4 domains: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking. You may have multiple strengths in a domain or you may be lacking one of them altogether. The point of this assessment is for you to focus on those strengths and refine them, reinforcing your positives attributes rather than focusing on the negatives.
It is important to discover these strengths within yourself, but it is exponentially important to implement them within your work and educational careers. This focus on positive psychology will influence your work to encourage diverse and inclusive work cultures.
To better yourself, the test and their messaging focus on destroying the duality of strengths and weaknesses. All strengths live on a continuum and are developed when connected to talent and knowledge. Changing the mindset from “how can I fix myself to not have weaknesses” to “how can I improve my best qualities in order to be the best team member” will drastically change your workplace for the better.
Additionally, this test can push for more diverse workplaces. Your unique set of strengths allows you to see where areas for improvement within your team. For example, if a team has most of their strengths within relationship building and influencing, more logistical issues may come up as there is a gap in the domain of Strategic Thinking.
This test is available here and has a small fee, however many departments and institutions have a code waiving the fee, so if you are interested in taking the test talk, to your supervisor to see if they have a code available for you to use. If you would like to read more, there are great guides and books offered on the website that dives into the implementation of the CliftonStrengths.