By Natalie Losada
You might argue that most professional development events feel very much the same. The lecturer is mostly talking at you and not with you. Most of the tips will be about what you should do more of or what you should do better. But what if you could truly understand your professional identity and leadership style in a new way? At this Rutgers iJOBS event led by Scott Borden attendees were introduced to the CliftonStrengths assessment. It was developed by Donald Clifton at the Gallup organization, a group that gives advice to clients—companies and small teams—to achieve their goals. Clifton saw that traditional psychotherapy focused on weaknesses instead of strengths. To change that, his assessment helps you take an introspective look to find your strengths, your CliftonStrengths.
The assessment is designed to help you discover yourself. With 177 questions and only 20 seconds to answer each one, CliftonStrengths by Gallup looks at your values and personality. The results will show you your top five strengths from up to four different domains: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking. For example, my assessment showed I had a strength in every domain (for my top five) and I had two in the Influencing domain. My number one strength is “Woo”, which means that I enjoy meeting new people and making connections. All strengths have a one-word descriptor. My other four top strengths were Includer (aware and help those feeling left out), Arranger (enjoys organizing for more productivity), Communication (find it easy putting thoughts to words), and Context (enjoy thinking about the past to understand the present). The assessment results also explain what actions you take with this strength and bring light to points of your personality you might not have realized.
The assessment was taken in advance on your own time to avoid distractions and delays, so we initially shared what all our top five strengths were. But in addition, Scott also asked everyone what they wanted to get out of the assessment. He explained that learning something without a goal can be just as unhelpful as not learning at all. Scott suggested having solid questions of what you aim to take away from any assessment before starting, so the results will be of most value to you. For example, a participant answered that they want to narrow down the types of jobs to apply to with this assessment because they are about to graduate.
With your specific goals in mind, you can begin the career journey where you can start with the assessment. But why should we self-assess with a tool like CliftonStrengths? Sometimes people don’t accurately assess themselves on their own, or they simply don’t assess themselves frequently enough. The model for a career journey is a circle because you can keep rediscovering yourself in different stages of life with new interests or values. A strength is where your skills, interests, and values all overlap, which is why they can change, and you can rediscover yourself with a fresh assessment.
Scott led a couple of different activities to help us process our strengths. One exercise showed how harnessing your strengths is more joyful and easier than focusing on what does not come naturally to you. He explained that people have more confidence, positive energy, and engagement this way. People are also less stressed and have a better quality of life when using/improving strengths instead of improving or building off weaknesses.
Scott continued by helping us truly understand the four domains of CliftonStrengths. He asked everyone to think of what they admire in a leader and draw their vision of a leader on a piece of paper. Some of the desired traits in a leader were: capitalizing on everyone’s strengths, empathy, giving credit where it is due, and emotional intelligence. Interestingly, a participant’s drawing of a leader became a metaphor: the team members were drawn as a food dish and the leader was holding them all. The drawing showed that the whole team is on the same playing field, but the leader carries everyone.
With this image of a leader in mind, Scott explained that the qualities and skills we listed to describe a leader are all skill categories from the four domains—Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking. This is because the four domains were built from leadership strengths/skills. And they can further be understood when you know what question you are answering in that leadership domain, and what role you’re meant to play in the team (diagram below).
CliftonStrengths is only part of the equation. You need have and use the knowledge and skills. More importantly, you need to practice these skills intentionally, and with time and effort, you'll develop all your strengths. Once you know them and harness them, aim to be more confident in your networking, build better professional relationships, and start looking at jobs that fit your strengths. If you haven’t already tried, set up some informational interviews, and ask them if they use the strengths you have in their job. Ask if there are specific strengths valued in that career. Informational interviews are a great way to explore without negative consequences, gain a larger network, and shorten the leap from your skills to the actual job tasks. If you want to learn even more about yourself, you can also check out these self-assessment resources Scott Borden recommended: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DiSC, True Colors, Self-Directed Search, Knowdell Values, and SkillScan. Happy exploring!
This article was edited by Junior Editor Juliana Corrêa-Velloso and Senior Editor Samantha Avina.
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