If you’ve listened to personal development podcasts, or have found your way into the self-help section of your local library, then you might have heard of StrengthsFinder. But if you’re unfamiliar or want to learn a bit more, we’re going to answer the question “What is StrengthsFinder?” and help you understand how it can help you get unstuck in your career.
What is StrengthsFinder?
StrengthsFinder is a book and assessment tool based on the philosophy of Don Clifton. The book and the online assessment were published in 2001 by Gallup (you know, the good people who bring you all of those polls.) Since then it has become a staple in the world of personal and career development and over 18 million (!!!) people have taken the assessment.
Clifton’s philosophy focuses on finding your top strengths and then capitalizing on them. His research found that while it great to know your weaknesses and seek to improve, focusing your energy on what you do well and doing the most of that in your work in life offers a stronger likelihood of success.
StrengthsFinder breaks down strengths into 34 themes and the assessment tool and resulting reports help participants understand what they are great at, how they can maximize those talents, and what blind spots to look for.
How does the StrengthsFinder Assessment Tool Work?
If you love a good Buzzfeed quiz, then you’ll be all in for the StrengthsFinder assessment. It’s a bit longer than your average “Which Disney Character best exemplifies your fashion sense?” quiz as it takes about 35 minutes to answer all 177 questions.
Don’t worry though, the questions are simple. There is a grid of five blocks with two answer choices at each end. You then have to choose which of the two answer choices best describes you and to which extent.
For example, on one side of the scale you have “I am a sensitive person” and on the other side you have “I am a logical person.” Then you choose the box for Strongly Describes Me under “sensitive” or “logical”, or choose of the two boxes that represent “that’s kind of like me” or the box for Neutral.
See some examples of how StrengthsFinder questions work on the Gallup website.
Why StrengthsFinder for Career Development
One of my go-to Career Development frameworks is the Career Sweet Spot, the overlap between Strengths, Passions, and the Value You Add to Others. I love this framework because it is straight forward and helps clients to think about their careers from an internal perspective and external perspective.
The problem is that sometimes people get hung up on one of the three areas. Maybe they can rattle off their passions, but they don’t know their strengths. Or perhaps they know what value they could bring to others/what people might pay them to do, but don’t feel strongly about anything to call it a passion.
So I find it helpful to use other tools to break down the three areas of the Career Sweet Spot and help coaching clients uncover some really cool stuff about themselves so they can identify their sweet spot and then take action to get there.
Since we’ve broken down passions in previous posts it’s high time to dive into strengths and figuring out what you are good at! If your strengths don’t roll off the tongue, remember that they are absolutely 100% there, you just might need to help to identify them.
My StrengthsFinder Results
StrengthsFinder takes a look at strengths from a much deeper level than “good at math” or “strong communication skills.” Instead, it comes at strengths from a thematic level which (nerd alert) I LOVE.
Here are my top 5 strengths from StrengthsFinder:
Achiever: I like big goals and I cannot lie.
Maximizer: Pump up the strengths, pump them up (my own strengths and those of others.) Also, good at connecting different unrelated concepts. So now this post on one-piece swimsuits and career development makes sense.
Futuristic: I believe the children (and the adults) are our future. The past is history, the future is now! Becca Carnahan: 2020.
Strategic: Good at finding creative solutions and identifying patterns (my inner Olivia Benson)
Ideation: Friends, Romans, Countrymen. Talk to me about your ideas! Brainstorms and empty white pages are my jam.
YUP, that sounds about right!
So while in many ways this was a confirmation of what I felt to be true about myself, I found the assessment particular interesting because it gave me food for thought on how I could use these strengths to their full potential. Really lean into them!
For example, as an Achiever, I’m always going to want to be accomplishing something. If I don’t have big goals I’m going after I won’t feel like myself and if I’m not working hard I get antsy. So I need to feed that strength by continuing to seek opportunities to be productive, while also being aware that I need to stop and celebrate wins before barreling ahead to the next thing.
Want to Give StrengthsFinder a Try?
Intrigued by StrengthsFinder and how it could impact your career? You can buy the book on Amazon for $14.59 and it comes with a personalized access code to take the online assessment.
Once you identify your strengths, incorporate them into the Career Sweet Spot exercise and see how the things you are innately good at overlap with what you are passionate about and how you could add value to the lives of others.
And if you’re feeling awesome about your career but another area of your life is feeling a little off, there are StrengthsFinder books for students, marriage, and parenting.
Enjoy finding out how awesome you are!
With a strong feeling that you’re going to like this one (see what I did there?),