During the interview phase for my current position as the Public Involvement Coordinator for a large engineering firm, I was given a personality test. While I love personality tests like the Myers-Briggs, etc. I also worried that a diagnostics test might reduce me (at least on paper) to someone I’m not. As I talked to my (now) boss about it during the weeks leading up to my job offer, she assured me that my worries were misplaced and that she and the company used the information they gathered in order to better construct effective teams and ensure that projects are rounded out with the right personalities. So, when I received my copy of Strengths Finder 2.0by Tom Rath, I skimmed it over it and quickly found the code in the back to go online and take my test – nervous but excited for my results.
The book’s general premise is that we all do better when we maximize our own strengths rather than focusing on bringing our weaknesses up to par. It’s a philosophy that I definitely approve of – and while I don’t see too much harm in trying to improve one’s weaknesses, it seems to make sense to capitalize on your strengths first and foremost. The book, in order to help people identify their strengths, asked questions on a sliding scale that helped inform an evaluation of 5 key strengths, from about 34 they’ve identified. After taking the test, I came away as the following:
At first, I was pissed. To me these were the strengths of a total dreamer – minus the achiever. I was hoping for something with more solid footing. These were not the strengths I hoped to convey to a potential employer, and now I was stuck with them. Who wants someone full of strategies and ideas and fascinated with learning? As valuable as these things can be, they aren’t necessarily the makings of a stellar employee. I honestly felt really despondent for a while thinking that this kind of profile shot me in the foot. But when I finally got the courage to share my test results with my boss we had a wonderful realization that our strengths were nearly the same! I took this as a great relief since she is a pretty young woman, who has risen to VP in the company, and built her own unique strategic communications group within an engineering firm – no easy task.
The Strengths Finder system is a fantastic way to help understand yourself and what you have to offer. Because the personality themes identified on the test are not your typical personality definitives – they are broader and more thematic, they offer a different perspective to analyze your personality. For example, I was a bit confused by the meaning of my Ideation theme (lover of ideas, revels in taking the world and turning it over to look at it in new ways), but the more I read about it, the more I realized it really fits me! And, it has been a major driver of some of my big life decisions. Because I know that I can tend to be caught up in ideas, and get more entangled in creative thinking than planning I tend to naturally surround myself with two types of people – either those who help me idle away my time discussing and analyzing the world around me like my sisters, and my Dad; or those who provide me some structure and balance me out – like my husband, my best friend, and my mother. In looking back at my life, some of my most bonding friendship have been with other Ideators who sometimes seem to understand and follow my thoughts better than other people, but my more fruitful and long-lasting relationships are with those who provide an analytical balance to my ideation – the people who help me give my dreams footing in the real world.
Similarly, I find that the skill of individualization really helps me hone in on personalities around me. I tend to have a very intuitive understanding of what makes people tick and I take great pleasure in considering the topic and understanding its real-world ramifications. But, being prone to individualization I sometimes fell into the trap of giving people more leeway than they deserve, or enabling behavior because I understand the root causes of it and feel sympathetic. I find that I am often put off by generalizations; for example, I used to date a guy who routinely referred to people according to the sport they liked or the business they were in – I found it annoyingly reductive and often called him out on it. I do well to balance my tendency to evaluate a situation relative to the personalities in it, with a healthy dose of considering how more general rules should apply. This could probably have saved me many a bad decision looking back on my past.
My Strategic and Achiever roles did not surprise me too much. Ever since I was a small child my parents have marveled at my ability to manipulate things and people around me. Often this is seen as a bad thing, but I don’t think it has to be bad. Just because I once (as A CHILD) used these skills to get my sisters to give me foot massages and help me clean, does not mean I never used my talents for good! I did and do! Strategic is a skill I’m proud of, and I think it indicates a good forward-thinking approach to life. Achiever is what you would expect. If there is a bar to reach, I tend to try to reach it. I like to tick off the boxes and mark things as “complete” on my lists. It is immensely satisfying to me to watch progress happen and to set goals and fulfill them. No shockers there.
My last skill is learner – and I find that one amusing. I tend to assume everyone likes to learn – but apparently they don’t! Lately I have really seen it in action. Being pregnant it such an opportunity to learn. For me, though it might not be something you’d expect, issues about motherhood and birth have always been a special interest. I have always wanted to be a mom – be it a very abstract desire that I, even now, still am not sure I’m ready for. But, now that I am pregnant I find that I’m delving even deeper into reading and learning about the process. I can’t get enough information. Just how much I’ve been taking in hits me on days like today when I toured a birthing center. Clearly I was the least pregnant person on the tour, yet I was the one with the most questions! Anyway, this has been a post of a lot of navel gazing self-assessment, which I’m sure is very boring. But, I have to say, the Strengths Finder 2.0 book is a really interesting tool to look at yourself in a new and different way. I think it is a wonderful tool to help people capitalize on their strengths and identify the patterns that function best and most productively in their lives. I’d recommend it to anyone who is in a time of self-evaluation and change in their lives. It can truly help to reformulate the way you see yourself and the ways you market your skills in the workforce.