StrengthsFinder 2.0 bookOver the last several years, a number of friends of mine have become well-compensated mid-career professionals with a big problem: They don’t like the careers that they are in the middle of.

This is a tough situation. After you’ve spent so much time digging into a career, it’s very hard to poke your head out of the hole and get a new perspective on what else you could be doing. All you know is that you invested a lot time getting where you are, that you earn a comfortable living, and yet, you really don’t like where you’re going. And the idea of backing out of the hole and starting anew is not only unappealing, it’s confusing.

So where do you start? What do you scrap? What do you keep?

My own career journey

I faced this same issue a few years ago. I had taken a job — a good, well-paid job at PayPal — that took advantage of my unique talents in technology and marketing. Unfortunately, it was often more technology than marketing, and if there’s anything I dislike, it’s spending a whole week trying to get Computer A to talk to Computer B about Database C. I like talking with people instead.

I wasn’t happy, and I needed a career change, but I didn’t know in which direction. What made it harder still was that PayPal was a great place to work. The company’s culture was humane and balanced. The people were intelligent and collaborative. Best of all, there was free breakfast cereal and milk available all the time.

Luckily, Susan Phillips, who was then VP of Marketing at PayPal and is now VP of Human Capital at Omidyar Ventures, graciously took time from her busy schedule to show me a great process using StrengthsFinder 2.0 to help guide me in a new direction — or perhaps more appropriately, to help me select the best path from the many options I had. For me, it was a crucial intervention, and since then I have led several friends through the same process. All of them have found it clarifying if not transformative, and I’ve also learned some unusual lessons along the way. This post is about sharing all of that.

StrengthsFinder in a nutshell

The process is based, in part, on the very short book StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath.

The premise behind StrengthsFinder (yes, I hate the unpronounceable name) is that people are happiest in jobs that take advantage of their core strengths. In some cases, these strengths are obvious to us — that is, they are professional or intellectual skills that we are good at and enjoy. But strengths may also include emotional tendencies or interpersonal preferences, and you can’t ignore those either. To put it simply, you will be happier in jobs that exercise as many of these strengths as possible.

In contrast, jobs that don’t exercise your strength “muscles,” that require you to constantly shore up your weaknesses, or that force you to interact with others in unpleasant ways, will eventually lead to boredom, alienation, and unhappiness. More often than not, this is the root cause of job dissatisfaction for professionals.

StrengthsFinder is designed to help you find the right path by clearly identifying what skills you like to use in your work and how you like to relate to your colleagues. This process is designed to help you figure out these “strengths,” reflect on what’s important for you, and most importantly, to move forward on a new path.

How to use StrengthsFinder to find your next job

You can use StrengthsFinder right away as recommended by the book, but I have a better process that helps you get more insights from the exercise. Here’s how to do it:

1) Buy a copy of StrengthsFinder 2.0. You’ll have to buy a NEW copy of the book to do it, since the book includes a code for the one-time use of its online quiz, and that’s part of the process. You can find a copy at most any mainstream bookstore, and if you care about keeping your local bookstores in business, I strongly recommend you buy one there, NOT at Amazon. Of course, if you’re lazy, here’s a link to buy StrengthsFinder 2.0.

2) Read the introduction and quickly flip through the book, but DON’T take the online test yet.

3) Find the top 4 to 5 strengths that you think apply to you. Again, do this BEFORE taking the online test. Just skim each individual strength, one by one — it should only take 30 minutes or so. When you read about a strength that applies to you, you will often feel an immediate sense of self-recognition. If you’re not sure, read further, but if you don’t feel anything, or you feel repulsed or confused, move on to the next one quickly. Write down the ones you like the most, and winnow them down to no more than five. Let’s call this List 1.

4) Take the online test. This is a very brief psychological test, but take it seriously. Do it in a quiet place with no distractions, because it is timed and there are no do-overs. Just to repeat: you get only one chance to take the test, so follow the instructions and do it right the first time. Note that no specific answer is right or wrong, so just choose the answers that are most meaningful to you. DON’T choose the answers that you think will make you look good — it’s a waste of time and you’ll get less insight into yourself. You’ll get your results of 3 to 5 strengths almost immediately. Let’s call the results of this test List 2.

5) Review the online test results. If you aren’t familiar with the List 2 strengths that the test came back with, read the descriptions. You may not like some of them. They may not comport with your self-understanding, or your ideal of yourself. Maybe you’ve been even trying to suppress some of these feelings. However, there is a reason these strengths came up. In any case, don’t bother retaking the test. I’ve had friends do this, and the results don’t change.

6) Compare List 1 (your self-selected list) and List 2 (the online test list). This is the most interesting part of the process. Having administered this process to several people, I have learned that each list reveals something different but complimentary about a person.

List 1, the self-selected list, is your list of Ideal Strengths. It reveals the skills that you would most like to be using now.  Sometimes, it reveals the skills you most wanted to use when you were starting your career.  Remember then, when you were all bright-eyed and optimistic about your future?

List 2, the online test list, is your list of Deep Strengths. When there are strengths here that are not on List 1, the strengths are often skills that you may have been suppressing, or that have become ingrained in you due to the educational or career path you’ve chosen. Do not ignore these “hidden” strengths, because they reveal something deep about you.

For some people, List 1 and List 2 are nearly the same, and so the results are not surprising. (I was one of these.) For others, there is a marked contrast, and this is a cause for self-reflection on the sources of happiness and unhappiness. The different skills may also explain why it is hard to leave a current job.

For example, a doctor friend of mine learned from List 1 that she wanted more personal interaction with her patients — interaction denied her by the business model of her employer — and that this was a source of unhappiness. At the same time, from List 2 she realized that the highly regimented process of becoming a doctor had made her very risk-averse and somewhat fearful of change. While she didn’t like learning that about herself, it helped her understand that if she was going to make a change, she needed to do it with small, incremental, low-risk experiments. Eventually she undertook those experiments, taking work in a different kind of facility, for example. The process helped her understand that, on balance, her current job was the best path for her, but that she would need more free time to find new sources of satisfaction and personal interaction outside of her job.

In another case, a consultant learned from List 2 that she had a more “spiritual,” people-affirming side. This helped her realize that going from one “hired gun” job to another would never bring her ultimate satisfaction. Rather, she needed to think over the long term about how to increase her opportunities to help people achieve their potential through her work.  This led her away from straight management consulting and into work that had more opportunities for organizational and leadership development.

7) Reflect and write. Write down what you think about each strength. Then give yourself a week or two off.  Reflect on your work, and what makes you happy or unhappy, in light of your List 1 and List 2 strengths. After 2 weeks, read what you wrote, and edit it. See if you have additional insights to add.  Write down ideas for how to incorporate more strengths in your work. (The book itself provides a few ideas for this.) Think about what long-term career direction your might go into to eventually do more of what you love.

8) Act. This is the hardest part, but the most essential. Tell your boss and your colleagues what you want to do more of. Push your work in that direction. Explore other professions through hobbies, informational interviews, classes, or “real” (job) interviews.

In my personal case, I did act. I decided that it was important for me to focus on marketing with a strong strategic aspect — not technology, not product management. While I’m good at those latter activities, they just weren’t stimulating in the right way for me. (I’m a Strategic/Ideation/Input/Intellection/Relator person, by the way. Yes, some of the “themes” aren’t exactly proper English.) I couldn’t find the right job at PayPal, so I eventually found my way to Zecco, where I eventually became of head of marketing, and now I do lots of marketing consulting.

This turned out to be the right decision. And even now, before I face a new gig, I ask: will this work stimulate me? Will it allow me to relate to people the way I want to relate to them? Will I be happier for having taken this job? I recommend that everybody ask these questions of themselves.

Whatever you do, don’t let the old you stand in the way of the new you.  Remember that changes happen slowly.  Also, other people can help you best if you can tell them what you want, not just what you’re not happy with.

One last thing: it’s not unusual for people to take the StrengthsFinder assessment and wonder whether their strength themes should guide them to a particular career. You can read more about this in my post on StrengthsFinder as a career guide.

53 Responses to Finding Your Career with StrengthsFinder 2.0

  1. Aisana says:

    Thanks for the post! It is really helpful to me personally – I have almost the same Signature themes as you but instead of Relator I have Focus.

  2. D2B says:

    Thanks for this great article. However I have a question:
    How to find concrete list of job/activities/professions that suit with our personal Strengths Finder 2.0 test results?
    I know the best is to try but I do not want to jump from jobs to others in every future years.
    Thanks!

    • Daniel Silver says:

      I’ve been thinking about this question a lot, since I’ve noticed that finding the perfect career is what people are sometimes trying to do with StrengthsFinder. You’re “Strategic”? OK, you should be a manager. “Input”? Then you’re a data geek. It would be like “Brave New World” — you just take a test and you’re destined to be an Alpha intellectual for life — or an Epsilon prole.

      The problem is that this process would be incredibly reductive and simplistic. People aren’t destined for any one job or industry, and it would be foolish in this world economy to pigeonhole them anyway. Plus, it is not what the tool is for — and I don’t think you want to use it for that anyway. What’s more useful is to think of it as a diagnostic tool to make sure that a role you are investigating or interviewing for is really a good fit for your deep needs and desires.

      For example, I really like marketing, but there are a number of marketing jobs that are not a good fit for me — like event marketing, say, which is ideal for somebody who likes work that is highly predictable and logistics-oriented. By looking at my strengths, I can quickly see that a particular job is not a match, even if it would seem to line up with my general preferences.

      Also, some qualities, like “Relator,” have nothing to do a particular job or industry. I’m a “Relator,” for example, and I’ve learned that I need to look for work environments that are fairly flat and that have both peers and leadership whom I can trust. This has nothing to do with my role in the company or my industry, and everything to do with the organizational culture of the company and department I work in.

      In summary, even knowing your strengths in depth, you still have to use your head to ask whether a particular job, with these particular duties, with this particular boss, with these particular coworkers, in this particular industry, is a good fit for you. I’d love to provide a simple answer, but it wouldn’t be the right thing.

      • Benjamin says:

        Thanks for this post. Very wise answer. I think it may be helpful to systematize a decision tree or filter. You started to do this with your questions in the last paragraph- do you need a flat organization etc.

        -What is the most important part of a job to you
        -Would you prefer to work for an enterprising and entrepreneurial company or a traditional and predictable one
        -Give examples of times you have enjoyed a task so much you forgot you were working

        Anyways, that is just a start. Great post, very good approach to principle which is widely applicable rather than just a particular instance that say everyone is the same.

        Cherio, and thanks agaoin.

  3. Drew says:

    I’m an undecided college freshman having difficulty deciding on a major and future career path. I completed the Strengthsfinder assessment which identified my areas of strength as Developer, Positivity, Includer, Relator and Consistency. Any suggestions on what I can do with this information to explore areas of study that would lead to a career best suited to my strengths?

    • Daniel says:

      It sounds like you’re a very people-oriented person — that is, you get the most energy from collaborating with others and working to help them achieve their best. I think a more traditional career guidance test would say you should be in a teaching profession, or go into HR. But StrengthsFinder doesn’t do that, and I think that would be a reductive response. The fact is, what you’re looking for is more about the culture of an organization, not a particular industry or role. You could find this ideal cultural environment in a lot of different industries.

      In any case, my guess is that you’re young. You may not think you have time to decide, but you really do. So just try things out! Study things that excite you, do internships, help friends start a business or a non-profit. These experiences will help you find out what you truly respond to and what kind of problems you like to solve. Watch when you’re feeling “flow” and look for opportunities that let you follow that flow again.

      Hope this helps!

  4. Dwayne Konig says:

    I so wanted a test to tell me exactly what i should be doing, but its clear that such a test does not really exist and that i just have to go trough every experience and them maybe one day i will hit that jackpot job or way of life.

    I have done the test and my results were Competition,Command,activator, futuristic and significance. It said that my leadership theme was Influence, i was wondering what type of career would i flourish in?. I am about to start studying Marketing Management but i am so worried i will not reach my full potential, or go in the wrong direction and get stuck.

    • Dwayne —

      As I’ve said in the comment above, one field contains multitudes — that is, different jobs can stimulate you in different ways.

      Plus it looks like your skills are ones that are suitable for an entrepreneur or people manager. But how can you be a manager if you don’t know anything? (Easily, some would say.) Ultimately, you need to have some basic skills — like marketing — that allow you to develop the expertise and confidence for you to rise up and mentor others. So build those skills — as long as you are developing transferable skills, nothing is a waste.

      As for which job, I recommend informational interviews. Talk with people whose jobs you admire or desire. See what they are like, and what motivates them. As with dating, if the job and its challenges are meaningful to you, you will feel a strong attraction. If you don’t feel the attraction, don’t take the job. I know interviewing may feel like a slow process, but it will take way less time than spending 6 months at a job you don’t like. Plus good marketing starts with research, so think of it as customer research practice for yourself. :-)

  5. Nicole says:

    Thank you for this article. I Just completed the assessment and book, not in the order you suggested but I love seeing how right on it was for me BUT like Dwayne I find this knowledge hard to implement into a great career for my future. I am a 1.Adaptability 2.Ideation 3.Connectedness 4.Empathy 5.Relator I have been in client based jobs (where I have to network and “get my name out there” which I hate) they great for my adaptability and ideation but suffer with the connection and relation I need because I work very independently and with different people all the time. I have been searching for something that fits my strengths better but this test (although great insight) left me at a stand still because I would love to start interviewing and begin a new career that encompassed more of my strengths. Any suggestions where to go from here?

    • It sounds like “soft strengths” are important for you, Nicole. What you do right now? There are many client-facing roles that have greater connection, but I’m wondering where you are starting from.

  6. Rob says:

    Daniel,

    I have been struggling with this dilemma. I work in software sales and know it is not the right profession for me, but what to do? I have almost identical sf profile to you: strategic/input/ideation/learner/intellection in that order. I just feel like a square peg in a round hole.

    Rob

    • Rob, it’s true: your profile may not be the best fit for software sales. Now, one thing I’ve noticed is that it’s rare to make a professional leap all at once, so you may think about investigating other opportunities at your company while leveraging the assets you have. For example, you know what customers need; this could be valuable experience if you want to venture from sales into product development or (my favorite) marketing.

      So I’d recommend you talk to people at your company in those areas. In software, product development people may be called product managers, product marketers, or product development managers. Marketing people will often be called marketing managers or marketing communications managers. Depending on the company, these roles may be more or less strategic and planning oriented — you can’t really tell until you find out who really calls the shots. I think you want to be where they call the shots. :-)

      Talk to them and find out what they do, and what their main challenges are. Ask how they got into their roles and what training/education they had. Ask if they are happy or unhappy, and why.

      Most importantly, ask questions that relate to your strengths. These might include: Do you do long-term planning? Do you do research? Does your job require you to keep learning? Positive answers to these questions will give you a sense if it’s the right job for you.

  7. Rob says:

    Thanks a lot Mike, I will put this advice into action. Much appreciate you getting back.

  8. Helena says:

    Thanks for the informative article! I purchased the book yesterday and my top strengths were restorative, harmony, input, developer and deliberative. Do you think these strengths would be suited to a accounting career? I’m a college student who studies marketing but I am thinking of changing my major to accounting because I don’t think I’m aggressive or assertive enough to succeed in marketing. Could you give me some advice?

    • First, it’s interesting that you characterize the skills marketers need as “assertive” or “aggressive” — that’s not been my experience with marketing. (Those characteristics are actually much more common and essential to sales.) What is most important in marketing is a desire to understand people and communicate with them, since that’s what marketing is all about. I wonder if perhaps these characteristics are more common to the people in your marketing class, rather than being typical of marketers you know.

      Plus, the skills you mention might be good for an accounting career, but they might also be just as good for a marketing career. Marketing has many dimensions requiring different types of skills. Quantitative and problem-solving skills are valuable if not essential in some areas, such as digital marketing or market research. I’ve notice, by the way, that market research tends to attract the quieter types.

      I should also point out that accounting has two downsides. One, at least for me, is that it is boring. If you’re the type of person who sorts your books at home by topic, then by size, then by color, you should be an accountant. Two, accountants tend to work long hours, especially at big companies, and especially during month, quarter, and fiscal year ends. Marketers tend to have more manageable schedules.

      So before you jump into accounting, or leave marketing, why don’t you do some market research? Talk to some real accountants and marketers. Ask what they do and how they like it. I think it will be more illuminating to you.

  9. Simon says:

    Hello Daniel,

    First, thank you for this great article. I have a question for you, because you seem to now many things about the SF tests.

    I took the test twice : once the 2.0 test, once the 1.0 test.

    The five strengths resulting are not exactly the same. I know that it means that all these strenghts are present in my personality. I just would like to know what are the functions that would best fit my strengths.

    I now give my strengths by order, like it’s given in the reports.

    My strengths with the 2.0 test :
    – Achiever
    – Competition
    – Strategic
    – Intellection
    – Analytical

    My strengths with the 1.0 test :
    – Analytical
    – Significance
    – Strategic
    – Competition
    – Ideation

    So, my 7 strengths are :
    – Analytical
    – Strategic
    – Competition
    – Achiever
    – Significance
    – Intellection
    – Ideation

    The first three have resulted from the two tests, the others only once.

    Thanks to this data, could you tell me what kind of job would be the best for me ?

    Thank you very much in advance for your advice.

  10. Jason says:

    Daniel
    Thanks for this post. I took the test but didn’t follow this advice. My top five were as follows:
    Futuristic
    Significance
    Restorative
    Learner
    Belief

    I’m currently an engineer with interests in sports and technology. With people who have the futuristic strength that are thriving in their fields. which direction do they normally head in

    • It’s hard to recommend anything without even knowing what kind of engineer you are. Here in Silicon Valley, our “engineers” are typically software engineers, and those who want to dream up new projects often go into product management, or just start a project/company on the side. Plus, what kind of “futurist” are you, and is it even relevant to they type of engineering you do?

  11. Sarah says:

    Hello Daniel,

    I really enjoyed reading this article and the follow up career article as well. Thank you!

    Your comment to Rob (above) was very enlightening, as I feel the exact same way that he did. I am input/intellection/futuristic/learner/achiever and I am working as a nutrition coach. I don’t feel like coaching is a natural fit for me, and I’ve struggled to see why until I completed StrengthsFinder. The strengths that look like natural coaching/counseling/teaching skills to me did not show up on either List 1 (what I thought were my strengths) or List 2 (my deep strengths). Someone told me that instead of getting out of coaching, I should try to mold my practice around my strengths. I tried to do this and yet I still feel like a square peg in a round hole.

    I believe your comment to Rob hit home because it made me think, perhaps I am not crazy for not being able to make this work; perhaps my profile would be better suited to another career. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    Sarah

    • Sarah, I don’t think you are crazy — sometimes you just have a job that doesn’t and can’t fit with your strengths.

      A job mismatch may be a very hard thing to acknowledge. Our natural tendency is to have high emotional attachment to anything we’ve invested in, so if you’ve spent a lot of time training for a particular job, it is very hard to shift gears and imagine what else you could do. Plus, the thought of shifting to something new, uncertain, and maybe less lucrative fills people will fear and dread, regardless of the imagined benefits.

      I could imagine that nutrition coaching might be a challenge, because you like to use a lot of “me-strengths” (strengths focused on developing yourself) rather than “other-strengths” (those focused on helping and cultivating others). I would imagine those “other-strengths” come up most in your personalized, one-on-one health coaching.

      I would recommend that you ask yourself what you like and dislike about your current career. Think about more than just the obvious — think how your career makes you FEEL. Are you bored? Do you dislike your clients? Do you want prestige or validation — which maybe you’re getting now, and are scared to lose? Then ask yourself what people in your field can do to “shake things up.” Maybe there are adjustments you can make to make things better.

      Some fields, however, are what they are and are hard to change. Molding your practice around your preferred strengths may be difficult unless you, say, get into writing articles or books or giving regular seminars — which are ways you can take your knowledge and process it into new ideas. But if that doesn’t work, thing about how to retool to something that gives you more satisfaction.

      • Sarah says:

        Hi Daniel,

        You hit the nail on the head with the emotional attachment piece. The “me-strengths” and “other-strengths” are very interesting- I haven’t thought about that before!

        Your reply was extremely helpful- I can’t thank you enough. I’ve been journaling on those questions, and I’m feeling very hopeful about finding a path that is more aligned with my strengths.

        Thank you!

  12. Eugene says:

    Hi,

    I took the Strengthsfinder test 5 years ago. It was something new to me and I had no idea how to use it to apply it to career search.

    We have two themes in common (Input and Ideation).

  13. Arun says:

    hi,

    I have been searching for something like this for months now, i completed strength finder test, my top five strengths are command, significance, competition,communication,relator ,how can i use them in a productive way, which careers should i focus on or what business should i start to use my strengths.

    i have a bachelor degree in business and finance

    thank you

    • Well, I don’t recommend you go into marketing, at least in English, since your English language skills could use work. But there are lots of other areas that don’t require that: sales, finance, some types of people management. Give something a try in an established business, and just make sure that the job you get makes you excited and interested.

  14. Derik says:

    My top 5 are: Restorative, Analytical, Strategic, Belief Consistency. I’ve worked in roles from product development, to market development, to now heading up a testing lab (leading people as well as doing technical work). None of the roles have given me a sense of satisfaction, and I’m to the point in my career (and life) where I’m beginning to worry that there’s nothing out there for someone with my strengths. I know that’s not really the case, but I feel like I’d have figured out what I “should” be doing by now.

    • It’s challenging when you don’t have held any jobs that have truly inspired you. But it seems like you might be the type of person who likes to understand how things work and fix them. Even if it wasn’t the main focus of your job, have you had any work experiences in this vein that you positively enjoyed? I recommend you think back to when you had the most “flow” in your job — when you were just happily engrossed in whatever you were doing, even if it was just a small or short project. That may provide inspiration and direction…

  15. sapna says:

    My top 5 strengths are Intellection, Input, discipline, Harmony and Responsibility.
    I have primarily been into sales from the begining of my career and after 9 long years of woking in different facets of sales i am somhow disheartened with the way my career is progressing.
    I intend to do something in coaching, training and development, but unfortunately i dont have any experientail knowledge in these domains.
    I am an MBA in sales and marketing as this was the only majors available for selection in the year 2000 when i did my post graduate.
    how can i relate my strengths and make a career shift keeping in mind the HR practises of an economy where your degrees are experience are given more weightage than your passion and talents.

    • Start by self-educating: do you know the coaching, training, and development area well? Do you speak the language? Find some books and read them.

      Where degrees are important, probably so is coursework. Take a class or two. Talk with co-workers, who are more likely to already be in the field. Ask them about their lives: What do they do? Do they like it? What skills are important to do well? Network with them, and explain your interests.

      Then see what you can do in your own company. Can you train or coach others in your organization? Can you make your work more interesting that way?

      After you’ve tried all that, then look for work outside. You’ll demonstrate the knowledge, experience, and motivation to be a good candidate.

  16. Basil says:

    Thank you for the great post.

    I graduated university a year ago and I just quit my technology strategy consulting job with a Big 4 firm. I didn’t like the type of work nor thought that it aligned long term.

    I came across the book “Managing Oneself”, and did a self assessment as Drucker suggests. I wasn’t able to fully define my strengths nor separate them from personal preferences to work or my personal qualities. I recalled at a training week, we had to do Strengthsfinder for a firm training activity. I decided to take the Strengthsfinder test at home at 1 a.m. to compare with my Drucker-based analysis results.

    I ended up with: 1. Context, 2. Input, 3. Intellection, 4. Learner, 5. Command.

    Accordingly to my Drucker self-analysis I was weak at : winging it, co-operation when manners were involved, influencing, multitasking, persuading, adapting, being clever, presenting, resolving conflict, negotiating. I found I was strong at deliberate planning, goal setting, committed attempts, conviction (where I felt I was in unison with my values), focus, and independence.

    I have been trying to see what career or graduate programs might suit me. Any insights to how I could analyze this, or do you have any direct suggestions? Thanks a lot!

    • I don’t recommend you go right back to school. School is just a means to an end: it signals “hey, I wanna do X!” — and it teaches you a few skills needed to get started. Rather, you need to spend more time figuring out what X actually is.

      Reflect on what you liked about the work you did. Was it the subject area? The industry you consulted to? The use of technology? Anything about it? That’s key to finding what’s next.

    • B says:

      Any thoughts?

  17. Aaron Siah says:

    Hi Daniel,

    My top 5 are Discipline, Consistency, Responsibility, Harmony, Learner.

    I’m mostly interested in operational and administrative roles. However, a little part of me feels that I can succeed in sales but I’m having some self doubt. It seems that from my strengths it will be a little difficult for me to enjoy sales.

    What do you think? Any recommendations?

    • You might have challenges — or you might not! Maybe you should give it a try if you that part of you wants to be challenged.

      Sometimes fear gets the better of us. Sometimes we let fear of failure limit our choices and exploration, well before life says, “Eh, you’re probably not good at this.” Sometimes this fear actually cause you to become MORE risk-averse over time.

      Sometimes you gotta shake things up. If you have an opportunity to try sales, try it! If you’re no good, you’ll know it within a few months because you probably won’t make much money. You can always go back to what you know later.

  18. Beth says:

    I had my daughter take the test because she’s 3 semester’s into college and hasn’t decided on a major. Her strength’s: Empathy, Positivity, Input, Developer, Woo. Any suggestions for degree that might get her interested in something that might lead to a fulfilling career?

    • Wait, she’s been in school 18 months and hasn’t figured out what she wants to do for the rest of her life? It’s absurd!

      It seems she likes people. That impetus can go in so many different directions that it’s difficult to recommend any one thing.

      Nevertheless, it’s clear that there are a bunch of things she should NOT do, like accounting, say.

      Anyway, she needs to explore this herself, and as people-oriented as she is, she probably needs to experience the ideas in real life. Why don’t you encourage her to get a job or internship in something that interests her? Bu having concrete examples of what it’s like to work in a field, it may guide her to that next step.

  19. Madeleine says:

    It seems that we are cut from the same cloth!

    My strengths are: Futuristic, Ideation, Analytical, Relator & Intellection.

    I am a recent college grad & working as a receptionist- not my cup of tea! I am bored & feel that I am being underutilized in my job.

    I have done some soul-searching & have been thinking of going into marketing, go back to school to get an MBA & then work in market research after that!
    I have the spirit of an entrepreneur & I am strategically-minded (four out of my five strengths fall into the strategic domain!)
    I would like to eventually work in HR or Marketing consulting, Business Consulting, Business Development, or Strategic management!

    Any hints or tips on how I could get there? Obviously consulting is not a career that you can go into straight out of college, which is frustrating because I know it’s where I want to be!

    • I once worked as a receptionist, myself. There was a massive recession when I got back from Brazil long ago. As a recent college grad, the only thing I could do was temp, which basically meant I got to be a substitute receptionist.

      Not wanting to get stuck doing that, and wanting to have as much exposure to different businesses as possible while I discovered myself, I told the agency that I wouldn’t work anywhere longer than one week, even if it meant I was sometimes unemployed. This annoyed them, but it was my choice, and I was flexible in taking short-term gigs.

      While job hopping, I built up my skillset at the agency, using their e-learning tools to train myself on IT and spreadsheets. These skills came in handy one day, and I was “discovered” and eventually offered a contract gig at an international contractor doing something closer to what I studied. It was what I needed to start building skills and credibility in the area of international development. It also helped that I was already in Washington DC, where this type of work exists.

      So here’s what I recommend:

      1. Don’t get comfortable. You don’t want to do this for long. If you’re not in a place where they do what you want to do, move there.
      2. Keep working on your skill set. Study what you want to do. Get a book on marketing, and read it. Try to apply it, even if it’s to a friend’s side project.
      3. Look for another job. We are NOT in a recession. Real jobs are out there; apply for them! Don’t give up.

      Good luck!

  20. Day says:

    Thank you for the wonderful post and sharing your interesting story. I’ve been a scientist in an biotech analytically instrument company but I recently felt that I am not in the right field. I took the Strengths 2.0 test and my top 5 strengths was 1) Learner 2) Ideation 3) Achiever 4) Futuristic 5) Strategic. I don’t know how to utilize my top 5 strengths for my unknown future career. My crazy intuition is to become a tech entrepreneur. I would love to hear your thoughts in this matter.

    • I don’t think your intuition is that crazy — you seem to have it in you to be more than a staff scientist.

      I’d recommend you start by learning more about other areas in your business. Interview colleagues and read basic books about business, startups, and marketing. If you like what you see, migrate to a different job inside your business.

      If you have a business idea already, develop it. Write a marketing plan for it. Read books about how to start up a company.

      Finally, learn more about startups in your area and nationwide. Join AngelList and TechCrunch.

      That should keep you busy! Feel free to tell us what you learn…

  21. Jeanette says:

    Thank you for writing this article, I have had my results for a while, but haven’t been sure how to apply them. They are: Relator, Ideation, Empathy, Input and Adaptability. I have had jobs as a Construction General Contractor designing and building new homes and I liked it for the creativity, but found it to be stressful supervising people. I have also done marketing for a small construction firm where I put out print ads did market analysis, etc., basically focused on how to get the phone to ring more. Is there a direction you could steer me toward based on these results? Thanks!

    • It’s surprising that you have trouble supervising people, given that a lot of your strengths seem to be people skills. Where did the stress come from?

      • Jeanette says:

        I found it stressful to have to lay down the law, and hold people accountable when they didn’t show up or complete things on time. Some say I’m too nice. Nobody got away with anything, but I found the enforcement of it all to be stressful. Are my Strengths Finder results normally associated with any particular fields?

  22. Kim A says:

    Hello,
    Thank you for this article. I am struggling in finding joy in my job.
    I am a reporting data analyst. My top 5 are Input/Intellection/Learner/Responsibility and Connectedness. DO you have any insight for me?

    Thank you

    • So where does your data go? It sounds like maybe you may want to be more than an analyst, and actually USE the data you’re producing to make decisions. Talk to the consumers of your data, and see what their life is like. It might be closer to what you want…

  23. melodie king says:

    Hi there!
    My daughter has top 5 strengths in L
    Empathy
    Achiever
    Context
    Learner
    Discipline
    Any suggestions on careers to pursue that would allow her to build those talents into strengths – thus moving her towards a job that will suit her?
    Thanks!
    Texas

  24. Ryan says:

    Perhaps the assessment could benefit from a brief survey regarding what careers people have and their level of enjoyment. Over time this data could yield some insights; albeit to be taken with a grain of salt.

    Speaking of:

    Anything jump to mind career-wise for the following 5?

    INPUT – People with Input talents bring tools that can facilitate growth and performance. They love to provide relevant and tangible help to others

    RELATOR – People especially strong in Relator talents form solid, genuine, and mutually rewarding relationships. Their relationships are close, caring, and trusting.

    INTELLECTION – When people with strong Intellection talents are given time to ponder and process, wisdom and clarity result. They can serve as a sounding board that helps others “stretch” to discover new ways to solve problems or enhance the quality of their work.

    ADAPTABILITY – People with Adaptability talents can quickly change and respond to circumstances that would frighten or intimidate others. People with high Adaptability find ways to keep moving forward when the unexpected happens. Their natural ability to be in the moment can help others see the way forward.

    CONSISTENCY – People with strong Consistency talents can easily and quickly make judgments that are fair to everyone involved. As a result, people have confidence in them and see them as trustworthy. They can develop policies and procedures that help teams and organizations maintain their integrity while accomplishing their mission.

    Its seems the harder I work at this, the further from an answer I get. :0)

    • You could go in so many directions with this! You like to learn, and process new info. And you like people, and are fair-minded about how you deal with them. You could be in HR, or project management, or many fields!

  25. Brian says:

    Hi Daniel. Thank you so much for the post. It’s put so many things in perspective for me. Unfortunately for me I took the online assessment before jotting down my “LIST 1”. and these are my 5 strengths.
    1 Learner
    2 Restorative
    3 Achiever
    4 Connectedness
    5 Strategic
    I’ve been working for a software development company for the last 9 years as a consultant and computer tech. Honestly, I don’t know whether I’m working in the wrong field/Company because I do not see any personal or career growth specifically in the position that I am in. Can I please have your advice.
    Thanks

    • You like learning, and you like people. Have you thought of going back to school? Or think about a possible career area and get a “Dummies” book about it. If it excites you, maybe that’s something you should explore! There are many directions that might make use of your skills.

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