On Sept. 12th I wrote my first post on the book StrengthsFinder 2.0, and something must have resonated with my readers, because that post was worked its way into my top five most “liked” posts. I hope it’s because my readers agree – the education field needs to focus on teen strengths, not just teen weaknesses. We’re not doing young people many favors by zeroing in on where they struggle and not helping them discover how they can succeed. On Sept. 19th I elaborated on the importance of teenage talents, and my readers responded well to that post as well. Finally, on Sept. 28th, I took the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment online and began the process of analyzing the results. It took me three months to really sift through all that information and apply it to my life and my career. However, now that I’ve explored my top five strength themes (Maximizer, Input, Belief, Harmony, and Woo), the question stands:
Was the assessment worth it? Did I learn anything new? Will this knowledge change my career path?
For me, the change took place two years ago when I first heard Marcus Buckingham speak. His terminology was a little different then the StrengthsFinder assessment, though. When I read his book, I took the Strong Life Test, which written specifically for women (and free!). That test identified my “lead role” as Advisor, and my “supporting role” as Caretaker. It did not identify me as a Teacher, even though that was an option. That realization floored me and revolutionized how I saw my career. That’s when my dreams evolved, when I started to identify my exact niche in the education field.
But that was the Strong Life Test, and I’ve been writing for the last four months about StrengsthFinder 2.0. So did the StrengthsFinder assessment help? In smaller ways, yes. It gave voice and vocabulary to particular personality traits. It gave me permission to be, think, and dream the way that I am already wired. Particularly the Maximizer strengths. I no longer feel like I have to apologize for not wanting to work with special needs or struggling inner city schools. I absolutely love working with excellence – and that’s OK. I’ve always analyzed how I interact with students, but hashing through the Harmony and Belief strengths forced me to consider how I work with my peers and colleagues as well. Defining the Input theme gave a place for my love of reading and literature as well as my desire to work with people and the value I place on close friendships. So while I didn’t find the results life-changing this time around, the assessment did help give definition to my roles in the world.
I can’t help but think; wouldn’t teenagers love that kind of voice, definition, and permission to be themselves? Don’t they want to be recognized and accepted for who they are? Wouldn’t vocabulary for their individual strengths help give direction to their career explorations – even more than their favorite subjects in school do?
Some people have questioned if teens are ready for this kind of assessment, since they aren’t done growing, developing, and maturing. Their strengths might change. I say, who cares if they change later? That shouldn’t stop them from knowing about themselves now! Teenagers have incredible strengths and magnificent areas of potential, and just because they might change later shouldn’t stop them from exploring how they are strong now. I would also argue (and Marcus Buckingham agrees with me) that these basic strengths really don’t change all that much. Interests and how we use our strengths might change, but the core building blocks of personality stay the same. So let’s help teens find those basic strengths now.
That being said, I do think that, with the exception of the extraordinarily introspective teens, the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment should take place within the context of a class where teen students can get help with both understanding and application. I know it took me quite a while to figure out the applicability of both the Harmony and Woo themes to my life, and the only reason I forced myself to really analyze them was that I wanted to write blog posts about them. As a teen left to my own devices, I would have blown off the test as wrong and not wrestled with it anymore. So a structured setting for discussion and analysis would improve the usefulness of this test for teens. Plus, I would love teaching that class – and I think I’d be pretty darn good at it, too. Once again, this is why I really want to get trained in StrengthsQuest. Though written for college students, the StrengthsQuest program lays the foundation for helping young people understand and apply their strengths within a structured academic setting. I really want to be a part of that!
But until that time when more high schools offer such classes, young people can still take these explorations into their own hands. If you want to take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment on your own, buy the book. Do NOT buy a used copy, because the access code for the test is usable only once. It is possible to take the test without buying the book, but that costs money anyway. Having the book helps explain the test results, so it really is worth it to buy a new copy of the book and use that code to take the test online. Just know that this resource is NOT a career explorations book. It will offer advice like “find a job where you can interact with a lot of people every day” – but it won’t provide a list of actual jobs that fit that description. You must have the ambition and initiative to research those on your own. Again, this is where a structured class would really come in handy for teenagers taking the assessment.
If you do follow my footsteps and take the test, let me know what you think, and share with me your top five!