How To Identify Your Personal Strengths to Pick a Major (Written for Jumpspark Atlanta, Summer 2020)
Who are you? What makes you tick? Why do you enjoy certain tasks and activities? Why do you loathe specific projects but can’t wait to get started on others? Do you feel more energized when you are with a group of people? Or, do you seek alone time when you need to charge your mental batteries?
Everyone responds differently to the above questions and there’s a reason why. We are all wired differently. Some of us like to figure out complicated puzzles while some of us give up quickly. Some of us like to multi-task while others like to hyper-focus on one specific project. Lots of people enjoy isolating activities such as reading, knitting or doing a jigsaw puzzle alone. Yet some individuals can’t stand being alone for too long and crave frequent social interaction.
There are no right or wrong ways of being and truthfully you can’t stop being who you are. Introverts would have a hard time waking up tomorrow and behaving like extraverts. Likewise, someone who pays close attention to details can’t all of a sudden force themselves to overlook the specific requirements of an assignment. And creative individuals can’t really stop themselves from thinking outside-of-the-box. All of this is great, because we need all types of people to survive and thrive as a society.
Why is all of this important to high school and college students? Because the way you are wired has direct correlation to picking a satisfying career. Yes, this is true. Pick a career that enables and encourages you to tap into your innate strengths and you will find the days go by quickly and you will feel like there is never enough time to work on all of the fulfilling projects on your desk. Or, pick a career that ignores your inherent strengths and you will find yourself looking at the clock all day wondering why time is moving so slowly.
The good news is there are tools to help you identify and articulate your personal strengths. Knowing your strengths will help you become more aware of how you decipher the world, plus understand how you prefer to interact with people and what types of projects you enjoy. The sooner you gain insights about your personal wiring, the better you will feel about yourself AND the better off you will be when it comes to identifying potential college majors, minors, areas of interest and careers.
One of the best personal strength assessment tools is StrengthsFinder 2.0 (also known as Clifton Strengths developed by The Gallup Organization). It takes 30 minutes to complete this online assessment and the report will help you identify what you naturally do best.
In order to take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment, you have a few options:
- Buy the book online StrengthsFinder 2.0 or in a store. The book costs about $20 and in the back of the book there is an envelope with a special code to use to take the online assessment. After you complete the online assessment, you will receive an email report identifying your top 5 strengths (out of 34 strengths).
- If you don’t want to wait for the book, you can go to this link and pay $19.99 to take the online assessment. Again, you will receive an email report identifying your top 5 strengths (out of 34 strengths).
- Another option is to go to this link and pay $49.99 to take the online assessment and you will receive an email report ranking you on all 34 strengths.
I personally feel option #1 or #2 is sufficient. The nice thing about owning the book is you get to read in depth about your top 5 strengths (3-5 pages per strength) plus learn about the other 29 strengths that you may notice in your friends and family.
After you take StrengthsFinder, read the email identifying your top 5 strengths. Then read about your 5 strengths in the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book. Take some notes as you read. Think about the classes you prefer vs. the classes you wish you didn’t have to take. Think about the assignments you enjoy vs. those you wish you didn’t have to complete. Think about how your extracurricular activities tap into your strengths. See if you can start to understand and connect how your strengths may align with certain careers and professional interests.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to learning about yourself. Remember, the idea is to get to know who you are, how you are wired and what makes you tick. The more self-awareness you have, the easier it will be to pick a college, a major and career.