Strengths-Based Professional Development

April 22, 2016

By Kelly Holland

An activator, a learner, and a woo walk into a meeting...is this the beginning of a bad joke? Actually, it’s the start of a great conversation. Gallup Education created the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment in an effort to help individuals, and companies, identify what it is that they do best and how to boost that greatness in others. With an eye on creating efficient teams and a better working environment, strengths can be a powerful tool in the workplace, and has also emerged as a learning tool in higher education.

Is your organization using its strengths? The answer may surprise you! In the higher education realm, some universities employ the strengths assessment in concentrated areas, such as career services or student activities, while others may cast a wider net and invite all incoming freshmen to participate. The key is in how you utilize the results. The assessment provides participants with their top five strengths that fall within four possible categories: relationship building, influencing, strategic thinking, and executing. There are 34 possible strengths and roughly 33 million different combinations, so the order of your top five is like a fingerprint, unique only to you, as is your career.

In my previous work with universities, I most enjoyed the application of strengths when supervising student workers. For example, someone with the analytical strength could approach a project and lay out all of the related actions for me. If I paired him/her up with someone strong in communication, they could create a presentation together. The last member of their team, strategic, could plot out the steps we would take to make it happen. And a woo would talk me into it. Mapping student strengths against my own strengths helped me become a better manager and be more mindful of where each student would do the best work.

In 2013, Global Experiences partnered with Gallup Education to offer the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment to all of our interns, as well as our staff members. Our interns utilize their strengths within our career development program, before, during, and after their internship abroad. We adopted many of our program activities from StrengthsFinder Career Activities found on the Gallup website, and also provided each intern with a coaching call from a Gallup-certified coach. We’re excited to see program assessment has revealed that focusing on strengths during an international internship leads to increases in overall career well-being, self-understanding, and hope for the future.


Interested in learning more? Join us on Tuesday, May 31, from 12:00 p.m.–12:45 p.m. for our presentation, “Maximizing Your Strengths: Gallup's Clifton Strengths Finder in International Education Offices,” in the Career Center located in Four Seasons Ballroom 4.


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