StrengthsQuest for Higher Education

Created by: Katie Smith, 2012-2013 Career Advising FellowImage


“Greatness lies not in being strong but in the right use of your strengths”

– Henry Ward Beecher



Last week, Mikki and I finished up our third StrengthsQuest webinar, officially completing the Strengths Educator for Higher Educator Training course.

StrengthsQuest is owned by Gallup, a research-based company that has been researching human behavior and performance for decades. The assessment, the Clifton StrengthsFinder, is a 30-minute online test that, upon completion, will generate a list of the user’s top 5 talents out of a list of 34. The premise of StrengthsQuest based on the concept that the most successful people build their personal lives, academics, and careers on their talents, as people tend to experience the most growth in their areas of strengths. Utilized talents become strengths, and strengths are applied to produce excellence. Weaknesses may still exist, but strengths drive a top achiever’s ambitions and success.

I first became familiar with StrengthsQuest in graduate school, when students in one of our leadership programs took the assessment. Shortly afterwards, I saw it again at the community college where I interned. There, StrengthsQuest was used among staff members working within the student services office. Each staff member had taken the assessment and displayed his or her strengths on their office doors. Administrators and team leaders used staff strengths to assign tasks and teams based on the diversity of strengths among members.

The Student Professional Development Center at Elon uses StrengthsQuest intermittently on both an individual and group level. Students who are looking to learn more about themselves may take the assessment for a fee ($12.50) and they will receive an in-depth report about each of their five strengths, as well as an online book about strengths overall. At other times, groups of students take the assessment and learn about their strengths and how they may work together. Earlier this semester, Ross led an interpretation session with all of the RAs at Elon. More recently, my Transitions Strategies students all took the assessment, and Mikki and I also used the assessment in one of our residential life programs at the Station at Mill Point, helping seniors determine how to articulate strengths in the interview process.

I have taken the assessment three times for various positions and experiences, each time with a slightly different (but mostly similar) result. According to my most recent StrengthsQuest, five of my top strengths are Learner, Achiever, Responsibility, Input, and Empathy. According to Mikki’s results, her strengths are Learner, Harmony, Input, Intellection, and Developer.

Throughout the webinar series, we learned more about each of the strengths, and how they relate to student engagement and career ideas. We learned about how strengths actually start as talents that require further development, and we learned about theme-weaving, or the way in which different combinations of strengths can affect each strength’s meaning for an individual. Someone who is strategic and empathetic may have very different characteristics from someone who is strategic and self-assured, for example. Neither combination is better than the other, but one person may be more relationship-based while the other a better influencer. A diversity of talents within a group tends to lead to the most successful and well-rounded teams.

The StrengthsQuest training was an excellent opportunity for professional development, and gave us ideas for working with students and for thinking about our own professional lives. StrengthsQuest becoming is increasingly prevalent among colleges, with some pioneer institutions even requiring all incoming students to take the assessment. By helping students understand their strengths, we can help them become more successfully engaged in the college experience and find fitting professional opportunities following their graduation.


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