Strengths and Your Job Search


When I was in high school, I worked a lot of food service jobs. I mostly waited tables and found that while I could make good tips, I really didn’t enjoy the work and found it stressful and draining. My senior year a friend connected me with a job working as a hostess at a high-end restaurant and I absolutely LOVED that job.

So what was the difference between two jobs both in the hospitality industry and at a restaurant? In one role I fully utilized my Strengths and in the other, I did not. The CliftonStrengths assessment identifies your unique, individual talents – the way you naturally think, feel and behave. To turn talents into strengths, you should invest time and energy into recognizing and using them in your daily life – especially your job!

As a waitress, I found that the customer complaints and unpredictable nature of the things was stressful for me. With my Strategic talent I was always thinking about what might go wrong and how to address it and was exhausted by that prospect.  And while my Activator talent was good at quickly taking care of issues that might arise, I often found that I had to rely on my coworkers (kitchen staff) to deal with problems and sometimes that was at a much slower pace and I felt impatient. As a hostess, I was able to use my Communication and Woo talents to warmly greet customers and have friendly conversations. Oftentimes, that wasn’t possible in the rush of waiting tables. And my number one talent of Achiever was always engaged as I sat tables, managed our waiting room, and handled all payment transactions. I was getting a lot of things accomplished which was satisfying.

College students should be thinking about how how to use their talents in the classroom, student orgs, or on the job. When you are seeking a job or internship, it’s critical to think about career options that align with your strengths. To be clear: CliftonStrengths is not designed to direct you into a specific profession! There are 34 talent themes and thousands of occupations – so there is no perfect match or predictor.  But knowing your strengths can help you apply for positions that fully engage your talents and will led to greater satisfaction and potential success.

Start by pulling up job listings on Handshake or another job board that look of interest to you. As you review the job duties and qualifications, overlay that with your CliftonStrengths and experience. I once talked with a student who was considering a Call Center job taking insurance claims. It was a very fast-paced environment that expected employees to process calls quickly.  The student reflected on his strengths and realized it would likely not be a good match. His top talent was Deliberative and he felt he might feel stress or irritation feeling rushed to process a claim when he valued taking time to make careful and thorough decisions. He learned a valuable lesson in how to evaluate employment opportuntities and did eventually find a job that was well-suited for him!

As you think about your next job or leadership role, make sure you take your Strengths into consideration!