Great Career Advice . . . But Is It Realistic?

love what you doHave you read the book or seen the 2006 movie “The Pursuit of Happyness?” Actor Will Smith portrays the life of Chris Gardner – a single-father with a rags-to-riches tale. The most poignant period in the movie occurs when father and son sleep in a public bathroom at night while the father learns to become a stockbroker during the day.

In 2007, Gardner was interviewed and asked how he kept going during this stressful (to say the least) time. His response was very similar to the advice former President Bill Clinton gave at a commencement speech this summer. Gardner said, “. . . the secret to success is to find something you love to do so much, you can’t wait for the sun to set to do it all over again.”

Clearly, this advice worked for Gardner who, through his hard work and perseverance, became a stockbroker and later a multi-millionaire. His love for his job preceded his success. As a child, I was given similar counsel from my parents who frequently said, “Find the one thing you do best, and success will follow.” So, I’ve been conditioned to love this kind of advice. But the trick is – it’s a lot easier said than done, right? How do you figure out what you love to do or what you do best?

Over the last 10 years I’ve taught an organizational behavior class for juniors and seniors in college. I’ve seen at least 1,000 students who were “ready” to graduate, but struggled to find the perfect fit career-wise. I know they have struggled, because during this same 10 year period, I’ve read approximately 3,000 papers related to job satisfaction and career success and learned just how few students have found jobs they love to do.

The great news is that finding your “sweet spot” – that thing or things you are able to do like few others – is easier than ever to discover . . . and pretty darn inexpensive to boot.

StrengthsFinder Assessment
To date, more than 9 million people have taken the StrengthsFinder assessment to learn more about their sweet spots or “talents.” The on-line assessment tallies results for individuals wanting to learn more about themselves and then presents feedback – in the form of a written report – to explain how each respondent is most likely to excel in the world. Learning your talents – by taking the assessment and learning your “Top 5” strengths – is like taking off a mask and being able to see clearly the things that you do well. And this advice goes for college students and seasoned professionals.

Recently, I became a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach with the intent of serving old and new clients – small and large businesses. However, during one of my trips to Omaha, NE – Gallup’s Headquarters for StrengthsFinder training – I was lucky enough to talk to one of my nieces who shifted my understanding of how powerful the StrengthsFinder tool could be for soon-to-be college graduates.

Let me just start by explaining that my niece, Katie, is one of the sunniest and kindest young women you could meet. Katie was three weeks shy of graduating from Indiana University when we spoke. But Katie was not radiating her usual levels of positivity and energy on that night. She had decided she did not want to pursue a career in her field of study – audiology.

She was down. What was she supposed to do? What kind of job did she want and how could she find it now that her degree seemed like a mismatch for her career goals? I felt like an infomercial. “Kate, you’ve got to take the StrengthsFinder assessment,” I urged her. We talked about many things that night but the gist of the conversation was just how normal it is to be unsure of oneself and one’s career decisions at any age – much less at the tender age of 22.

Of course Gallup already knew this and created a book especially geared to college-students called StrengthsQuest to help students navigate the questions that are central to college students’ lives like: major, leadership strengths, and career path. Although the students take the same StrengthsFinder assessment, the StrengthsQuest book is specifically written for the college student, unlike the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, which is written for the general population.

The upshot of the story is that Katie did take the assessment and thought the results were dead-on. They summarized who she was and what she loved to do and be. With a little bit of coaching she was able to create new career goals, beef up her resume by adding her new strengths vocabulary into descriptions of her past experiences, and better prepare for interview questions by keeping a laser focus on articulating the things she does best.

Has she landed that job that perfectly meets all her needs and taps into her talents? Not by a long shot. Is she on a path to greater fulfillment and self-discovery since learning her strengths? Absolutely.

Some things in life are easier said than done. It’s pretty darn easy to advise people to find “something you love to do so much that you can’t wait for the sun to set and get up and do it all over again is a great.” Happily, this advice is not as difficult to heed as it once was with the help of this great tool.

The link below will allow you to take the assessment for $9.99. I’d like to know what you think of your results.

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