As a strengths-focused career counselor, I am always curious about creative processes to engage my clients while discovering their unique talents – not only discovering their talents, but also learning how to apply those talents in making career decisions.
One of the strengths-focused assessments I use is StrengthsFinder 2.0, developed by Donald O. Clifton and Gallup, Inc. Their research identified 34 dominant “themes” of talent with thousands of possible combinations. An individual taking the assessment receives a report of their top five talent themes, which provides a detailed narrative relevant to the combination of those themes. The assessment does not connect talents to specific occupations, it only measures talents. (More detailed information can be found at http://strengths.gallup.com/110440/About-StrengthsFinder-2.aspx.)
When I use the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment with a client, I find that I need an additional tool that will help to open up the dialogue for identifying how the client can apply their unique talent themes in academe, work and life. While there are many well developed questions that can open up a dialogue, I want the client to experience and observe their thinking in a more objective or detached way. They will then be able to analyze the data, observe patterns, and identify themes and/or defining moments from a complete worldview of themselves. This includes looking into their successes, challenges and relationships from the past, present and into the future. I found a tool that I believe creates magic, increases their curiosity and energy, confirms their unique talents, introduces a client centered vocabulary in defining their talents, engages the client in generative learning, and opens up the dialogue with the career practitioner.
I label my tool a “Visual Strengths-Focused Life Map.” My tool isn’t new, since many career practitioners use a timeline or life map exercise, and this tool is similar but with some specific structure and reflection aspects. Creating a map of their career (life and work) will be a new experience for most clients. Wikipedia defines creativity as “the phenomenon whereby a person creates something new (a product, a solution, a work of art, etc.) that has some kind of value.” You and your clients will definitely find this process to be of value.
For example, I worked with a client we’ll call Ann, who majored in political science. Ann’s first job was in a non-profit organization working for social-political causes. She found this work interesting, but not engaging. Her parents were lawyers and were encouraging her to pursue an advanced degree, possibly law. Ann wanted help in deciding what was next in her career, something that she would feel more engaged in. Her initial thoughts were a professional level position in healthcare, social work, or a political cause, because she cared about people. Ann completed a StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment and her talent themes were: futuristic, learner, achiever, woo (winning others over), and positivity. With my assistance, Ann also created a personal timeline starting with her birth and segmented into five year increments to her current age, plus five years into the future. She used digital photos, words and phrases to identify “defining moments,” accomplishments, losses, mentors, and people important in her life. She reflected on what she made happen and what happened to her to make her life “uniquely hers.”
As Ann revealed her story, it was obvious that her family, friends and people had to be in her career. At five, she knew how to win others over (woo), as she loved meeting almost everyone while growing up. She was in competitive sports (achiever) and her ability at creating enthusiasm was contagious (positivity). Ann’s relationship with her mother was important and Ann valued her perspective. Because Ann was struggling to articulate her career options, the visual life map became a valuable tool that created a narrative of Ann’s important life experiences. In sharing the map and narrative with her mother, Ann began to clearly articulate her interests, values, skills, and learning experiences. Together, they researched further into healthcare careers. Ann also conducted informational interviews, thus determining that occupational therapy was her best career choice. In this field she would be able to work directly with people applying her positivity, influencing and achiever talents. In addition, her learner and futuristic talents would help her stay current in the field and discover new rehabilitation therapies. Ann has since enrolled in an occupational therapy program.
I use this strengths-focused life map tool with all levels of students, alumni and professional clients who find value in this creative process, and I invite you to try it as well. If you are attending the 2011 NCDA Conference in San Antonio, June 30 – July 2, stop by and experience creating your own career life map. My workshop session is:
TITLE: Creative and Engaging Career Assessment: A Visual Strengths-Focused Life Map
DATE: Friday, July 1, 2011
TIME: 1:50 - 3:00 pm
Valentine Roché is a career counselor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She brings experience in coaching business leaders and professionals in the areas of career transition, leadership development, self-confidence, work/life balance, productive relationships, creativity, and creating extraordinary lives. Valentine has a background in human resources, a master’s degree in management and leadership development, and taught workshops in high technology, education and other business environments. Valentine loves hiking in nature and being engaged in creativity through idea generation with others and her artwork.
Career Services, University of Colorado at Boulder