Strengths Finder test results: Doh!

At the urging of my summer internship manager, I took the Strengths Finder test yesterday. Some of you may already know about Strengths Finder, a self-help book that advocates discovering your talents and then doing everything you can to play to your strengths – as opposed to trying to compensate for your weaknesses.

The book comes with a secret code that you can take to its Web site where the personality test lives. The test is like any other personality test. I was presented with a series of statements and asked to pick the ones that most resembled me.

“I tend to be organized” – check.

“I want people to like me” – check.

“I’m good at sensing other people’s emotions” – check.

At the end, the test spits out your top five talents. What mine are is less interesting than the series of recommendations Strengths Finder made for my life based on those talents. There was a long list, but it included a couple items that recommended ideal careers for me. They were:

Individualization: Select a vocation in which your Individualization talents can be both used and appreciated, such as counseling, supervising, teaching, writing human interest articles, or selling. Your ability to see people as unique individuals is a special talent.

Input: Look for jobs in which you are charged with acquiring new information each day, such as teaching, research, or journalism.

Journalism, huh? You’ve got to be kidding me.

I’ve been getting this same result on these personality tests since I first took Myers-Briggs in eighth grade. My talents – listening skills, ability to read people, creativity, strategic thinking, a desire to explain “why?”  – make me an ideal journalist. And that’s exactly what I did, starting at age 14 on my high school newspaper and ending a year ago when I came to Darden.

And Strengths Finder is right. I am good at it. And I loved the work. It was the perfect mix of challenging and rewarding. I was good enough at it to love doing it and had enough to learn to keep it exciting. It was what I was made to do.

And then the job changed. I won’t go into the gory details, but essentially it became less about telling good, smart stories and more about attracting eyeballs to our Web site. The thing I was born to do was slowly dying – or, more likely, morphing – and I didn’t know how long that painful process would take or if I could stick it out until the end. I started looking for my second career.

As part of my search, I took a career personality test. The result: journalist.

Oh crap, I thought.

Luckily, at the same time an old journalism friend told me about her experience at Darden. It turns out that journalism skills overlap a lot with MBA skills – creativity, strategic thinking, reading people. And the talents I hadn’t used much in the newsroom – leadership, vision – were really welcome in b-school. Maybe there was somewhere else I could fit.

You know the rest of the story. I came to Darden, loved my first-year experience and had a successful summer internship.

So why can’t I put the Strengths Finder results out of my mind?

Maybe because I know, deep down, that the business world will never be as good a fit for me as the journalism  world. It’s damn close, mind you. It fits me like my favorite Karen Millen dress, which hugs me in all the right places but it still a little big in the shoulders. Journalism, for better or worse, fits me like a custom made dress.

But I still look good in the Karen Millen. I just hope that’s enough.


About missmba

What happens when a language-loving, mathphobic liberal arts major goes jumps on the MBA train. Follow my adventures at a top 20 business school.
This entry was posted in Career, Career decision, Learning, MBA decision. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Strengths Finder test results: Doh!

  1. cathy says:

    It’s really nice to read about someone who switched out of writing (and not into it) and still had a happily ever after.

    I too got my degree in writing/journalism and now work in vc and biz dev. Funny how things work out, huh?

    The trouble is, you have NO IDEA what a job in your field is actually going to be like until you start doing it. and it’s amazing how unfun something you love can get when the environment or company goals don’t suit you.

    for any students already in business (or making the switch), I highly, HIGHLY recommend researching and taking on an mba internship as close to your potential career future as possible (and ASAP).

    That way, if you discover it’s not for you, you can march down to career services with a list of what you don’t want in a career (sometimes that sort of list is even more helpful that one of what you DO want), and get some help in steering your education toward a career you will be happy in.

    Good luck!!

  2. John Deely says:

    I came across your blog while doing a search on google for the strengths finder. I work in the area of career guidance and was interested in this post. The right assessments can provide good insight into where you should focus your career but your ideal career jigsaw is more complex than that. Interests and personality are part of that jigsaw but your values and motives are also important and I am not sure the tests you did highlighted that. Maybe journalism is part of the solution but the setting and topics you focus on also influence your satisfaction. In addition, journalism is under pressure and in transition and that can hamper satisfaction.

    This article underlines the challenges faced by media organisations…
    but thoughtful article.

    Hope the MBA helps with the career journey. Sometimes the demands of the course make it hard to take stock of what you learning about your career but a career is a journey.

    “To know oneself, one should assert oneself. Psychology is action, not thinking about oneself. We continue to shape our personality all our life. If we knew ourselves perfectly, we should die.” Albert Camus

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  5. Martin says:

    Hey there, I just stumbled upon your article while researching the StrengthFinder.

    I think that you should not forget what you feel good with and where you come from. Journalism seems to be your thing. The core of it at least. But maybe the practices you were involved with before taking your MBA were not what you were looking for.

    But hey, journalism is manyfold, and such are the ideas to generate revenue with fresh ideas. Monocle Magazine from London is one such example. They are not into shallow website optimization to attract ads. They are into quality writing and paying customers.

    And many blogs make money not by following the market, but focussing on their core strengths. Take ZenHabits: He skipped all ads some time ago and he even allows people to copy his books. But he is massively successful and I guess also earns enough via books, consulting work and workshops.

    I bet you now know the tools to build up an own business, that is journalism as you want it and generates revenue for you. If you need further inspiration, go for Timothy Ferriss’ 4-Hour-Workweek and Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup. They have plenty of ideas plus the tools you need to get started.


  6. Rev. V. L H. Belt says:

    Thanks for a great article. I especially appreciate where you mention that the job your strengths suited you for had inexplicably “changed.” I also had a big disappointment. I was a University English teacher, and when I first started out, the job was about teaching the kids to appreciate Literature of all kinds, to write well, as well as to teach them to think, critically, creatively, and logically. But as you note about Journalism, teaching English “morphed” from something that my strengths and inclinations made me naturally suitable for into teaching the student how to to “document authorities.” Huh? What had happened to the idea of THEM becoming authorities in their own right? What had happened to the idea of THEM disseminating their OWN knowledge and information? What had happened to the idea that I was helping to frame the minds of tomorrow’s leaders?
    Teaching Freshman English had become more about teaching them to sit down, shut up, and listen to their “betters,” than about teaching them to stand up, speak out, BECOME better.

    I don’t teach Freshman English anymore. Moreover, even if I could GET a job teaching Freshman English for more than crumbs and a blanket, I would not TAKE it. My strengths just won’t let me.

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