There are many moments for students to look back at when reminiscing on their early days of attending the career fair. There was the search for the much-needed blazer, the last-minute resume adjustments, the nervousness just minutes before the beginning, all leading up to the hustle of the constant handshaking and relationship building. The Gallup StrengthsQuest assessment is often forgotten, even though it can pave the way to a successful career path.
The assessment test indicates an individual’s top five strengths among the 34 possibilities offered. The strengths are categorized into four main sections, called leadership domains: executing, influencing, strategic thinking and relationship building.
After universities across the country adopted the program, a team at Cal Poly followed suit. The StrengthsQuest program at Cal Poly began in Fall 2014 as a collaboration between University Housing, University Advising, Mustang Success Center and Career Services.
“[StrengthsQuest] is intended to help students foster engagement with people and leverage their strengths rather than focusing on their weaknesses,” Career Services Interim Assistant Director Amie Hammond said.
Coordinator for Center of Leadership Lauren Irwin gave a brief summary of how the assessment works.
“People are asked to make choices between pairs of statements, where they are asked to pick which one is more like them,” Irwin said. “Each question is timed, meaning that people taking the test have a limited amount of time to answer each question — this is intentional to try to get people to choose the answer that comes most naturally to them.”
The assessment is primarily for incoming freshmen and transfer students to take before their first week of classes. In addition, all advising offices and some departments pay for their faculty and staff to take it so they can help students discuss, understand and develop their own strengths.
“It helps facilitate self-reflection, which can make students stand out, and being more aware of their strengths can be an advantage in the workplace,” Hammond said.
While working with students in Career Services, Hammond saw many students benefit from the knowledge the assessment provides, especially when applying for jobs. Students can more easily answer the common interview question, “What are some of your greatest strengths?”
According to Hammond, taking the assessment can help students understand how to approach career fair employers based on their strengths.
“For those who have more strengths under the ‘relationship building’ domain, it may be easier to make connections and ‘work the room,’ while someone with more ‘executing’ strengths could go up to one employer and have an in-depth conversation,” Hammond said.
Employers may even be familiar with the StrengthsQuest program, because many of them use it as well. These companies include Stryker, Pepsi Co., Gap Inc., Cupertino Electric, Inc. and San Luis Sports Therapy and Team Movement for Life.
When browsing these companies and other career options, it’s important for students to remember that their strengths do not indicate a specific career path.
“It’s how you do things, not what you do,” Irwin said.