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  1. Blog
  2. Career Development

What Is CliftonStrengths & How Can It Benefit Your Career?

Plus, why focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses is a more effective way to grow

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Image courtesy of Christnia @

What is CliftonStrengths?

CliftonStrengths—or Clifton StrengthsFinder, as it used to be called—is an online assessment that helps you identify your strengths as an individual, both inside and outside the workplace.

What does the assessment entail?

The basic version of the CliftonStrengths assessment identifies your “Top 5” strengths and provides two customized reports, the Signature Theme report and the Insight Guide. The Signature Theme report provides an overview of your Top 5 strengths and what they mean, and the Insight Guide provides information about why your strengths make you unique. A more extensive, CliftonStrengths 34 assessment provides a ranking of all 34 strengths with more detail, including action items and blindspots. 

Why strengths? Shouldn’t I work on my weaknesses?

So, why focus on strengths instead of following traditional wisdom and fixing your weaknesses? According to Gallup’s website, “people who use their strengths every day are three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life, six times more likely to be engaged at work, 8 percent more productive, and 15 percent less likely to quit their jobs.” Typically, people find it much easier to grow what’s working rather than to fix what isn’t working. 

As a career coach, I use CliftonStrengths with my clients, and the most rewarding thing I find when going through these reports is seeing how one’s strengths fit together to make up who they are. Seeing a person’s strengths come to light and come together is exceptionally gratifying. Knowing your strengths can help you perform better individually and as part of a team. 

Read more: Bored at Work? Here's How to Make the Most of Your Time

How to use CliftonStrengths in your career

I really like this tool because it’s about more than just you at work or at your current job. I think of these strengths as your default settings—they apply to your personal and professional styles. And since our strengths are so innate, it can be really easy to overlook them or to assume everyone shares your strengths. 

The assessment helps people understand what they bring to the table that is unique and amazing. Of course, an assessment is as good as what you do with it. It is highly unlikely that CliftonStrengths will provide shocking results. In all of my time going through personalized reports with people, no one has ever said, What? You’re kidding! I had no idea these were my strengths. Where the real value comes in is considering how those strengths show up for you individually, what it looks like when you use your strengths, and how you want to use them moving forward. It’s also a great exercise to share reports with trusted friends or colleagues so they can share when they see your strengths shine. 

When it's time to leave your job

As a career coach, I love using this assessment with people who come to me and say, I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m not staying here

The CliftonStrengths assessment often helps my clients understand why a role has not been a good fit. Working in a role where you can’t use your strengths can feel like being in a room with a very low ceiling—every time you try to stand up, you hit your head but you’re not sure why. 

I regularly find that identifying strengths gives people permission to move on from a role that hasn’t been using their strengths without feeling like they’ve failed or should just stick things out because the job looks good on paper or to our friends. 

When it's time for a bigger career change

CliftonStrengths can also help you  think outside of the box when it comes to your career. 

For example, I once worked with a person in transition whose strengths were all geared toward teaching. When we started our session, they were frustrated because they knew they didn’t want to be a teacher. During our time talking about the reports, we discovered they would love to use their years working in marketing for big brands to support small businesses in their marketing efforts. This is a role that requires lots of teaching. Their initial assumption was that teaching could only mean standing in front of a classroom of children. Without additional reflection on the results of the assessment, it would have been hard for them to see this unique application of their strengths. 

Read more: How to Write a Career Change Resume

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