Do your career clients know their Strengths?

On February 1, 2022, the MCDA Professional Development Committee welcomed current Board President, Tina Wagner, and director of the Bemidji State University Career Services office, Margie Giauque as our featured speakers.

They volunteered to share their experiences using the Strengths assessment with career clients.

Margie started using Strengths in 2008. Over the years, she has obtained a number of certifications in Clifton Strengths and completed extensive trainings for the assessment. In 2009 she introduced Strengths into First Year Experience (FYE) courses at Bemidji State University.  They are still using it today, she stated proudly.

Beyond the FYE students, Margie has brought Strengths into a variety of classroom presentations, including Capstone and Senior Seminar courses.  Beyond the classroom, Strengths has been used now within Residential Life RA trainings, and many departments on campus have requested Strengths-related workshops and programs.

Margie has been working to integrate Strengths as part of their Career Competencies discussion within their Career Readiness programming – how do Strengths intersect with what employers are looking for, and what is being learned in your major?

Local Bemidji community partners have also benefited from Margie’s Strengths presentations, as well as MN State Colleges & Universities partners, TRIO community college programs, St. Cloud State University and Northwest Technical College.

Tina has been using Strengths for a number of years and became certified as a Strengths Coach in 2019.  She has used the assessment with students and alumni individually and has provided information about Strengths to a variety of programs, college majors and courses.  Currently, she is working more extensively with individuals, helping them understand and apply their Strengths to their career planning, and articulating their skills and successes in their cover letter, resumes and interviews.

Background of Strengths:

Based on Positive Psychology, the concept and instrument was conceived originally by Donald O. Clifton.  He asked the question, “What would happen if we studied what was right with people versus what’s wrong with people?”  In 1988, his company, Selection Research Inc. (SRI), merged with Gallup.  

Clifton’s original StrengthsFinder instrument was offered beginning in 1999.  In 2001, he partnered with Marcus Buckingham to produce the first book, Now, Discover your Strengths, that would include access to his online talent assessment.

Clifton passed away in 2003 and in 2006 Gallup reviewed and revised his assessment, creating StrengthsFinder 2.0.  “In 2015, Gallup changed the name from Clifton StrengthsFinder to the CliftonStrengths assessment.  In 2018, Gallup introduced the CliftonStrengths 34 Report — the most extensive strengths-based development guide ever created.”  (Source:

Most people take the assessment to obtain their Top 5 Strengths, but for $49.99 you can get a ranking of all 34 possible strengths.

What is it and how can it be used?

Strengths are based on Talents – things we are naturally good at.  Strengths can also be categorized within four domain areas:  executing, influencing, relationship-building and strategic-thinking.  The detailed chart of the Four Domains and associated Strengths are especially helpful with groups/teams.

It can be used in career coaching and counseling.  Knowing your strengths can help one understand better what career areas will tap specific strengths, therefore, identifying best fits.  

These strengths can also help students identify best study strategies, ideal clubs to join, and aid in career planning.

Ideally, if you can get rankings for your Top 10, this is most helpful in career coaching/counseling.  (Currently your top ten are only available through ordering the full 34 Strengths report.) The broader list helps clients become more aware of areas where they will not be strong, where they will need teammates to support in these areas.

The self-knowledge can also be utilized when doing a job search.  Knowing their strengths can be a help to people that are going through a job or career change.  Strengths may connect with work-values and imply environments where one can find satisfaction, e.g., What work can you do that will lean into your Top 5 Strengths?

Margie has even mapped John Holland’s RIASEC model to Strengths!


A great tool to use is a Gallup worksheet, Getting the most out of your CliftonStrengths Report.  

Name, Claim & AIM process:

  • Name – what are your Top Strengths?
  • Claim – Do you recognize them as your strengths?  Do you understand them well enough to describe to others?
  • Aim – Can you think about how you can apply your strengths in your classes, work, projects, job search, etc?
  • Can you describe a time when you have named, claimed and aimed?

Margie and Tina provided links to a number of resources and tools within their PPT slide Deck, including a Quick List Reference Card and references to worksheets (such as Getting the Most out of your CliftonStrengths Report) available on the Gallup website.


  • Strengths Book for Educators, now also have Cards for purchase on the Gallup site.
  • The StrengthsQuest book has exercises within it.
  • There are separate books with different focus areas:  Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Wellness
  • Another book, Standout 2.0 by Marcus Buckingham, refers to a different assessment, with different strength terms.

Become a Certified Strengths Coach:

  • To become certified, seek out a Gallup Certified Coaching Program  (higher education employees can get a discounted rate)
  • Gallup will offer another session in June 2022, connected through a conference.
  • Once certified, one needs to become re-certified every 2 years.
  • Margie has offered to be a resource for those who want to learn how to get Certified in Strengths.

MCDA members are grateful to Tina and Margie for sharing their knowledge and experiences with the Strengths assessment.  Clearly, there are a number of applications to help any of our career clients understand themselves better, promote themselves with this self-knowledge, lean into their strengths and make better career decisions as a result.

View their LinkedIn Profiles and Connect!  Margie Giauque and Tina Wagner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *