by Rose Gage, Assistant Director – Community Service Center
I was looking over my 8th grade yearbook a while ago and under my very awkward picture was written, “When I grow up I want to be a child psychologist.” Twenty-three years later, I often wonder how I knew that. What experiences, in my short 13 years, had shaped me to want to pursue this career path? Did I really know my innate talents and strengths at that young stage in my life? Was I that self-aware as an adolescent? Well, I must have been on to something because I graduated from college with a degree in Clinical Psychology and earned my Masters in Counseling. After 18 years of school, I then embarked upon my career, which has taken some interesting turns. Though I never became a child psychologist, higher education became my path with stops along the way in Residence Life and Campus Ministry. Whether it was assisting with a mental health crisis or crisis of faith, my education and training definitely prepared me for working with young adults. But were there other factors that contributed to my work and skills? Once again, the question of strengths and talents came to the forefront. Well, after much soul-searching and completing a different personality inventory, I realized that my passions lie within the areas of Service-Learning and Social Justice.
So, it comes as no surprise to me, after taking StrengthsQuest in 2010 that my strengths are Connectedness, Strategic, Relator, Achiever and Responsibility. I think I had one of the biggest “aha” moments of my life when I read the descriptions for each strength. I felt as though I understood myself so much better and felt validated in the career choices I had made. So, now I understand why I think things happen for a reason, why I always think about a Plan B & C, and why relationship building is very important to me. On the flip side, I also recognize when I’m burning out and when I need to say no because I’m taking on too much.
Though these five strengths do not strictly define who I am, they have helped me to better articulate what motivates me in my work, brings me fulfillment, and gives me a sense of purpose. I have a better understanding of the projects that energize me, the types of professional connections I want to form, how I want to mentor students, and how I measure success. When I participated in last week’s professional development, it was very helpful to learn about the four domains of Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building and Strategic Thinking. I was able to categorize my strengths under three of the four areas, which then led me to wonder how I can leverage my existing talents to better influence our BSU community. Being part of a dynamic team, I charted our strengths, highlighted similarities, and gained a greater appreciation for my colleagues and the skills they bring to the table. We now have a solid foundation to further explore, so that we can better utilize and support each other as our office continues to grow, create new initiatives, and enhance current programming.
Even though it is easy, during our busy days, to put our results in a new manila folder and look at them every now and then, I believe that StrengthsQuest can be utilized to empower staff to harness potential, take on new challenges, and foster growth. It is unfortunate that we don’t take more time to reflect upon ourselves, our work, and applaud what we’re good at. However, as registration fees for conferences continue to soar, taking time to capitalize on our strengths in a purposeful, creative and thoughtful manner can yield tremendous rewards for the person, department and division.
So, as I think back to my 8th grade self, as awkward and naïve as I was, I realize that my strengths developed early on. Life has taken me down some interesting roads, but as I reflect upon my life and career, I realize that what’s at the core has not wavered. I want to leave you with this quote by Jack Kornfield, “When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another – and ourselves”. Every day, we encourage students to find themselves. Let’s not forget that we have the power to reinvent ourselves as well.