Most MBA programs (at least in North America) have some kind of introductory week for the students before they begin their program in earnest. It’s a time for the students to familiarize themselves with their new surroundings, and to learn about the faculty, services and resources that will be available to them during their program.
At DeGroote this week is called “Transition Week” (i.e. you transition from an undergrad to a Masters level student) and my department, which is responsible for providing career advice, professional development and running the MBA co-op program, facilitates several workshops during the week.
Our aim during this time with the students is to begin their professional development journey by encouraging self awareness and thoughtful reflection on who and what they want to become when they graduate and what needs to be done to get them there. It is a lot easier said than done. Not least because the average age of a student entering our program is 21. If I remember correctly, I wasn’t spending a lot of time on the larger, more pressing questions in life when I was that age and while there are many differences between Gen X (my generation) and Gen Y (the incoming class), I don’t think we differ much in the levels of self-awareness present at the age of 21.
In the past we have nobly tried to emphasize to students the need to understand personality, values, environmental preferences and interests and how these might apply to future career choices. However it has overwhelmed them at a time when they are already reaching information overload and although at a later date they may have come to appreciate the value of this wisdom, it hasn’t really hit home fast enough for the vast majority of students to be able to apply in their co-op, summer and full-time job applications.
This year we are planning something different and I am really excited about it. We are going to use a tool called Strengthsfinder 2.0. This tool was developed by the people at Gallup (the polling and survey firm), from surveying over 8 million individuals in 50 odd different countries. It identifies the presence of certain talents that their research has proven, when used constructively, can be leveraged to help people achieve what they want to in life. It’s quite revolutionary in that it is built on the premise that everyone is born with a unique combination of innate talents and the best way to be successful is by leveraging these talents and finding other ways to compensate for ways in which you are not talented. In the words of one of their consultants “you can’t be anything you want to be, but you can be a whole lot more of who you are”. Another way of putting it would be don’t waste time trying to be great at something where you do not possess an innate talent, at best you will achieve mediocrity. Instead focus on being great at what you already know you can do naturally well.
Refreshing isn’t it? It explains perfectly why I’ll never make a good navigator (having no sense of direction, despite serious efforts to acquire one), but I am a good public speaker. I’ll never make a great sprinter, but I am like the Duracell bunny, I have a lot of physical endurance over the long haul. On the other hand my husband, Rob, could find his way out of the boreal forest in the dark with a blind fold (I am actually not joking there), but has something of a reputation for being “the strong silent type”, with an emphasis in this situation on the silent. We were never destined for the same career.
I don’t want to go in to too much detail here but I would recommend reading the book. It is not much more than $20 and I haven’t met a single person who hasn’t got some interesting insights from taking the survey (a code for which comes with each book purchase). I’ll report back later next month about how the students receive this wisdom.
My Top 10 are as follows:
People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more.
Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.
People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and
want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the
outcome, excites them.
People who are especially talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their
intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.
People who are especially talented in the Positivity theme have an enthusiasm that is
contagious. They are upbeat and can get others excited about what they are going to do.
People who are especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They
are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.
People who are especially talented in the Activator theme can make things happen by
turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient.
People who are especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina
and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.
People who are especially talented in the Maximizer theme focus on strengths as a way
to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong
into something superb.
People who are especially talented in the Developer theme recognize and cultivate the
potential in others. They spot the signs of each small improvement and derive
satisfaction from these improvements.
People who are especially talented in the Empathy theme can sense the feelings of other
people by imagining themselves in others’ lives or others’ situations.