Strengths Assessment: 10 Ways To Know What You Are Good At Doing

I receive a large number of emails from readers asking about strengths assessment, usually via a question that looks something like this: “Dr. Civitelli, I need to make some career decisions, and so I am trying to figure out my strengths and/or skills. How can I figure out what I’m good at doing?”

Chinese Symbol for Strength
Here are some suggestions for strengths assessment:

1. Ask yourself: What do you routinely do for family, friends, and acquaintances because over time you have realized that you do these things with ease while others may struggle? For example, from the time I was an undergraduate in college, I intuitively knew how to help other students land acceptance in grad school or secure a new job offer, so I did these things for years before I finally figured out that I should pay attention to what this meant for my own career.

2. Buy the book, StrengthsFinder 2.0 and take the strengths assessment to identify your top talents. Based on 40 years of research, this assessment was pioneered by Donald O. Clifton, a psychologist who specializes in strengths psychology. He was assisted by Tom Rath and a team of scientists at The Gallup Organization. Or, buy StandOut: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment from the Leader of the Strengths Revolution, Marcus Buckingham’s newest book.

3. Use the free Skills Profiler at CareerOneStop to create a list of your skills and match them to job types that use those skills.

4. Start an energy log and begin to track when you feel energized and enthusiastic and when you feel drained. When you are engaged in activities that are in sync with your strengths, it is often invigorating, but when you are doing something that isn’t a strength, it can sap your energy because your brain is working so hard. For strengths to be optimally used, they must be sustainable.

5. Get out in the world and do things so that you can get feedback from others. If you want to explore:

Writing…submit articles to publications, start a blog, pursue freelance work.

Speaking…participate in Toastmasters, volunteer to speak to church groups or professional associations or at conferences, videotape yourself giving a talk and upload it to a blog or YouTube.

Managing people…volunteer for a non-profit organization and work your way to a leadership role managing other volunteers.

Working in health care…volunteer at a hospital.

Becoming a scientist…watch lectures at Khan Academy or enroll in an introductory class.

6. If you are willing to invest significant money and time in strengths assessment and you live in or can visit Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, or Washington, D.C. you can participate in extensive aptitude testing offered by the nonprofit Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation. Testing takes two appointments of 3.5 hours each and an additional 1.5 hour career counseling appointment to discuss your results. Cost is $675 ($750 in New York), which is very reasonable considering how extensive the process is. One warning: the Johnson O’Connor strengths assessment process can be exhausting because most people aren’t good at everything and the testing really highlights areas of challenge. I have been tested and results confirmed that I have very high aptitude for the skills required in management and communication and extremely low aptitude for spatial memory, visual skill, manual dexterity, rhythm, tone, color discrimination, and observation. So no future as a pilot, architect, surgeon, or musician for me. (Update: Thanks to, you can sample Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation aptitude tests here).

Alternatively, I like the COPSystem online assessment that includes a timed measure of abilities. It costs $19.50 and you can complete it at home.

7. Many researchers believe that it takes 10,000 hours to master any complex skill, so what can you imagine doing for that many hours? I can hear the Renaissance people screaming in horror at this one, so be reassured that this guideline is meant to be helpful, not oppressive. If you don’t want to do just one thing and become very specialized, then you do not have to do so…this is just for people who want to be virtuosos in a discipline.

8. Your childhood is a good place to look for clues about your strengths. When you were in elementary school, what did you gravitate toward doing? What compliments did you receive from teachers? What contests did you win?

9. Here’s a warning about the strategy in #8: Be careful that you don’t mistake genetic blessing as a sign that you are meant to do something. Some of the unhappiest people I know are those who were naturally gifted at something from a young age, so they were pressured into pursuing a particular path that doesn’t feel satisfying to them at all. I appreciate the advice Marcus Buckingham gives when he says that something is truly a strength only if practicing it motivates a person to do more. If a strength feels like a golden handcuff, it isn’t truly a strength. Satisfaction lies in using strengths that are congruent with one’s values, interests, and temperament, too.

10. Hire a career counselor or coach. Sometimes it is much easier to identify truths about yourself when talking them through with an objective career development professional. Please email us if you would like to start a conversation about my company’s career coaching services.

I would love to hear your comments and feedback below if you try any of the above suggestions.


  1. Bryan Lubic says:

    Thanks for writing this great post about strengths!

    I’m also a big fan of strengths and really appreciated the article, especially:

    Tip #4, “Start an energy log and begin to track when you feel energized and enthusiastic and when you feel drained. ”

    Tip #5, with it’s specific actions to take based on particular strengths to develop or strengthen (i.e., to strengthen “managing people” then volunteer for a nonprofit, for example).

    Great work, Dr. Civitelli, looking forward to more great stuff from you!


  2. Karl Kasca says:

    Thanks for your extremely valuable and practical post!

    I’m very happy that @VanityGirl (Maxine Tatlonghari) referred me to your post as I teach Social Media Marketing at UCLA Extension, speak to many groups on The Power of Social Media, and am often asked for advice by students and professionals transitioning to other careers who want (or need) to find their passion (especially entrepreneurs).

    I usually refer people in career transition or entrepreneurs seeking their niches to the Jung Typology Test ( ), but now I’m going to refer them to your excellent post as well!

    Thanks again for your gift to passion-seekers everywhere.

    With great esteem,


  3. Good day.
    Thank you for the information.
    I just needed this.
    Thank you.

  4. Mark Ireland says:

    That is a great post! Thanks a lot! Finding a career path can cause so much angst sometimes. Really, great post!

  5. I think my biggest struggle is using my gifts and talents for a financial advantage. I work in non for profit and I’m great at what I do but its not going to make me rich or be able to retire earlier. I ‘d like to know how to utilise my skills, like Richard Branson did, to make a profit and be able to set myself up so I can retire earlier. I ‘m 47 and all I’ve done is work hard all my life and given people a lot of joy but for very little financial gain! Just want to start focussing on me a bit more.

  6. Choosing the right career is so important with today’s economy and valid strengths.

  7. I am 45 years of age and I worked in a printing company for 20 years. I would like to change my career around to be advanced in life. I want something different and where do I start? I feel stuck and need a little encouragement. Thank you.

  8. Stella 2, which things have you tried from the suggestions in the article above?

  9. Nicholas Guy White I says:

    Thank you very much for the tips you have given us. I am 26 years old from Kansas City. I now live in Chicago and the move made me realize they I have not tested all of my abilities. Besides sports, I do not know what I am good at.

    Thanks again for this article I will follow through with this advice ASAP.

  10. I still feel as if I have nothing I’m good at. Any suggestions on how to dig really deep?

  11. Emily, which suggestions from the article have you tried so far?

  12. Tony Lee says:

    Hello Dr. Civitelli,

    I want to thank you so much for creating this blog. It truly inspired me more to figure out my own strengths and talents. I recently just graduated from college and will be working for a big financial company soon; however, I’m struggling in the past year to figure out my interests and find a right career path. I want to wake up and be excited coming to work everyday to the rest of life.

    Anyhow, I really like the 10 ways to assess strengths you listed in the article.; however, do you have any recommendation on a specific one, since there is no ranking of the list? I was planning to start with the Johnson O’Connor, but many reviewers say that they use out-of-date equipments. Also, it is really expensive for a recent graduate like me. I tried many things in the past, including seeing career counselor, going back to my childhood’s stories, and changing my majors (Physic, Biochemistry, and now Business & Accounting), joining organizations in college to improve communication and interpersonal skills, taking improvisation, tennis as well as art history courses; but none of them works. I graduated with great honor, so I don’t think GPA is a factor. Anyhow, I’m glad to find your website and I’m positive that I will eventually find my true gifts to help and inspire others like you.

    Thanks again for the wonderful knowledge you provided in the article!

  13. Hi, Tony. The ideas aren’t ranked because different things work for different people, so my suggestion is to always start with the least expensive and least time-consuming ways to learn about yourself, and go from there. Some people gain clarity in a short while, and for some, it is a lifelong quest.

  14. sweety saxena says:

    Hi there,

    I am from India and I m 25 years old. Music is the thing which really excites me and I won’t mind working on it 365 days in a I have been working on it on my own level writing and performing songs. Want to upload videos on YouTube. The thing that stops me from pursuing music is financial insecurity because if I leave my boring job troubles will be created for my family..please advise

  15. Sweety Saxena, this is the same challenge of creative people everywhere, yes? I am a fan of Ken Mattsson’s advice to choose a career that supports your creative career. The supportive career is the one that provides the income that allows you to pursue the creative work that you hope will someday be able to provide income as well, but in the beginning, you don’t yet know what the outcome will be. Ken’s advice is featured in a chapter in my book, “Help Me Find A Career.” I also like Elizabeth Gilbert’s advice in “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.”

  16. Michael Mwafumbila says:

    Thanks for the multinational relevant and recommendable post. Knowing what one is good at through discovering one’s strengths and talents is REALLY REWARDING IN LIFE.

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