Individualization Makes You a Better Team Player

By: Annie [Woo | Communication | Significance | Focus | Individualization]


  • Do you view each person as a distinct, one-of-a-kind individual?
  • Do you naturally see how people who are different can work together well?
  • Do you know how to build productive teams because you can see the talents of people and structure groups that maximize those talents?

These are a few insights the authors of CliftonStrengths for Students offer to help you better understand your Individualization strength. You may relate to all three, or maybe just one, but the ability to see the unique qualities in the people around you can serve you well in many ways.

CliftonStrengths for Students - Individualization

Individualization is categorized under the Relationship Building Domain of Leadership Strength. Adapting your approach to individuals based on the characteristics you see in them is what makes you successful at building relationships with many different people.  This can benefit you when working on group projects, functioning in teams, and connecting with your friends and family. A common question in job interviews is to describe your strengths. I recently had an interview where I was asked just that. Knowing that teamwork is a key skill that employers are looking for, I was able to talk about individualization. I gave an example of how I have used this strength when working on a group project in one of my classes. Developing Individualization will set you apart from other candidates in your job search, and serve you well working on group projects throughout college and your career.

So, how can you apply individualization to your academics? The authors of the book make the following suggestions.

In general:

  • Observe the ways other people learn
  • Read about others
  • Watch those around you, pay attention to how your talents are similar and different
  • Learn about other cultures

Study Techniques:

  • Start a study group with people who have different talents and viewpoints
  • Take notes about what makes characters stand out in the novels you read
  • Notice how your learning style, study habits, writing style, and test-taking skills compare to your classmates to learn about the natural differences between people
  • Make a chart listing differences when reading about well-known people


  • Encourage those around you to be successful in their talents
  • Teach your friends and classmates to appreciate the differences in each other
  • Create a support system to find who might benefit from others’ insights

Class Selection:

  • Take classes about people, such as literature, sociology, or psychology courses
  • Enroll in discussion-based courses
  • Look for professors who let their students make choices about their learning

Extracurricular Activities

  • Be a mentor to your peers
  • Look for opportunities that allow you to meet people on an individual basis
  • Start a journal documenting your observations about different people
  • Write feature articles about people on campus for the school paper

Everyone incorporates their strengths into their lives differently, so pick and choose what is appropriate for you from this list. The key is that you continue to be aware of the people around you. Notice how their qualities differ from each other and differ from the qualities you possess. Being able to draw on the strengths of others will serve you well in all that you do in life.

Learn about the 33 other Strengths

Read Annie’s other posts

Everyday Communication

By: Justine [Harmony | Communication | Futuristic | Empathy | Achiever]

Think back to your last job interview. What were the questions that you seemed to struggle the most with?  Strengths and weaknesses are often inquired about by the interviewer because they want to know more about how you describe yourself and possibly how you fit into the company.  Although it seems to be one of the hardest interview answers to formulate, in this blog post I will focus on my strength of communication.

CliftonStrengths for Students - Communication

Last year when I began working in the Career & Internship Services office I took the CliftonStrengths for Students assessment for my first time and communication came up in my top 5 strengths, which personally I found to be surprising. I had never considered myself to be overly confident with speaking and similar to many others, I was also not a huge fan of public speaking. So as I reflected about how this strength fit into my life I began to realize that communication has always been a significant part of my life.

Communication is one of many universal skills that are key to success in any career field.  Although many people have different thoughts when explaining the role of communication, the truth is that it exists in many forms. Communication takes place between coworkers, supervisors, and of course, during presentations.  Nowadays communication can also involve technology through email, texting, and social media. Managing the different methods and means of communication can be overwhelming. Even with it being one of my top strengths, communication in the form of public speaking hasn’t ever been my favorite thing. Over the past year, I have been actively trying to develop this strength through class presentations, workshops through Career & Internship Services, and other endeavors with much success. It’s true that the more you practice a skill the easier it becomes.

It’s been over a year since my first encounter with StrengthsQuest revealing communication to me. Just recently I decided to revisit the assessment and after taking it a second time I found communication to be my number one strength within my top 5.  This was very inspiring to me. From a year ago not even realizing that communication was a strength, to practicing and fully embracing it over the past year, has now made it my number one asset! CliftonStrengths for Students is a very valuable tool that has helped me to not only realize strengths that I didn’t know I had but also has helped me focus on improving a strength that I will be able to use in any area of life.

Check out the 33 other Strengths

Read Justine’s other posts

Restorative: A Strength in Problem Solving

By: Cody [Achiever | Adaptability | Futuristic | Includer | Restorative]

You have just taken the CliftonStrengths for Students assessment and found out one of your strengths is Restorative. If you are like me, you may be thinking, “What the heck is that?” or “Is restorative even a real word?” or “Am I supposed to be good at restoring things, like antiques?” First off, to be clear, it is not a made-up word (you can look it up in the dictionary) and you are close when thinking you are good at restoring things, you just need to think about it in a broader sense.

CliftonStrengths for Students - Restorative

Restorative means enjoying the challenge of analyzing problems, identifying what is wrong and then finding a solution to the problem. You enjoy discovering problems and feel a great sense of accomplishment once you solve those problems. The types of problems you prefer to solve, whether they are practical, personal, or conceptual, can depend on your other strengths and preferences. Knowing what types of problems you like to solve can help you apply it to your career goals.

Personally, I like to find useful solutions to practical problems. I think of practical problems as problems that occur in tasks that people do every day. For example, this past summer I had an internship at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. One day my boss was talking to me about the numerous spreadsheets and forms she had to sort through every week for the weekly audit meeting. I viewed this as a problem that had to have some sort of solution. So I spent the next few days designing and formatting a form that would compile all of the necessary information into one simple form. My boss loved the new form and still uses it today (I even got a free lunch out of the deal!). This is just one real-life example of how I have used my restorative strength to help me along my career path.

Now how do you apply this restorative strength to your career path?

First, I would research jobs and career paths that involve a lot of problem-solving. This may include interviewing various people from different jobs to see exactly what they do. Try to find jobs or career paths that tailor to your specific types of problems you like to solve, either practical, personal or conceptual. Secondly, once you land that perfect job, take the initiative to find problems and solve them. Search for problems around your office and try to devise creative solutions to solve them. This will definitely impress your boss and put you on the fast track to a promotion!

For a strength that most people do not understand at first, restorative can be a great asset for you on career journey. So go and embrace your inner restorativeness and achieve your dreams!

Take the CliftonStrengths for Students assessment through UMD Career & Internship Services

Read about the 33 other Strengths.

Read other posts by Cody

Adaptability: Be Open to What Comes to You

By: Ashlee [Adaptability | Futuristic | Empathy | Input | Ideation]

Before I graduated from college, I worked three part-time jobs, took on a full-time student course load, rehearsed for theatrical shows around 20 hours a week, plus time to hang out with my friends, travel to see my family, and if I was lucky, a little me-time.

How did I survive all the chaos to walk across that stage in May? It was during the last two years of my undergrad I recognized and started using one of my top strengths. Thanks to CliftonStrengths for Students, I present to you Adaptability.

CliftonStrengths for Students - Adaptability


Edward “Chip” Anderson, Ph.D., coauthor of CliftonStrengths for Students, defines adaptability as this: The genius of this perspective means that you can change and change quickly. Rather than being rigid, you are flexible; and rather than being tied to some pre-set plan, you can quickly change to meet immediate demands and circumstances that require attention.

Thankfully, I recognized through my experiences in several internships I needed a workplace that was constantly in motion. Sitting behind a computer? Chained to my desk? I don’t think so. In fact, whenever an employer used the term “fast-paced” and “no day is the same as the one before,” I feel my blood start to pump a little faster.

In my eyes, adaptability is being able to change yourself and be open to things, be it for personal or work-related reasons. A nice way of putting it is to “go with the flow.” For example, when I directed a show for UMD’s Stage II production company, I had to wear many different hats as director. I had to work with actors one minute, and the next, I’m speaking to my lighting designer about a new effect idea I’d like to try out during a particular scene. Immediately after that, I’m out in the rehearsal space with my actors because the blocking doesn’t feel quite right. Right after that, I’m being told our rehearsal schedule for the upcoming week is no longer going to work and we have to tweak it. Being adaptable allowed me to wear each respective hat with ease while still keeping the overall bigger picture in mind.

Adaptability has also come into play in my professional life in a more serious way. For instance, a new full-time job means changing my daily routine. There’s no sleeping in until 10 or 11am anymore. Every morning, I’m walking into my office ready to work by 8:00 am. I wasn’t even six months out of college, and I was making major changes compared to my lifestyle the past 5 years. Because of adaptability, I was able to recognize my need to hit the sack an hour or two earlier. I’m not waking up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every single morning (that’s what coffee is for!), but I am far more attentive than if I keep to my “college days” sleeping habits.

Sure, you tell yourself you’ll catch up on sleep over the weekend, but guess what? Sometimes you have to work *gasp* on the weekends! Just another adaptation you’ll make to the working world! It also helps to be adaptable when you can’t head out for lunch at your regular break time.

On a more serious note, a crazy and hectic work atmosphere isn’t ideal for everybody, but opening yourself up to being flexible is when great things happen. If a great project suddenly comes along or you’ve been dying to work with so-and-so, do it! I don’t care if your planner says you have yoga every other day at 5:00 pm. When the opportunities come across your desk, grasp them with both hands and run with it straight out the door.

I never really saw myself as a mini graphic designer of sorts until my boss asked me if I’d like to try my hand at it for an upcoming event we were promoting. I said yes, put lots of energy and thought into it, and I am now designing every invitation and brochure needed in our office, and I absolutely love that part of my job.

Be open and adapt to what comes at you. Sometimes you have to “go with the flow.”

Check out the 33 other Strengths.

Read Ashlee’s other posts

Activator: Climbing the Ladder, One Idea at a Time

By: Megan [Input | Strategic | Futuristic | Individualization | Activator]

Finding your strengths is something that is essential to finding your career path. It’s one of the first things they ask in interviews and how you answer that question is probably one of the things that makes you stand out. Hemming and hawing will only get you so far. Knowing your strengths, and more importantly, how you can use them, is how you get to where you want to be.

The StrengthsQuest assessment has by far been one of the most useful things I have done at college to find my path. All of my strengths work together in a way that is uniquely me, but the one that interests me the most is Activator. CliftonStrengths for Students says “People who are especially talented in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient.”

CliftonStrengths for Students - Activator


Now, this may sound a little less like a strength and a little more like something you want to control, but when I think about it, it makes sense. To me, it is not being impatient, but being willing to act. Once I have made a decision, I act on it. Waiting around debating something that isn’t going to change just gives me more time to doubt myself. I recently realized that I need to use my Activator theme a bit more when I started freaking out about a test that I had already taken.

How does this apply to work? Well, Activators are generally go-getters. They’re the people who go out and push the envelope. Often they make mistakes, and they may crash and burn, but in the end, they learn something, and then they apply it to their next endeavor.

The entirety of the Fashion industry comes to mind. Entrepreneurs. Even the guy in the cubicle next to you who keeps giving your boss proposals on how to improve the office (feng-shui, a monthly potluck, getting rid of the cubicles altogether) is showing off their Activation.

Being an Activator gives you the determination to just go with things. I’ll see an endeavor through just to see where it’s going. It’s why I’ve gotten this far. I’ve made more friends, gotten better grades, even found new hobbies. Just because I jumped on something before other people would have. And that’s really the best part of being an Activator.

Knowing your strengths is so important to finding your career path and figuring out who you are as a person. So be an Activator, and figure out your own strengths. And tell your friends. I’m sure you know a good place to do that.

Check out the 33 other Strengths

Read Megan’s other posts

Ideation: Thinking Outside of the Box

By: Zach [Competition | Ideation | Individualization | Significance | Strategic]

My close buddy, Benjamin Franklin, once told me, “To cease to think creatively is but little different from ceasing to live”… Ok, so maybe I did not get to hear those words from him personally, but when I hear that statement, the big light bulb goes off above my head!

I hope you are tuning in right now because you’re interested in hearing more about my favorite, and what I believe to be one of the most important strengths as reflected from CliftonStrengths for Students, and that is ideation. Most simply spoken by the assessment itself, People especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.

CliftonStrengths for Students - Ideation


But what does this mean?

To me, it means I derive my energy and passion for “outside of the box” thinking. I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment when I discover a simple solution to a seemingly complex problem. It means my mind is always racing to find connections and links, especially when it concerns obscure concepts. People with ideation revel in taking the world we all know and turning it around so we can view it from a strange but strangely enlightening angle. It’s all about looking through a different lens and finding a new and pioneering solution to the problem that seemed it would never be solved. It also means we are never satisfied for long. The world around us is continuously changing, and with society and technology exponentially growing, the cycle will continue forever.

If we wanted to take a look at how ideation transfers to the workplace, there are many aspects to look at (source: CliftonStrengths for Students):

  • Environments that allow you to have freedom and experimentation, as well as time and space, will truly highlight your ability.
  • Select organizations where supervisors encourage your external thinking. Most employers will look for this in candidates when they are seeking new approaches and change to their current processes.
  • Be sure to avoid positions that will lock your creative thinking and that require regimented routine or attention to detail. Ideation thinkers do not feel comfortable in limited and task-oriented positions such as these.
  • Most importantly, do research, and seek out positions where creativity is important. People with ideation as one of their top skills enjoy positions such as strategic planning, consulting, market researching, designing, advertising, etc.

If we take one last look at my close companion, Benjamin Franklin, we can see a very eccentric thinker. When asked, most will say, “oh, isn’t he the guy that invented electricity?” First, when I hear that, I will be sure to correct you. Electricity was not invented. However, he was a pioneer in understanding its scientific properties and how it could be utilized. Besides his exploration in the sciences he was also a respected renaissance man, leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat… just to name a few. This man was the epitome of the word ideation! His accomplishments within many diverse fields exceeded many of his peers’ expectations of him, however, he was quick to look over his success because he knew there was always more to learn and always a new solution.

This is how I view ideation. Information and education are endless, and as long as we as a society are living, there will always be change, and therefore a new solution to everything. It is a skill that requires one to ask questions, form an understanding, and apply that knowledge to create a new and successful solution… but not for long!

Take CliftonStrengths for Students through our office.

Check out the 33 other Strengths.

Read Zach’s other posts.

Futuristic: Soaring With Your Strengths

By: Abby [Futuristic | WOO | Communication | Responsibility | Relator]

CliftonStrengths for Students is a career assessment that Career & Internship Services offers. You answer questions, and it gives you your top 5 Strengths. Out of the three assessments we offer, and the numerous others that I have taken, CliftonStrengths for Students is my all time favorite.

There are so many things that I could talk about revolving around the assessment in general, but today I am telling you about the strength/theme Futuristic. This blog and all of its writers will be covering all 34 of the Strengths over the next few months.

CliftonStrengths for Students - FuturisticFuturistic, in my opinion, is my most “potent” strength. I was not surprised to see it as my first strength. CliftonStrengths for Students offers this definition of Futuristic:

People who are especially talented in the Futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be. They inspire others with their visions of the future.

The book definition is true, but what Futuristic means to me is a bit different. I am a goal driven person. I am fascinated with what the future holds. It could be viewed as dreaming, but I see it as being driven.

This strength has helped me with much of my success. While I was in middle school, I was thinking about high school. While I was in high school, I was thinking about college. I attribute this forward-thinking to me being able to graduate in three years. I also attribute it to myself finding an internship while I was still a freshman. I have been able to achieve things faster and earlier than most of my peers because I am always thinking about the next step – getting an awesome job after graduation. I know that to get there, there are many things I need to do presently. Since I am thinking about all of the things that I must do, I start doing them. Before I know it, I am done.

This blessing can also be seen as a curse. My futuristic mind is always thinking about what is next. Once I reach that step, it is no longer the future, and off my mind roams again to the next step. It might be said that I am never satisfied with the present. I realized that was a personal tendency, then once I became self-aware, I started to adapt my mind to focus on both.

Self-awareness is a great thing. CliftonStrengths for Students helps you achieve that. I am a huge supporter of it, and self-awareness in general. I am always trying to improve myself, and it all starts with being aware.

Check out the 33 other Strengths

Read Abby’s other posts.