Character Strengths

By Jamie Grant, Senior Associate Director, C’98 GEd’99

I recently attended a professional development session in which we discussed the impact of positive psychology and the importance of finding opportunities in life that play to our strengths, impacting our performance and job satisfaction in addition to the way we manage life issues.  Through completing a free online – and quick – assessment of “character strengths” through the VIA Institute on Character as recommended by our instructor, (, I learned a bit more about myself, and I have taken just about every career-related assessment out there!   It also helped me to understand why working in Career Services has always felt like a rewarding and just-about-perfect fit for me.

I work with many students as they begin the career exploration process, and some who are literally deciding on an offer that day.  Many of the same types of questions come up for both types of advising appointments – students wonder where they fit, what kind of work might be best for them, where are they going to be “happy” and how to get that job.  It’s incredibly difficult to evaluate your potential for strong performance AND satisfaction with your work by reading a job description, or even going through a rigorous interviewing process during which you get to ask all of your questions!  Hopefully, by exploring things like your “character strengths” and getting a grasp on when you are most likely to feel engaged and fulfilled professionally and personally, you may get a strong(er) sense as to what types of roles, organizations and career paths are ultimately your ideal fit.

And as always, please don’t hesitate to connect with an advisor here in Career Services to discuss this process or any other career related questions or concerns on your mind!   Warmest wishes for a restful and deservedly long winter break to all of our current students!

Who Are You?

J. Michael DeAngelis, Information Resources Manager

My favorite band of all time, bar none, is The Who.  I’ve been lucky enough to have seen them live in concert nine times and I’ve already got the tenth one scheduled – the final night of their 50th anniversary tour, which concludes here in Philadelphia in November.

50 years.  That’s a long time to be a rock star.  No, let’s be honest, that’s a long time to be ANYTHING.  Can you see yourself doing the same work for fifty years?  Forty? Twenty?  I’ve worked at Penn for ten years (almost eleven), but even in that amount of time, I’ve had five different positions across two different offices.  Pete and Rodger must really love what they do.

How do you find out what you would love to do for fifty years or more? Career Services offers a few ways to begin this exploration through online self-assessments.  We offer the following services free or at a discounted rate for current students and alumni:

SIGI 3 – SIGI 3® is a comprehensive, free career exploration tool that prompts you to discover your skills, interests, and values and matches the resulting profile to career options.  SIGI3 also provides in-depth and up-to-date career information.  (Free)

Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) – The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is now available through Career Services. This inventory is designed to assess the preferences linked to your personality.

The MBTI is often taken in conjunction with the Strong Interest Inventory – The Strong Interest Inventory is now available through Career Services. This inventory is designed to assess interests and preferred work styles and relate them to a variety of career fields and occupations.

($15 for one test, $30 for both for current students, $25/$50 for current post-docs and alumni)

StrengthsQuest – StrengthsQuest is an assessment that tracks your top ten five talent themes as a means toward helping you to discover your strengths. The instrument will also provide guidance on how to apply your strengths to your academics, career planning and leadership development. ($9.99)

Talentoday – Talentoday will allow you to easily assess your core soft skills and motivations, and immediately discover what job profiles fit your personality best. The resource is completely free and is now available for all students and alumni. Take a 11-minute online self-assessment and discover your unique qualities and job possibilities. (Free)

All of these resources and others can be found on our Career Inventories page

Each of these tools can help you answer “who are you?” and maybe with the knowledge you gain about yourself, in fifty years time you’ll still be rocking out like The Who.

Keep It Moving: Maintaining Momentum in Your Career

By Sharon Fleshman

Whether you want to get a running start at your new job, invigorate your current career, or make a complete shift, being proactive is always a wise move.  Consider the following strategies and commit to moving forward with at least one action step by the end of the summer.

Conduct Self-Assessment: What do you want and what can you offer?

  • Reflect on past experiences and accomplishments and consider where you were energized and made impact.
  • Assess your skills, interests, personality traits and values using informal worksheets or career inventories.
  • Read about careers and job announcements and see what resonates with you.
  • Read more about self-assessment here.

Build Your Network: With whom should you exchange insight and information?

  • Conduct informational interviews via resources such as the Penn Alumni Career Network and LinkedIn.
  • Join a professional association or career-related group.
  • Set up a LinkedIn profile.
  • Become active in your alumni organization and online groups.

Plan for Professional Development: What do you need to learn and strengthen?

  • Attend a career-related seminar or conference.
  • Take a class.
  • Apply to get a certificate or another degree.
  • Participate in a project that will help you develop targeted skills and broaden your exposure.
  • Read more about professional development here.

Cultivate Professional Presence:  How can you find new opportunities to apply, share, and highlight your skills, strengths and expertise?

  • Join a committee in your office or in a professional association.
  • Write an article for a blog or newsletter.
  • Initiate or participate in a social media discussion on LinkedIn or Twitter.
  • Present at a meeting or conference.
  • Volunteer at an organization of interest.

Assessments to Help Explore Your Career

We’ve been getting quite a few questions from students regarding tests for career exploration.

We have several career assessments and inventories on our website here:

These tests assess your interests, skills, and values and help you to explore career opportunities that may be a good fit for you.

The most popular ones are Myers Briggs Type Indicator and Strong Interest Inventory.

Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is designed to assess the preferences linked to your personality.

The Strong Interest Inventory is designed to assess interests and preferred work styles and relate them to a variety of career fields and occupations.

Also on the website is a link to SIGI 3. SIGI 3 is a comprehensive, free career exploration tool that prompts you to discover your skills, interests, and values and matches the resulting profile to career options.

For current students, it costs $15 for one test and $30 for both.

For alumni, it costs $25 one test and $50 for both.

If you are a current student, the Counseling and Psychological Services office also provides these takes and gives workshops regarding the tests.

You can view information from CAPS here:

StrengthsQuest is also an assessment tool which lists your top five talent themes and offers advice on how to leverage those talents to achieve success in academics, career planning, and leadership development.

For current students and alumni, it costs $15 to take StrengthsQuest.

You can take it here:

Once you have completed your StrengthsQuest assessment, you will automatically receive access to a customized report based on your talents.  If you would like to discuss your results further, please contact the office to schedule a meeting with one of the following counselors based on your school.

After you have taken any of the above tests, you can schedule a talk with a career counselor for a comprehensive evaluation of your results and career options.

Strategic Self-Assessment

By Sharon Fleshman

Whether you are exploring careers, conducting a job search, or contemplating a career change, self-assessment can energize the process.  Begin by reflecting on your previous jobs, projects and activities. Don’t limit yourself to the experiences which seem most related to your immediate career goals.  Try to move beyond occupations and job titles. Take a look at your resume or CV and go line by line. Identify where you made the most impact and what gave you the greatest sense of fulfillment.

Next, you’ll want to pinpoint skills that emerge from these experiences. Chances are that these skills can transfer to a variety of career options.  For example, research skills could be applied to meaningful work in any number of areas such as academia, program evaluation for a non-profit, or marketing research for a corporation.

In addition to skills, think about what you valued in past experiences in which you found meaning and success. Identifying your work values will help you to consider the work environment which is the best fit for you.  In other words, you could perform the same job in two different settings but find that you thrive much more in one setting than the other.  What about your interests? Perhaps they would provide clues as to what’s next on your career path.  It may be that you decide to try out some career options by way of internships, volunteer work, or short-term projects to tease out all of this information. There’s nothing quite like hands-on experience to provide a fresh perspective.

Finally, you will need to consider the current priorities in your life and how they relate to your job search.  Are you willing to relocate or do personal commitments limit your geographical options? How do your immediate financial needs affect your choices?

You will find that self-assessment not only helps you identify potential career paths, but prepares you for next steps in the job search.  Your networking meetings will be more focused and fruitful because you have done your homework.  Your resumes, cover letters, and interviews will be more compelling because you have taken a thorough inventory of what energizes you, what matters to you, and what you have to offer.

In addition to our Career Discovery webpages, there are a number of tools and inventories that can help you facilitate the self-assessment process.  As always, Career Services advisors are available to provide guidance as well. Enjoy your summer!