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Using the Strong with Clients of All Ages and Stages in Life

Using the Strong with Clients of All Ages and Stages in Life

By Cheryl Hollatz-Wisely

The first three blogs in this series told a story of how I used the Strong Interest Inventory® (Strong) assessment with an adult client who was considering a career change. This unhappy CPA no longer felt fulfilled by his work in accounting, and I chose the Strong because I knew it would offer great insight into why the fit was no longer there for him. His Strong results provided terrific data, and it was in the interpretation session that he articulated his need to be doing work that was directly helping others. He still enjoyed numbers and data, but his life had shifted—what compelled him now was a desire to be of service to others.

His experience of being with his mom in a supportive hospice program had affected him in unexpected ways; he now wanted to be doing work that was somehow connected to that experience. After our interpretation session, he participated in several informational interviews with professionals on the accounting and finance side of the healthcare industry. In his last email to me, he said his interviews with hospital and hospice chief financial directors/CFOs had been very helpful. This seemed to be the direction he wanted to take. I didn’t get to meet with him again, but I do know that he was very excited about this new direction, one in which he could pull together his leadership, accounting, and auditing skills, as well as his desire to help others in the broader medical field.

In my recent Strong webinar, I reviewed how the Strong is a tool that can be used at any point in the career development journey. From high school and college-age students to adult clients, the scales on the Strong give us different slices of information about who we are and where we are at any point in our life.

The Strong is used most commonly in college and university settings, but it is just as powerful a tool with high school–age students. I would like to focus now on this particular client population. About five years ago I helped start a College & Career Center at my neighborhood high school. Since then I have been honored to volunteer as a mentor for students who need extra support for the “What comes after high school?” question. I want to introduce you to two student mentees of mine, “Ana” and “Daniel” (not their real names). Their unique circumstances serve as important reminders for us as practitioners: the seemingly routine process of administering the Strong to a client isn’t always so routine.

I think the opening lines of their college essays might be a good way to introduce these two high school students, as each gives a picture of their life in their own voice.

iStock_cheryl blog somber student SmallAna’s college essay topic: “When have you felt different, and how has that shaped you?”

One holiday that doesnt fit in with my culture is Halloween and I was kept at home on Halloween to take me away from the influence. The reason why was that we dont celebrate it in Russia and I feel that its more of an American holiday. Also my mother is religious and sees it as a type of evil. When I was younger, my teacher wanted us to cut out pumpkins out of orange construction paper.  I didnt know what to do and didnt want to risk anything so instead I cut out a bunny, an orange bunny for Halloween . . .

Ana was a high school junior, and although she had been raised in the United States, she had been placed in ESL classes throughout grade school, as Russian was the only language spoken in her home. Ana said she wanted to go to college to be an architect or a doctor, but she was worried that she couldn’t be a doctor because she wasn’t able to get As in her science or writing classes. She loved and excelled in her art classes and said she felt free from the stress of high school when she was “doing art.”

Ana was interested in taking the Strong but said she needed first to get permission from her parents. It turned out her parents were concerned about her being “tested.” One important point to keep in mind, especially when working with students from different cultures, is that “assessment” can mean very different things to different people. It is common practice in many countries for students to be tested and, as a result, get vocationally tracked. Ana’s parents had been placed on strict vocational paths in Russia before entering high school, and they were concerned that this would happen to Ana.

Ana and I created a list of what the Strong was and wasn’t, also noting how it would and wouldn’t be used. She translated our list into Russian and brought it home for them. The list included items such as these:

  • The Strong Interest Inventory assessment measures interests, not abilities.
  • The Strong will help Ana understand more about who she is and what she enjoys.
  • Her results will not be shared with anyone without her permission—Ana will decide with whom she wants to share them.
  • Her results will give her college majors and career ideas to explore as she learns where females similar to her have found work they enjoy.
  • Her results will not tell her what to major in, where to go to college, or what career she should go into.
  • Her results will not be used to limit her possibilities: the results will be used to open up new ideas as she learns more about herself.

Ana really wanted to take the Strong, and the process of creating this list helped her understand even more fully what the assessment would provide for her. Her parents agreed to let her take the Strong, and Ana was proud of working with me to create and then translate the list.

After our interpretation session, Ana was thrilled to go home and show her parents what she had learned about herself. “My grandfather always used to take me to construction sites, and we would imagine the rooms that would be built, what they would look like, and how we would design them. I can’t wait to tell him and my parents all about my results!” Ana’s top two basic interests based on her Basic Interest Scale (BIS) scores—Visual Arts & Design and Mechanics & Construction—made perfect sense to her. She was excited to explore some new ideas, and the thought of studying something in college that could pull those different parts of her together put a huge smile on her usually sullen face.

Ana is a great reminder to us that when we are working with students from other countries, we need to be sensitive to any cultural differences that exist. Now I’d like you to meet my second mentee, Daniel, who had a very different set of circumstances that made him unique as a high school student.

iStock_cheryl blog happy student SmallDaniel’s college essay topic: “What has been your greatest learning experience outside the classroom?”

At nine years old I was dreading showing my mother my report card, one B was all it took to set her off. With courage I slowly went into her room. As I opened the door, I saw something no child of that age should ever see . . .

Stay tuned for my next and final blog to learn more about Daniel and our work together!


Read Cheryl’s previous blogs:



Cheryl Hollatz-Wisely is lead trainer for GS Consultants, founded by Judith Grutter. GS Consultants has provided webinars for CPP on the Strong and MBTI® assessment for almost a decade.



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