The Best Tool for Discovering your Strengths.

One of the biggest challenges we face in the arts is that we tend to be conformist in nature. We look back at traditional approaches to learn our art in order to catapult us into the future.

We need to separate the formal practice of learning our high art from our future career path. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I do believe there is a standardized course of study that prepares us to be artists. The art of careful, diligent practice under the guidance of a mentor and a commitment to beauty and fluency are especially important for artists to be successful.

However, beyond a specific scope and sequence for your applied art, there is no “one-size-fits-all” rubric for career success.  We are all different, with a diversity of hopes and dreams, wants and needs that define our career.

On top of this, we all have different personalities that are ever-present during our pursuit. In my experience, I haven’t seen a particular personality have a better shot than others at forging a successful career. I do think it’s important to know what type of personality you have in order to better understand your potential career path.

One great tool I recommend is called Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow. Strengths Based Leadership is a book that comes “with an online talent assessment that helps you:

  • discover what you naturally do best
  • learn how to develop your greatest talents
  • use your customized results to live your best life”

Upon completion of the assessment, you will be given your top five strengths, along with a detailed description of each, which I believe is incredibly beneficial to your career path. There are four main “domains” that each of your strengths fit into.

  1. The Strategic Thinker — Artists who would prefer to think, plan, and strategize about their career instead of acting on it. Thinkers often keep journals, love to plan, and are very comfortable discussing an idea. On the flip side, they are often risk averse and it can be difficult for them to act on an idea.What StrengthsFinder says about strategic thinkers: “Strategic Thinkers are the ones who keep us all focused on what could be. They are constantly absorbing and analyzing information and helping the team make better decisions.”
  2. The Executor — Artists who have an idea, quickly gather 3 friends, plan the activity, and act on the activity within a month are likely executors. These artists are often high energy, excited to take on risk and will sometimes act on an ideas even if the desired outcome isn’t completely figured out.What StrengthsFinder says about Executers: “Leaders with dominant strength in the Executing domain know how to make things happen. When you need someone to implement a solution, these are the people who will work tirelessly to get it done.”
  3. The Influencer — Artists who are good at telling their story via social media, gathering large crowds for their performances, and have had many successful partnerships for their work are great influencers.  What StrengthsFinder says about Influencers: “Those who lead by Influencing help their team reach a much broader audience.  People with strength in this domain are always selling the team’s ideas inside and outside the organization.”
  4. The Relationship Builder — Artists that can easily pull an ensemble together and keep them going as a high performing group are relationship builders. What StrengthsFinder says about Relationship Builders: “Those who lead through Relationship Building are the essential glue that holds a team together. Without these strengths on a team, in many cases, the group is simply a composite of individuals.”

Where do you see yourself fitting into these domains? I hope you’ll take the assessment to find out. I have found the process to be incredibly eye opening and telling as I reflect on my own leadership style.

The most important thing to remember is that this assessment will help you embark upon your own path.

Published by Nate Zeisler

Nathaniel Zeisler is passionate about supporting and developing the careers of artists and artistically minded entrepreneurs. Serving as the Director of Community Engagement and Adult Studies at the Colburn School, Zeisler is working to build a program that offers a menu of services and training to world-class artists who seek sustainable careers, through engagement activities in Southern California. In 2004, Nathaniel founded the Envision Chamber Consort; an organization dedicated to presenting music as a form of contemporary communication. Continuing to pursue connections between the business and arts communities, Zeisler co-founded and led Arts Enterprise, an organization that helps students find sustainable careers in their chosen field. Additionally, Dr. Zeisler served as the assistant professor of bassoon and professor of entrepreneurship at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. As a musician, Nate served as the principal bassoonist of the Ann Arbor Symphony and performed as second bassoonist with the Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit. Nathaniel earned his doctorate of musical arts and master’s degree in bassoon performance from the University of Michigan and bachelor’s degree in choral and instrumental education from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

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