Know Your Strengths—Own Your Career

We all have many demands placed on our time and attention, and sometimes the person who gets the least care and feeding is, well, us! MITRE’s coaching program gives us permission to pay attention to ourselves and our careers for a few hours over several months, as we put ourselves in the good hands of a professional coach (i.e., a wonderful, patient, attentive, savvy listener). It’s mindful focus with the potential for a lifelong payoff.—Editor

Author: Mark Crouter

“At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.”

Does this statement—or one like it—sound familiar? If so, it’s because it’s part of a survey on how employees feel about their work and, in this case, our company. Research has shown that “great performance is found when people are in roles that match what they naturally do best.” [1]

How well any company’s staff, individually and collectively, agree with the statement above reflects how the company is doing at giving people roles that best fit their greatest talents.

As a career coach in The MITRE Corporation’s Career Insight program, my job is to help employees understand and appreciate their greatest talents. Coaches at MITRE, a not-for-profit organization that operates research and development centers for the federal government, use a variety of assessment tools. Using Gallup’s® StrengthsFinder®, Edgar Schein’s Career Anchors, and a Career History Review, we help employees gain self-awareness and apply their talents for greater success in their current roles, and to identify ways to use their natural talents in future roles.

My coaching clients range from early career to late career and include those with decades of experience at MITRE, as well as brand new employees. No matter where we are in our careers and our lives, we are all works in progress. We all have an innate drive to use our talents to create value for ourselves and others in ways that align with our core beliefs.

In the 20th century, it was common for companies to establish career ladders that employees could follow to achieve success. In the 21st century, that model is no longer useful; companies require greater agility, and employees want greater freedom to create their own career paths. But neither employees nor managers have much experience at defining roles to create tailored experiences that fit both the company’s needs and employees’ desires.

That’s where career coaching comes in. In our case, MITRE’s career coaches are certified professional coaches who are trained and experienced in helping employees be more aware and focused in working with their managers to find, shape, and create career opportunities that match their interests and talents.

As a coach, I’m able to share perspectives from my own experience in leadership, management, technology, and human resources; my clients bring their own understanding of their assessment results in the context of their work experience. This collaboration gives relevance and power to the resulting insights, making them actionable now and in the future.

Since its inception, more than 1,100 MITRE employees have participated in the Career Insight program. Here are some typical comments:

“The Career Insight program provided guidance and resources that helped me identify my core strengths and unique talents. This helps me to identify projects where I can add value to the team and make effective contributions towards their goals.”

“Embracing my strengths granted me the confidence to expand my role at MITRE and allowed me to quickly grow into a task leader and effectively execute the resultant responsibilities.”

“The career development at MITRE not only identifies your natural strengths, but then talks about how to use these strengths at MITRE to build your career. It empowered me in a manner none of the other personality/skills test ever has.”

“[My coach] showed me how to turn what I’m working on now into longer-term growth and development for my career. She also helped me put words to my skills so that I can explain exactly what I mean when I say I bring a ‘bucket of awesome’ to my team!’”

The Corporate Executive Board recently highlighted the MITRE Career Insight program and career conversation tools as innovative best practices on its new Career Management website, and this year MITRE awarded the Career Insight program its Program Recognition Award in the category “Operating a World-class Organization.”

Working with MITRE employees to help them achieve greater success, I’m fortunate to be able to say, “I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.”

What about you? What would it take for you to be able to say the same thing? How would it change your life to be as fully engaged in your work as you want to be, to define your own success, and to be able to shape your own future? When you’re the expert on what you do best, you have the knowledge to shape your own career success.

[1] Gallup Business Journal, April 5, 1999.


Mark Crouter has more than forty years’ management and leadership experience in the military, information technology, and cybersecurity. He is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and Associate Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation.

Approved for public release; distribution unlimited. The author’s affiliation with The MITRE Corporation is provided for identification purposes only, and is not intended to convey or imply MITRE’s concurrence with, or support for, the positions, opinions, or viewpoints expressed by the author.

May 3, 2017


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