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How Many Ways Can You Measure Intelligence?

Some of us were moderately, or even more than moderately, successful in school. We were able to grasp math concepts easily, we learned to read and then read to learn without much difficulty, and we were able to regurgitate historical dates as well as we could name all the bones in our skeletal system. We got good grades. We went to our first choice college. Does that mean we are smart? Does doing well in school make us intelligent? What about an actual intelligence test? Does scoring average or above average on a traditional measure of intelligence predict success in life? If you examine the flip side of this scenario, does it mean you lack intelligence if you struggled in the traditional school setting? The beauty of our complicated species is that there are numerous ways to measure success — and intelligence. While “traditional” school-based smartness will serve you well in some capacities, it may well leave you lacking in others. When it applies to the world of work, intelligence comes in many forms. Identifying the different areas in which you excel is one way to help you identify potential careers for you to pursue. Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory suggests that individuals have different types of intelligence, and that these intelligences can be used to guide career choices. The theory identifies eight different types of intelligence:

  • Linguistic Intelligence: Those individuals with linguistic intelligence possess the ability to use language effectively and creatively. Those strong in this area excel in writing and/or speaking, and may also enjoy consuming information by reading for both education and enjoyment. Those strong in this type of intelligence might explore careers such as writing, journalism, law, or teaching.

  • Logical-Mathematical Intelligence: This is the ability to reason logically, think abstractly, and solve problems. This one is closely tied to certain math and science classes in traditional school classrooms. If you are strong in this area, you will have most likely done well in math. Some careers to consider would be in the area of engineering, computer science, finance, and accounting.

  • Spatial Intelligence: Visualizing and manipulating objects in three-dimensional space may come easily to someone strong in spatial intelligence. These individuals are easily able to logically create designs and layouts with precision. This skill is essential for careers in architecture, interior design, and engineering.

  • Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence: Individuals high in this form of intelligence may have loved physical education class or drama in school. They most likely sought opportunities to move. More specifically, this is the ability to control one’s body movements and handle objects skillfully. It is important for careers in sports, dancing and acting, as well as more complex manual dexterity skills required for performing surgery.

  • Musical Intelligence: Were you born with a song in your heart and the ability to keep rhythm? If so, you are most likely strong in musical intelligence. This is the ability to understand and create music. Careers in music composition, performance, and production would rely heavily on this type of intelligence.

  • Interpersonal Intelligence: At the risk of sounding cliche, have you always thought of yourself as a “people person”? Those strong in interpersonal intelligence have a way of connecting easily with others. They easily understand and interact effectively with other people. Careers in counseling, social work, teaching, and sales would benefit from having this strength.

  • Intrapersonal Intelligence: It might be difficult to identify if you possess strong intrapersonal intelligence — unless you are high in intrapersonal intelligence. It basically means that you are self-aware and can understand your own emotions, motivations, and thoughts. This skill is important for careers in psychology, coaching, and counseling.

  • Naturalist Intelligence: Are you a nature lover? Would you like nothing more than to spend all of your waking (and occasionally non-waking) hours in the great outdoors? If you emphatically answered “yes” to those questions, you may be high in naturalist intelligence, the ability to understand and appreciate the natural world. Why not seek employment in an area that brings you joy with a career in ecology, environmental science, or biology?

By understanding your dominant intelligence(s), you can more easily make informed decisions about potential career paths and choose jobs that align with your strengths and interests. It’s important to note, however, that no single intelligence is more valuable than the others, even if we were made to feel that math, science and reading were most important. Success and happiness can be achieved through careers in any one of these areas.


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