Most of my clients don’t know what they want to be when they grow up, and often say to me, “I just don’t know what I want to do.” The very first step is Self-assessment. It’s the most ignored part of the entire career development process, but required for an effective job search strategy. It begins with an extensive and written inventory of your “VIPS” (Values, Interests, Personality Traits and Skills). The goal is to build a rock solid foundation for career success.
Self-assessment is looking inward. The second step in the process, Career Exploration is looking outward. Taking the time to first get clarity on who you are, is critical before deciding where you are going. If you put in the additional energy and effort into Self-assessment before you jump in and launch a full blown job search, you will have no regrets.
Self-assessment is the deliberate quest for self-understanding. It is a comprehensive process of asking yourself a series of important, and often hard questions that help you collect data about who you truly are. The result is to bring to awareness your achievements, aptitudes, motivations and aspirations. Your responses typify what grabs your curiosity and attention and points you to activities you find pleasurable. The answers get to the heart of what makes you tick. Your VIPS are the internal components of your career choices.
Your values define who you are. What you value directs and shapes your life and career. If your career choice is alignment with your core values, it will significantly increase the chances of career satisfaction. Your interests are what you like to do and by examining them, they can provide insight about potential paths. Skills are the areas where you excel. Personality traits are attitudes, motivations, qualities and characteristics. These can include enthusiasm, dedication, patience, courage, initiative, drive and persistence.
I use three methods to uncover Self-assessment data; 1) career testing, 2) career counseling, and 3) a career development questionnaire. All three are imperfect by themselves, but collectively they can unlock your authentic self.
Assessment instruments will not provide the magic answers to solve all your career problems. They are designed to promote self-discovery, generate thought provoking information for further research and serve as a guide to point you in the right direction. They can: 1) validate that your current career ideas are on target, and 2) reveal new options that you may not have previously considered.
I highly recommend taking a battery of tests. A trained career counselor can help you interpret the results of such reliable assessment tools as the Myers-Briggs, Campbell Interest and Skill Survey, Career Factors Inventory and the Strong Interest Inventory. As you compare the findings of the career tests, make note of the emerging patterns that provide your “Core Themes.” Also, trust your intuition. Remember, career tests are imperfectly designed. If an assessment test uncovers career options that don’t ring true for you, then disregard that information. You are the best judge to the validity of the outcomes.
Through a series of appointments with a trained professional, an in-depth profile can be built that that will be your greatest resource for the future. Career counseling allows you to think out loud. People want to talk and brainstorm ideas and then receive feedback. It can be daunting to make a job or career change on your own and professional guidance can help relieve analysis paralysis.
Career Development Questionnaire
The goal of the questionnaire is to get a narrative picture. Here is a sample of the areas that need to be addressed.
• Review your past experiences, talents, capabilities, strengths and weaknesses.
• Evaluate what are the key things you like most from your job and what do you like the least.
• Consider the subject areas, activities and accomplishments that have given you the most satisfaction.
• Assess your priorities, needs, goals, potential and dreams.
• Define what career success means to you.
• List the skills you would like to strengthen in the future.
• Examine the specific rewards you want to have in your work life.
• Describe your preferred work environment and the type of organization you want to work in.
• Identify the most important parts of a satisfying job.
Having amassed a large amount of personal information may initially produce more confusion than clarity. I suggest summarizing it on a one page Personal Career Profile. If done correctly, it will give you a much clearer understanding of what you have to offer an employer. Don’t overlook the process of Self-assessment because the career choices you make should reflect who you are.