Self-Assessment is an inward journey. While you may work with a counselor or coach and take a number of assessment tests, the goal of the process is to guide you inward to your deep inner knowing. Here are some questions to consider: Who are you? What makes you tick? What are your most compelling interests? What brings meaning and purpose to your life and work? What are your talents, gifts, skills, knowledge, abilities – and of these, which do you want to use in your next endeavor? What’s important to you? What are your beliefs? What values do you hold dear? What have been your proudest and most satisfying accomplishments? What skills did you use or develop while reaching these accomplishments? What personal rewards did you receive from your accomplishments? These are all thought-provoking questions. As you consider the questions and your answers, look for any patterns that emerge. These patterns can provide important clues to your next career.
You may be wondering why it’s important to conduct this inward self-examination. There are several reasons. A thoughtful self-assessment will help you to know and understand yourself better. That deep self-understanding may help you to make sound decisions about the next step in your career – or your next career; it may increase your self-esteem; it may help you to focus your job search; it may generate useful information for the content of your resume and it may help you to effectively sell yourself in job interviews. In short, it may help you to launch and run an efficient and focused campaign that will yield positive results in record time.
A career counselor or coach can help you to find recognized and standardized assessment tools that yield useful results. If they are trained to interpret the instruments, you will get a thorough explanation of the results and what the implications are for your future career. Many clients have said, “I took one of those tests in high school and it told me I should be a mortician.” or a forest ranger, military officer, and so forth. Those are examples of poor interpretation. No test can tell you what to do for a career. At best, a test can tell you that the pattern in your choices (of enjoyed interests) is similar to people in a particular field. And, since “birds of a feather flock together,” you may find satisfaction in that occupation. You will usually track positively with several occupations; all can be explored for possible career transition.
Let’s take a look at a few assessment tools. Probably the best recognized is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) which assesses personality preferences and personal style. This instrument helps you to understand your preferred behaviors and appreciate the differences between you and others with different behavioral preferences. There are several versions of the instrument and different reports, or analyses, for your results. I recommend you take an official MBTI, which has been normed and validated, and not a knock-off with none of the careful research behind it.
There are four scales measured by the MBTI:
I. Where do you prefer to direct your attention and from where do you derive your energy, the outer world of people and things or the inner world of thoughts and ideas?
II. How do you take in information, with focus on facts and details or patterns and possibilities?
III. How do you process information and make decisions, through detached, objective and logical analysis or personal, subjective and values-based reasoning?
IV. How do you prefer to deal with the outside world, with the aim of organizing and controlling events and others or by spontaneously adapting, going with the flow and remaining open to possibilities?
This is a gross oversimplification of this powerful and enlightening instrument. An excellent career guide based on the MBTI is Do What You Are by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger. There are many other good books on personality preferences as well.
MBTI results can be very helpful for opening up career possibilities, and useful for other things such as team building and couples counseling. For those who have already taken the MBTI and want to go to the next level, the MBTI Step II provides more detailed and nuanced information about the patterns in your behavior preferences.
In the area of interests and skills assessment, two instruments have been competing for decades: the Strong Interest Inventory and Campbell Interest and Skill Survey. Both instruments bombard you with hundreds of questions about likes and dislikes, quantify results and then compare the patterns of results with people in hundreds of occupations.
The Strong divides the world of work into 6 major categories, the Campbell uses 7 categories. Each instrument has numerous subcategories and hundreds of specific occupations. You don’t have to take the results literally; you can use them as suggestive of possibilities. Make note of the occupations that most appeal and research them to learn about their realities. The Occupational Outlook is just one reference book that provides information about occupations.