As a career counselor, I get a lot of eye-rolls when I talk about self-assessment as a part of the career development planning process. And yet, when I ask my graduate students what they do best, they don’t have very descriptive words. “Multitasking” or “problem-solving” or “building strategies”—interesting concepts but not particularly useful in job interviews.
Self-assessment can take a variety of forms. Some people are self-aware enough to simply write down what you do best, what’s interesting to you, what you value in the workplace, and what motivates you to work harder. With that information, you can look for careers that fulfill some or all of your findings. Most of us need some help identifying these factors and then using them to guide our career planning and vocabulary.
A little healthy skepticism is fine, but using these tools to help you describe what you need in a workplace is a useful exercise. In all three of these assessments, you are encouraged to review your results and question any aspects that don’t make sense to you. Take the good parts and leave the rest for another day.
There are tons of self-assessment tests, just Google around. Three self-assessment inventories are most helpful, in my opinion—the Clifton Strengths Finder, the Self Directed Search (Holland Codes), and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. These assessments provide you with words to help you describe what you probably already know about yourself—you might be a Communicator, or Enterprising, or someone who likes specific directions rather than gut feelings. You can use these words in your resume and cover letter, in your interviews, and even in identifying the right positions to pursue. You can also use them in a workplace situation where there’s conflict or misunderstanding. Being able to understand why you are irritated or confused is half the battle.
The Strengths Finder, based on thousands and thousands of Gallup surveys of employee engagement, helps you identify what you do best in hopes that you will find work using those strengths. The test, which costs $10, reports your top 5 strengths from a list of 32, and gives you resources to help understand those strengths. The nice thing about Strengths Finder is that the results don’t suggest ways for you to improve on your weaknesses; they just identify your strengths and encourage you to run with them. My strength of Individualization helps me stay interested in working with students year after year, and my strength in Activation helps my staff understand that I’ll think of many ideas and get the process started, but they have to be the finishers.
The Self Directed Search (also $10), is based on the six personality codes defined by Dr. John Holland. Your Self Directed Search report gives you the three codes that best describe your work personality—Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, Conventional. The report lists both occupations and leisure activities that might fit your type. It’s possible that your work anxiety is the result of a poor fit with your work personality—or your daily joy is the result of a perfect fit! If you are seeking a career change, the Holland codes give you a starting point for researching careers and educational opportunities to fit your type. You can also find your Holland code at Career Key, and they offer some additional resources for your search.
The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) gives you a four-letter code that describes your behavior and personality based on Jung’s theory of how people use their perception and judgment to make decisions. Your results report contains a lot of information to describe these four personality attributes:
- How you take in information (Sensing or Intuition)
- How you make decisions (Thinking or Feeling)
- Whether your energy comes from internal or external sources (Introvert or Extravert)
- Whether you prefer to process decisions or choose and move on. (Judging or Perceiving)
When you take the MBTI assessment, your results report will give you a great vocabulary for describing how you observe and analyze the world around you. MBTI’s also available online ($50), but I recommend that you engage a certified professional to help you work through your results. It’s a complicated assessment, and some of the descriptions of the various codes can seem judgmental and critical without a professional viewpoint.
It’s also useful to take an assessment as a work group to see your strengths as a team and to identify gaps. If you have an office full of people with Perceiving type (MBTI), who’s going to call an end to the discussion and make a decision? Maybe someone with the Activator strength (Strengths Finder)?
Assess yourself! You might hear the words you need to find the job of your dreams!