Finding the right career is an investment in yourself and your future. That means carving a path that gives you financial security as well as a rewarding career that you find meaningful.
After all, do you really want to spend 40+ years of your life doing something you don’t even like?
While it’s tempting to start your career search by looking at job boards, the best career search actually starts with you! You first need to know yourself. Some people call this knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Another way of thinking about this is more about “Who I Am” and “What Do I Bring to the Table?”
Let’s look at why job-seekers need to know themselves and the four steps you can follow to pick an ideal career that matches your values.
Why is it important to know myself?
How often do you sit back and think deeply about what you like or what matters to you?
When you get to know yourself, you’ll be able to:
- Make better career matches: Instead of falling into a career by accident, you can choose one that you actually find interesting. When you understand your needs, you can choose jobs that truly suit you, taking on a career that’s a great match for your personality, skills, and values.
- Show your strengths to employers: Have you ever fumbled the question, “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses” during an interview? Well, when you know yourself, it’s easier for you to showcase your strengths. By getting to know yourself, you can show an employer exactly what you’re capable of—and articulate it in an effective way.
Find meaning in your work: You will spend a large percentage of your life at work. Shouldn’t you be happy with how you spend that time? Find more meaning in your life with a career suited to you as an individual. So, let’s figure out who you are and what makes you tick!
4 steps to get to know yourself
How do you get to know yourself? How do you decide what matters to you? Where do your priorities lie? And what is of interest to you?
1. Take assessments
Aptitude tests, personality assessments, and online questionnaires are a great place to start if you want to clarify your values and identify potential careers. This assortment of assessments will present your interests, values, skills, and personality traits in a structured way. The trick is to use a variety of assessments and treat those tools as a starting point for your internal work.
Some online “tests” are more useful than others, but they can all be a place to begin learning about yourself, setting goals, and mapping your future. A career counselor/coach can help you find the most helpful options.
2. Make a list of what you enjoy
Now get your pencil/laptop/note app fired up and write down anything and everything you enjoy! Make some notes about what you remember having fun doing. For instance, if you’re fresh out of high school, why did you enjoy playing soccer? What did you enjoy about piano lessons, debate team, or working at the grocery store after school?
Here are a few specific questions to get you started:
- What did you express interest in early in your life?
- What types of activities or things have always interested you?
- Did you collect things?
- Have hobbies?
- Particular interests?
If you’ve had paid jobs or worked as a volunteer, make a list of every job you’ve ever had. Then make notes about what you liked, what gave you a good feeling about yourself, and what you might recommend someone else try.
- What did you like about each job?
- Which tasks, specifically, did you enjoy?
- What parts of the work or environment did you not like?
- Did you like the teamwork?
- Enjoy a sense of community?
- Prefer working on your own?
Tapping into areas of interest, reflecting on experiences, and thinking about jobs you once dreamed of will give you many clues about what kinds of careers will be fulfilling to you!
By identifying what you’ve enjoyed in the past, and why, you’ll get clues as to where your strengths and interests lie. Now you’ll have one of the keys to choosing a fulfilling career going forward.
3. Determine what matters to you
By understanding what you enjoy, you can better clarify your core values. You’ll be able to incorporate those values into your employment, hobbies, and volunteer experiences.
Perhaps you’re interested in politics. Or volunteering in a hospital makes you feel good. Raising awareness of environmental or social issues might be your thing.
This awareness will also point toward the type of work you might want to pursue. For example, if you love helping people but find you’re short on patience around children, that might mean you’re more suited to work with the elderly.
Another factor in your career decision is money. Think about:
- How much does money factor into the equation?
- You need to make a living from your work, but to what degree does money matter to you?
- What does “just getting by” to “living well” mean to you?
- Under what conditions might you sacrifice income to do something you love doing, even if it means you live less luxuriously?
For some, work can be equally valuable financially AND personally. For others, we will find financial rewards in our work and personally rewarding experiences in different areas of our lives.
4. Speak with trusted family and friends
So far, you’ve learned about yourself through assessments, questionnaires, and personal reflection. The last piece of the puzzle is to consult with trusted people in your social circle.
We’re often blind to our own talents and accomplishments, and sometimes speaking to another person can give us some much-needed insight.
Talk to others with an open mind. Ask questions such as:
- What three adjectives would you use to describe me?
- What do you think are my best qualities?
- What skills do you think I have?
- Are there careers you think I would excel at?
For example, maybe your best friend tells you that you’re great at planning because you always take the initiative to organize weekly movie nights. Or maybe your dad tells you that you’ve always been a natural-born leader. Dig in more and ask them, what does that mean? Do you agree?
Try to talk to 3 – 5 different people. If you hear similar themes in their feedback, that’s a sign. If three people say you have a great sense of humor or comment on how responsible you are, those are definitely strengths you should lean on in your career search.
Of course, like the assessments and questionnaires, talking to your trusted friends and family is only a place to jump-start your thinking. Some of the suggestions might need to be taken with a grain of salt. If they’re too “brutally honest,” it might derail your journey in an unproductive way.
Forge a meaningful career
Your career is a big part of your life. It needs to connect with your strengths, skills, and values so you get meaning and satisfaction from it.
You don’t need to know all of the answers right now. You just need to begin thinking about who you are. This awareness is a tool you can use for every job search and career transition.
You don’t need to know the “how” right now—if you did, you’d already be where you want to be! Self-awareness takes practice, and it’s not always easy to navigate on your own. It’s time to pave your future with confidence: get in touch now for career clarity.