You’ve learned why self-assessment is so valuable before you choose a career — now it’s time to put it into action.
Self-Assess Your Professional Assets
When trying to narrow down your desired career, it can be helpful to consider a few key factors about yourself, namely your interests, skills, and values. Here’s what to consider about each area.
Not every successful person works in a job that interests them, but matching your work to things you enjoy can help you stay motivated and engaged in your career — even after years in the same field. Your interests are the types of things you enjoy doing in school, work, and your free time.
List your favorite extracurricular activities, the subjects you enjoy at school, and your preferred tasks at previous jobs you’ve had. Try to spot patterns in the list and break things out further if possible. For example, do all your favorite things occur outside? What specifically do you like or dislike about each activity? How long can you do each activity before you become bored?
Though all of your interests may not directly translate to a conventional career, you can probably find ways to incorporate aspects of your favorite activities into a professional setting.
Your skills are what you are good at — in short, what you can do. They’re often broken up into two groups: hard skills and soft skills.
Hard skills are typically taught during your education or training and consist of factual knowledge or expertise that you’ve acquired. For example, mastering computer coding, learning a second language, or solving complex math problems are all hard skills. Soft skills, on the other hand, are more subjective and harder to measure. These can be the things you excel at seemingly naturally, such as working well on a team, communicating with others clearly, or managing your time efficiently.
Reflect on the hard and soft skills you have and consider which resonant most strongly with you. Again, look for patterns and themes to connect your top skills. And don’t forget about your interests — while many people enjoy what they’re good at, it’s not always the case. If you’re really good at something you really hate, you might not consider it a viable career path.
You may not realize it now, but your personal values are a major aspect of your career satisfaction. While you can feign interest in certain topics and learn new skills, your values can be harder to compromise on. Think of your values as what motivates you and what you hope to achieve through your work.
For example, is earning a high salary important to you? What about working in a respected leadership role? Perhaps you want a job that allows you to interact with people, or maybe it’s important that your career helps your community.
Your values can also determine how you like to work. For example, do you thrive under a strict routine or a flexible schedule? Do you prefer tasks that challenge you mentally or physically? Does a bustling workplace excite you or do you need peace and quiet to feel your best? Clarifying your values now could help you land in a fulfilling career later.
Matching your traits with a career you love
Now that you have a good handle on what you enjoy and are good at, it’s time to put it to use. If you don’t already have a list of potential careers, start building one now. There are plenty of online resources to inspire you, including Federal Student Aid’s career search tool and O*NET Online. As you compile your list of jobs, make note of basics such as average salaries, required skills, and necessary education or training.
Then, take another look at your interests, skills, and values; match your top answers in each category with industries that appeal to you. For example, maybe one of your interests is spending time in nature and one of your values is to help your community. A job that allows you to work outside and improve your local environment might be a good fit, so consider work in that area — a national park ranger, landscape designer, or even city park management could all fit the bill.
It’s unlikely that one single job will encompass all the different aspects of your personality, so try to keep an open mind when you go through this process. Consider a variety of industries, even ones that feel outside-the-box. By doing so, you should end up with a well-rounded list of careers that fit who you are.