The Case For Honest Self-Assessment


If you’re a regular reader of mine, you may know that one piece of advice I often recommend is to conduct a self-assessment. Taking stock of your assets and liabilities is good practice whether you’re just about to look for employment, you’re thinking about advancing in an organization or you’re happily content in your current role. Knowing yourself well and being able to articulate that knowledge is a wonderful thing.

With the value of self-assessment being said, let me add that unless you do so objectively and honestly, there’s little value in the results. So whether you’re in some facilitator-led group or you’re doing one of the numerous self-assessments online, answering each question put before you has to be answered truthfully or your results are skewed.

I have a personal regret that goes all the way back to my high school days with respect to this. I can still recall doing some career assessments conducted by my school’s guidance staff. Back then, I was working part-time for a Municipal Parks and Recreation Community Centre and was absolutely convinced that my future employment would continue to be in that field. Despite the direction to answer honestly, I gave in to the temptation of answering all the questions in such a way that I believed would direct the results to the field I was interested in. The results were predictable; I’d have a career working in the field of Recreation. To this day I wonder what might have revealed itself had I kept completely open to the process and answered each question without bias.

A colleague at work told me that she too succumbed to shaping her own results way back in her own high school days. While my part-time employment factored into my answers, the influence of her then boyfriend and where he was headed in life caused her to answer her questions with a lean to working in the Chemistry field. She actually started post-secondary school taking Chemistry and after a very brief time realized that for her it was the most boring thing she could experience. Both she and I are Employment Counsellors working in Social Services. Funny how these assessments don’t work out when you intentionally skew the answers and impact the results!

Now yesterday I had a fellow approach me with a different kind of issue. With my guidance, he had just completed 7 days of self-assessments. Like my high school Guidance staff, I too implored those in the class I led to answer truthfully and stay open to the possible results that each assessment generated. This gentleman thought he did so, but on the final day he suddenly realized after something I said in my closing remarks that he had not answered the questions completely honestly. He has an arthritic condition, and so when he answered all the questions put to him over those 7 days, he answered always with his limitation in mind.

The results in his case suggested to him that he’d be best working doing what he’s been doing for years. This not being an option, he now wonders what would the results be if he was to redo all the assessments given with no limitations to his thinking. In fact, he asked me if it was possible to get a blank assessment for each of the activities and do the work on his own. Obviously generating personal results matters to him because he’s asking to repeat a great deal of work he’s just done.

What I find particularly incredible is that I wager if you can recall doing some kind of career/self assessment in high school, you likely haven’t done another one since. Why do I find this incredible? Well, simply put we all evolve. So like me, you’ve changed since your high school days. You’ve developed new interests, your beliefs and values have shifted as you expose yourself to more people. Likewise, your knowledge of careers has expanded; positions exist that didn’t when you walked the high school halls. You’ve had experience working for various bosses, you know yourself differently and experience the world differently than you did as an adolescent teenager. So it stands to reason you should get to know yourself as you are now.

I see great value now in investing in some self-assessment every 10 years or thereabouts. Perhaps when some major life changes occur it would be a valuable exercise to check in with your core beliefs, values, problem resolution styles, set some short and long-term SMART goals, and be able to articulate your personal philosophy. When was the last time you were able to do that?

Know thyself. Not surprisingly, knowing yourself intimately AND being able to communicate what you know about yourself to others is a fabulous strength one can have. When you know yourself, you can easily express who you are and what you’re after in a job interview, or when conversing with your current employer and developing a career plan.

If you find yourself jumping from job to job, searching for something that will bring you satisfaction and happiness; you know, that THING that will feed your passion, maybe this is it.

Weigh the cost of paying to sit down with a Career professional and be guided in this career exploration/self assessment process vs. all the time and money you’ve lost moving from job to job trying to find what to now has proved elusive.

Picking A Career: The Pressure To Get It Right


It usually starts when we’re children and asked of us by well-meaning family members. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Then our parents friends and the parents of our own friends are asking us the same question. Soon, the idea that we should place a lot of importance on thinking about our life-long career is reinforced in school when elementary teachers tell us to choose wisely the level of classes we select as we approach high school. Maybe they even have us do career assessments.

In your personal life you’re body is going through some weird physical changes; puberty. Your hormones are changing, you get that first facial hair, the period arrives, the physical attraction to people you used to just see as friends is changing how you hang out together. What you and your friends think is groovy, hip, cool or down with is constantly changing and you don’t want to be left out and fall behind. Things get awkward as you switch back and forth between being a kid and doing your best to look and act 5 years older.

So there you are newly arrived in high school; experimenting with your teenage drive to test some boundaries, making some decisions (a few of which you’ll regret and a few you’ll be happy work out) for the first time. You think you’re mature, all you really want to do is have fun, bond with your besties and have the time of your life, but suddenly you’re doing serious work looking at further career assessments, picking out Universities or Colleges to further your education and positioning yourself along the path to that career goal. People older than you, smarter than you, are laying out your next 5- 8 years of your life; finishing high school and 3 or 4 years of further education.

The irony is that as adults themselves, those teachers know that almost every one of their students will change their careers and some several times over the course of their working adults lives. But if they stressed that message at this early juncture, the students they are instructing would question the importance of getting it laid out now. So there you are unsure really of what you’ll want in the future let alone now, but still you’ve got to start thinking about what College or University offers the courses you’ll need to get whatever diploma or degree you’re after.

There’s a lot of heat to get it right; some of the pressure – most of it really – might even be self-imposed. After all, if all these people we admire and respect are telling us it’s important to choose wisely so we don’t waste our lives, our money and our time, they must be right. The fear that you choose wrong and take  something you really don’t want or change your mind too late can be confusing!

Relax! (Easier said than done right? I know). Here’s a few thoughts for you to mull over from an Employment Counsellor who has worked for a long time with literally thousands of people.

First of all, while this might sound entirely UNhelpful, you need to know that as much as what you want now may seem crystal clear, that could very well change in your future and that’s totally okay. The person you’ll become will be influenced a great deal by people you have yet to meet, places you have yet to go, experiences you have yet to have. You’re going to change as you grow and so this notion of choosing an occupation – and the pressure to get it right – is not only a myth, it’s just plain wrong and the evidence proves it. People change jobs and careers over their lifetime.

This being said, an education is a fine thing. It’s not the only thing; you can skip the post secondary thing altogether and just start working and have a fine, fulfilling life. But suppose for a moment you head off to school and after 2 years in a 3 year program you find you’re just not feeling it. You can switch programs and people do. You can take a year off and go back. You could even graduate and then something in your life makes pursuing that career difficult or seemingly impossible. That career in the Hospitality industry with a lot of evening and weekend work suddenly doesn’t fit with your new-found role of parent. If this happened, would your education be a waste?

The answer is no. Education is never a waste. Education is not a financial burden of debt you pay off with a good paying job, but rather an investment in yourself as a person. That education is going to change and influence how you think moving forward, and it will benefit you throughout your adult life. If you consider returning to school to do something different, taking another 2 or 3 years, you might feel even more pressure to ‘get it right this time.’ My advice? Do it anyhow. Go back. Invest in yourself because your future self will thank you.

You can do this. You literally can’t choose wrong. Life has a funny way of making use of our talents, education and experience down the road in ways we can’t imagine at the present.

Whether a specific trade or a general Bachelor of Arts, it’s all good! This education you’re considering isn’t the final destination, it’s just one step on a lifelong journey.