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.

Finding The Right Fit


I meet a great many people who are dissatisfied with the jobs they have. I also listen to an equal number of people who are unemployed completely and stuck deciding what it is they really want to do. That great job or career that everyone else seems to have, continues to elude them.

When I do talk to people who are by their own definition successful and happy, I’ve generally noticed that they’ve found an occupation that combines three key elements; it pays them well, they’re good at what they do and yes, they like what they do.

I’ll bet you can easily bring to mind people you know – perhaps even yourself – who are good at what they do, enjoy the work but aren’t paid sufficiently well in their opinion. Such people tend to look at other organizations where they might do similar work but be compensated better. Money may not be everything, but money does give the means to live life on one’s own terms and without enough of it, there can be a gap between how one lives and how one wishes to.

Then there are people who are paid well and are good at what they do, but they hunger for work that is more challenging, more rewarding. The work has either never really satisfied them or they’ve come to want to do something more meaningful and rewarding.  These people will often surprise those they know by quitting good paying jobs to pursue other interests, leaving co-workers shaking their heads and wondering.

Finally, there are those who are paid well, like what they do but they aren’t good at it. A lot of the time they don’t last long in the job before being let go, but if they are in positions of influence and seniority, they can last a surprisingly long time in an organization; perhaps even resulting in the organization shutting down in the extreme over mismanagement and bad decision-making.

When all three factors align; being paid well, enjoying the work and being good at what one does, it would seem the fit is right and it’s this we call success.

Now while a lot of people I’ve shared this idea with like the simplicity of the above, I find it interesting of note that most immediately pose some variation of the same problem time and time again. “I’m still left needing help to figure out what it is I should do job-wise.”

The two are related of course, but they are different; finding the right fit and finding the right job or career. Let me explain. As an Employment Counsellor, I like the work I do, I feel I’m paid well and I can say I’m good at what I do. Were I to pick up and move to another organization but in a similar role as an Employment Counsellor, I might get paid less, or find that the scope of my job changed significantly. Hence I might have the right job but the other factors changed; in this case compensation for my work or the real work I’d be doing.

This could be where a lot of people go wrong; both job seekers and those who help people find employment. We broadly state the functions and responsibilities of a job – saying a Nurse does this or that, a Carpenter does this kind of work, a Labourer on an assembly line performs this or that, but really the experience of any one of these people will be different from others in the same roles but in different organizations.

The Carpenter might find a great fit in a small, rural community doing precision craftwork, where his talents are highly sought out and another might be happier doing restoration work in large cities working on a team of restoration carpenters. The job title might be the same, but the work done might need very different skill requirements and the environment the work is done in might mean the difference between liking the job or not. This is a factor only the person can decide.

I have for years felt the best place to start a job search is in fact not to look around at jobs on a job board, but to look inside one’s self. What makes you tick? That simple question requires a lot of thought and self-awareness. In other words, get to know yourself; your likes and dislikes, preferences for working alone or in groups and under what circumstances for each. Determine the work environment, the kind of supervision you need and want. Skills you can generally acquire and work to improve if you choose. Learning about yourself first isn’t a waste of time or stalling your career development. It’s putting yourself in a place to ultimately succeed as you’ve never succeeded in the past in finding the right fit.

The good news is that you can find the right fit by design or chance. The bad news is you can go through a lot of jobs and yes even careers attempting to find what’s the right fit for you if you don’t pay attention to learning about yourself first.

Maybe it’s because we think we know ourselves well that we overlook the obvious; but it’s been my experience we don’t know ourselves as well as we assume. And over time, yes, we change and so do our preferences.

May you find the right fit for you.