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 Career Direction Can Be Emotional


Today is the 7th and final day of a  career exploration class I’ve been facilitating. During this time, the participants have been learning about themselves; examining their skills, values, beliefs and then looking at possible jobs and careers that fit best.

For some, it’s been a confirmation that the direction they’re heading in is the right one for them at this time. For others, something new has emerged. There’s a several that have actually had multiple occupations come up and that’s left them with some decisions to make. Finally, there are 3 for whom the course has left their future unclear; they’ve yet to get the clarity and direction they’d hoped for on the first day. Failure? Absolutely not!

Now you might wonder about those last 3. After all, if they came with the expectation of gaining insight into a career they could pursue and that’s yet to emerge, why not consider their time a bust? Fair enough. Well, you see it’s not a question of these 3 finding no job that interests them, it’s more a question of still deciding upon an occupation that will best bring them overall happiness; a combination of what they do well, peaks their passion and returns financial reward for their labour.

Everyone in the class has in my estimation, entirely invested themselves in the process; giving thought to the questions asked of them and completing a number of assessments with a sincere trust in the process. Having conducted this class many times over the course of my career, I can spot a special kind of person; the one that takes this career exploration seriously and pins their hopes on an outcome that they’ll then find meaningful; and this class was full of this kind of person.

And so yesterday, as we came to one of the exercises that starts the process of narrowing down which direction to move in for each person, it hit one person particularly hard when they realized the clarity and direction they’d hoped for hasn’t yet materialized. Tears came, and they removed themselves for a few minutes twice in order to collect themselves. If you think people on social assistance are lazy, unmotivated and are happy to sit back and not work, you’d have a very different view had you sat in on the group yesterday at this moment.

When tears come out, it’s embarrassing for the person much of the time, but it’s actually a clear sign of how much things matter. If the person didn’t care; they’d just taken the class because they were made to or saw it as something to do for awhile, there’d be no tears because their was no emotional investment. Because the tears came out, that’s a clear indication to me that this career / self exploration stuff matters; that the person still believes THEY matter.

We all have barriers to success. That’s not a question but rather a statement. Whether we share them or keep them private, there are things that stand in our way; education we lack, skills that are rusty or not improved upon, experience that we lack, a criminal record we don’t have the funds to erase, an inability to decide between very different jobs and careers. We might lack transportation, have child care issues, anxiety, low self-esteem, fear of making another poor choice and ending up in an unsatisfying job, perhaps a disability; physical or mental.

And as long as were talking barriers, most of us have more than one. In fact, some of us have multiple barriers and they are the invisible kind. While others look at us and can’t see them immediately, they are so very real and huge to us that we feel everybody knows ours. Truth is, most other people are concerned with their own issues they don’t really see the ones we feel are on display for all to see.

For those still struggling to gain some direction, the feelings can be so intense, they see themselves as a failure – again. With the pressure they may be under in the other parts of their lives, this they’d believed, would turn out better. Well, it will. Really, I believe this. There is no prescribed 7 day fix that a course magically promises everyone. On day 1, I actually warned people I wouldn’t stand before them and tell them what they’d be. That is for everyone to find for themselves and while it may take 7 days for many, more time is needed for others.

What of you? Do you know where you’re headed job-wise, career-wise? Are you satisfied with that direction? Are you confused, anxious, afraid of moving in the wrong direction so you put off making a decision altogether?

There’s a cost to being indecisive and time passing will rob you of your current references, the benefits of your experience as your skills sit idle. Your confidence will ebb with a lengthening unemployed gap on your resume. And which is better for you, a job or a career? Both have value and both are the right choice depending on where you’re at.

Knowing yourself better is a great start. Look at your assets; skills, experience, education, contacts, likes, dislikes, problem-solving and learning style, just to name a few things. Knowing who you are is a key.

Looking at jobs and careers that match and working through your barriers will get you where you want to be.

YOU matter.

Bang Away Or Find The Right Fit


Have you ever left a job under poor circumstances and vowed to make a fresh start with another employer; one where no one knows you – only to find that things turn out pretty much the same in a short time?

Despite the change in scenery, co-workers, supervisor and job, things just haven’t changed all that much. You’re starting to wonder if every job is going to be like this? You’re questioning how all these people you work with can like going in day after day with a smile on their face? When it goes wrong in multiple places, in various kinds of jobs, the common denominator keeps coming up… well, you.

Now wait! That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ‘THE PROBLEM’. Nor does it always have to be this way.

Recall the toddler toy where there’s a bunch of wooden or plastic, brightly coloured shapes, and there’s a corresponding cut out of a shape into which the piece fits. Watch a child at place and try all they want, that red triangle won’t go into the yellow square or the blue circle hole. Eventually, the toddler figures it out and looks up with a big smile at what they’ve both achieved and learned in the process.

As you continue to watch, when all the pieces are removed again, the toy becomes a little easier to play and takes less time to solve. The child also will look around and call attention to their success by saying, “Watch me!” In so doing, they want to show off what they’ve learned and get rewarded with a, “Good for you!”

If you haven’t taken the necessary time to get to know yourself fully – and people evolve and change with the passing of time – you might not be a problem, you just haven’t found the right fit yet. Now that single block is easy to figure out; it’s shape and colour. There’s an easily recognized corresponding shape and colour slot too. Assessing your strengths, preferences, skills, experience, education, attitude, areas for improvement, learning style – these are some of the things which make you who you are. Networking, online research, investigating company culture, reading job postings, interviewing people in the jobs you find interesting, checking out the commute, the dress code, the vision, mission statement etc. of companies as well as their reputations; these make up the research which provides the information you need to assess the likelihood of a good fit.

Here’s the problem; most people assume they know themselves and don’t want to bother putting out a lot of effort in researching companies they might not even apply to. That seems like a lot of work and with very little reward; a waste of time. But what’s a greater waste of time is not bothering with these two critical steps and going through a cycle of applying, getting hired, fired, applying again, getting rejected, finally getting interviews, rejected, still applying, finally getting another interview, getting hired and quitting, or leaving under poor circumstances. It’s like that toddler just banging pieces into the wrong slots and expecting the piece to go in. It’s not the toy that’s at fault, it’s just that reasoning things out hasn’t happened yet at the child’s end. There will always be a perfect fit for each piece.

Likewise, there will always be a perfect fit for you with respect to a job and an employer. Sure you can jump from job to job and hope the fit is good, but more often than not, it will appear that way at first and soon become obvious to the company you’re not the right person for the job, or to you that the job isn’t the right fit for you.

So how much time do you have to invest just randomly moving from job to job? With each bad fit and failure, are you learning anything or just writing off bad experiences and taking nothing away you can learn next time? Be cautious! These series of failures can lead you to develop a short fuse; a bad attitude; a ‘me against the world’ attitude. The person you turn out to be could be very different from the person you were meant to be; a darker, less attractive soul who others want to be around less and less. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

When a child struggles to understand how the pieces get inside, another child or adult who has mastered the concept will take a piece and slowly slide it in the corresponding hole and not letting go, move it back and forth then drop it. The child watching may have to be shown a few times, but they’ll get it. The new learning is shortly mastered and the toy eventually becomes a, ‘Time how long it takes me to do this!” challenge; it’s easier.

This is no different from getting help figuring out the self-assessment piece of who you really are in the here and now. You can also get help learning how to do employer research too. When you know yourself fully and seek out the best fits, you actually speed up the time between where you are now and being employed where you should be. In the right situation, you’re not a problem at all; you’re a success with a big smile on your face. Soon you’ll want everyone around you to view your achievements too.