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.

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.

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.

We’ve Got To Be Invested!


Ever been asked to describe yourself in a few words? Okay sure you have to think about this when you’re put on the spot in a job interview, but outside of that situation, how often do you think about the qualities you have; the things you strive for, the kind of person you are? How would you describe yourself in a few sentences, and would you articulate the things that best describe you? Most people I find can’t do this in a way that they are entirely happy with. A lot of the time they later say, “I wish I’d said ______ instead. Why didn’t I think of that?”

I think about these things a lot of the time, but I suppose I do so because my career brings me into daily contact with people whom in great part, I’m supporting and guiding to discover themselves. Discover themselves? While I admit they know themselves better and more intimately than I ever will, it’s typical that people have difficulty in voicing who they are in quick order.

The thing is, given enough time, any one of us could likely write a great number of qualities we possess. You might make a list with words such as: hard-working, dependable, friendly, honest etc. just to name a few. While these words might indeed be representative of who you are, surely there’s more to you that do sets you apart from everyone else. You are after all, unique. Maybe you do see yourself as an ordinary run-of-the-mill person, not special in any particular way, with no outstanding achievements; nothing of note that distinguishes your life from those of the people you work and play with. This might indeed be upon reflection what you’re comfortable with; an ordinary Joe.

In some situations, such as interviewing for a new career or job, it can work for us or against us to be just so. The employer might be looking for someone to come in and do the job as it’s always been done, to assimilate into their existing workforce with no fanfare, not so much as even making a ripple in the transition onto a team. If that’s the case and you’re that kind of interchangeable person they are looking for, then you’ll be a good fit.

On the other hand, some job postings will say that the employer is looking for someone who stands out, has drive and passion, is a trend-setter not a follower. If in an interview you can show that you’re invested, enthusiastic, resilient, driven etc. you might hit upon impressing the interviewer with how well you know yourself and how you are distinguishable from the other candidates in some way they find attractive. In so doing, you might just stand out and be the right person they are looking for.

Knowing what employers are looking for is not only half the battle, it’s the key. So the goal leading up to the interview becomes identifying what exactly the needs of the employer are; and not just in terms of what they put on the job posting. Sometimes an advanced call to the right person can yield this information. You may actually find that what you learn turns you off or takes your excitement about landing the job to a whole new level.

Now I’m sure your shaking your head, ready to tell me and any other readers that employers these days won’t talk to you in advance of the interview; that often you can’t even identify the organization posting the very job itself if it goes through a temporary service agency. Sure that might be the case. However, don’t let that deter you from trying and I mean REALLY trying to get that information. For when you do succeed in establishing contact and having a pre-emptive conversation with the employer, they can and do become extremely interested in this candidate who is demonstrating their tenacity and thoroughness. I know because I’ve done this myself and it works.

Returning to a key point I mentioned earlier, know yourself. How would you define yourself using the skill-based language that is typically evident in your profession? Are you an empathetic and responsive Personal Support Worker? How about a driven and results-oriented commissioned Salesperson? These extra adjectives are far more appealing and descriptive than simply being a PSW or Salesperson alone. The words fit the profession – that is of course if the organizations themselves place high values on the empathy and responsiveness of their PSW’s and the sales force is expected to be driven in that commissioned environment.

Now me, I’ve laid myself out as an Enthusiastic and Empowering Employment Counsellor. Look at my LinkedIn profile and it’s there in my title; it’s my brand. All the posts I pen are designed to aid and empower others in fact. More so, I can back up these claims with concrete examples that demonstrate and prove I’ve got the skills and characteristics I claim.

Now what of you? How do you define yourself succinctly and accurately? Who are you? When you voice your answer do you sound confident, unsure, doubtful or do you speak with conviction? Are you ordinary or extraordinary? There’s a place for everyone no matter who you are in the workforce, and while one employer wants extraordinary, others want ordinary. The key is to get the right fit. Knowing yourself is half the equation.

“What Should I Do? What Should I Be?”


Find yourself pondering the BIG question; “What do I want out of Life?” You know, trying to decide your purpose, your career goal; that ‘thing’ you were destined to do and be great at. I wonder if the answer doesn’t lie so much in wondering what you want to get out of Life as it does in pondering what you’re ready to put INTO your life.

A clever play on words? A change in philosophy? Maybe just some pseudo-psychological babble? Or perhaps – just perhaps mind – we’re on to something here. Worth exploring before dismissing or embracing? Absolutely.

Some seem to have it all figured out don’t they? I mean they fixed on their career goal as a child or young teenager and stuck to the plan. They went to school, graduated, started in an entry-level position and years later they are still energized in their work. They never really had to struggle with indecision, doubt or distraction. They stayed true to their goal and never wavered and it all turned out great.

Not everybody has that experience. For many, what to do with their life is a recurring theme. Time and time again they stand at a crossroads wondering what to do, which direction to go in, what might hold the answer to the their happiness. They move from job to job, stimulated with the new challenges each brings, but always finding themselves looking for another job; one that brings them something their current job lacks. Some live this way intentionally because it works for them. Nothing wrong with that if it works.

The most dangerous situation when pondering the big, “What is the meaning of my Life?” question, is putting living on hold to the point of paralysis. In other words, it’s a good and healthy exercise to pause occasionally and check where you’re going and if your current destination is still the right goal for you or not. However, stand fixed to a spot afraid to move for fear of making the wrong choice for too long and you can become immobilized while Time itself ticks on.

This then is the source of the pressure and stress for many isn’t it? Sure it is. You hear it in statements like, “I’m not getting any younger you know”, or “Time and tide wait for no man”. The older we get the more we feel the pressure to have figured it out too. By the way, as it relates to figuring out what to do with Life: you’ve never been as old as you are at this precise moment in time. As each second and minute, day and week go by, you age and again you’ve never been that old before. So whether you’re 29, 38, 49 or 62 you might just be wondering, “What should I be doing with my life?”,  or “What’ my great plan?” and that’s okay to ponder. It won’t be the last time you think about it likely either.

Maybe as I said earlier, the key is thinking more about what you want to invest in Life; with the time you’ve got and the resources you have. If you’re a people person and you find yourself infused with energy when you’re helping or cooperating with others, it’s likely you’ll gain great satisfaction out of doing more of that kind of work. If you’re positively stimulated and happiest when solving what others see as problems, perhaps investing yourself in honing your problem-solving skills is the key for you. So do you want to fix home plumbing issues, computer problems, work to discover a cure for a disease or solve mysteries of our universe? All problems to work on, but requiring very unique skills.

Very little in Life that has real meaning and really importance comes without a personal investment. Just as you can’t take money out of a bank without investing your money in it first, you can’t expect Life to dish out all the great things it has to offer unless you immerse yourself in it.

For some, this immersion means travel; see the world, broaden your horizon’s. For others, it means go to school, improve and expand your mind. For you? Who knows? Maybe it’s auditioning job after job in a variety of fields, determining what you like and like better until you arrive at whatever it is you’d like to do for a long time. You can always re-evaluate in the future what is right for you at that point too. No need to lay a fixed course for your next 75 years when you’re 10 years old.

Ever notice how this same ‘investing first’ mentality gets passed over in other areas of life? You might hear one person ask another, “So what are you looking for in a spouse?” You rarely hear that person say, “So what are you ready to invest in a relationship?” The question you get asked or ask of yourself tends to direct the answer you give. “I want or expect” versus, “I’ll give or invest…”

You get what you put in. Is that it? We’re all different, looking for different outcomes, searching for what sparks our happiness. The good news I believe is that there is no single thing we were destined to alone; you’ve probably got what it takes to find meaning and fulfillment in many things in Life; your job(s) being just one of them. Thoughts?

 

How To Make An Elevator Pitch


Your pitch is that brief introduction you give to someone when time is of the essence but you want to communicate nonetheless who you are and what you’re after. Some call this an elevator pitch; bringing to mind the 30 or so seconds you have someone to yourself who you wish to introduce yourself to.

For starters you have to know yourself. That sounds pretty obvious doesn’t it? Don’t think I’m being flippant; if you don’t know yourself intimately you can hardly expect someone else to get you. Hmmm….know myself….seems downright easy. But is it? More on this later.

Secondly, once you know yourself, you have to be able to take all the things you know and prioritize which of your many characteristics and skills you want to highlight in this pitch you’re forming. What you choose to include and by exclusion omit might even vary from situation to situation, from person to person depending on who you meet. So it’s not just having a single pitch all nice and neat but perhaps more than one.

It all sounds rather complicated! It’s stressful! What do I include? What do I leave out? What if I mix up my words and go blank half way through my pitch?

Relax….breathe….let’s not make this complicated at all.

It helps if you have a clear goal in mind with respect to your employment goal; be that a job or a career. How about I use myself as an example for the purpose of this piece? You can take what I share and modify the content but adhere to the process if that helps you out.

Okay so I’m an Employment Counsellor. Now while that’s what it says on my business card, I’m so much more than that. I want to differentiate myself from others immediately. So I’m not, “an” Employment Counsellor, I’m “your” Employment Counsellor. I’m in your service; more on that to come.  I said the first thing to start with is knowing yourself. So some things I know about myself are the following: I believe in…

  • the power of enthusiasm
  • empowering others
  • humour and fun as integral parts of learning and sharing
  • trust
  • demonstrating Servant Leadership principles

Now that’s obviously not an exhaustive list, but it’s enough to get going. Next up I want to look at those items and choose what is most important to me as I introduce myself to others. What do I want them to know about me? What would be most advantageous not only to me, but to the other person to know about me? Why? Because it’s likely that if they are in a position to employ my services in some capacity, it would be in my own interests to come across as having something valuable to them.

Whether or not this person hires me or refers me to someone they know could use my services, this first 30 seconds or so is critical to creating that first impression; and I’ve got the advantage in having time now to craft this pitch so it comes across exactly as I want rather than winging it later and then saying to myself, “Why did I say that!” Ah, I blew it! Dumb, dumb, dumb…”

To my list then. Enthusiasm and empowering others are extremely important to me. I also make a large assumption that anyone I’m speaking with is going to similarly value engaging with someone they find enthusiastic as they go about their work. As I believe in empowering others, I’d think people would like to learn and be able to do things for themselves instead of being reliant on others. So I definitely want enthusiasm and empowerment in my pitch.

The service to others I mentioned earlier? Serving others is something that defines me and I’d like that to be one trait others come to see in me through my actions. As this is a first meeting with someone I’m prepping for, they can’t be expected to know this or have seen me in action, so it’s up to me to communicate this and if the person asks, provide examples that demonstrate my service to others.

So, I’ve got a beginning: “I’m your enthusiastic and empowering Employment Counsellor. I find great joy and satisfaction being of service to others; building and nurturing relationships founded on trust and mutual respect. I have a positive infectious attitude and deliver my services with passion and humour.”

The thing about a pitch is that you want it to roll off your tongue in such a way that your tone of voice, your facial expression and your body language support the words you choose to use. In my case, the pitch would be delivered with a smile (for warmth and friendliness suggesting the fun). The words enthusiastic, infectious and passion are all similar in meaning and reinforce what I want to be known as.

So what do you think? I’m not asking what you think of my pitch as much as I’m asking if you think you could take what I’ve shared and then apply it to your own situation? That after all, is of importance to you, my reader.

If I may make a suggestion, pass this piece on to others. Who couldn’t benefit from being able to articulate who they are, what they offer and how they deliver it in a brief 30 seconds or less?

So what’s your own pitch sound like?