"Who are you? What makes you tick?"
The double-barreled question seemed simple enough when I heard it in a church sermon two decades ago, but it has stuck with me. Of course, it was asked in a spiritual context, but the same question can also be applied to the job search. If you have a strong grasp on who you are, chances are you know what you want from your work life.
The provocative sermon was not presenting an original question. For centuries, writers and philosophers have urged us to look deep within ourselves for answers to that question. And really, sense of self-awareness is where it all begins when it comes to our work lives; understanding the things that drive us, motivate us, stimulate us, stoke a passion within us, and prod us to learn more about them.
All that is easy enough to say, but much harder to define.
So, if you're at a crossroads in your work life and trying to figure out which road to take, how do you come up with those answers?
Here are three ways:
(1) Take a self inventory. What do you like about your current job? Or, what did you like about a previous job? On the other hand, what do you not like? Is there a certain type of corporate culture that brings out your best? Or, can you adapt to any work environment? Do you like to work alone, or as part of a team? If you have regular performance evaluations at work (and you trust the people who wrote them), review them for insights that can give you direction.
Further, ask yourself: What excites me? What would make me want to work an extra hour or two and not look at the clock because I'd be so engrossed in the task?
(2) Talk with a trusted friend. This could be your significant other, a former coworker, your college roommate, your best friend, or even someone you play poker with. Find someone who can give you their perceptions of your strengths. More than 20 years ago, a long-time friend told me I’d be a good teacher. I remembered that about 15 years later, and became one. I still am. Choose a friend who will also give you the clear, unvarnished – and maybe even brutal – truth about your areas of weakness.
(3) Take a couple of online career and personality tests. One or more of these tests may help give you some direction, but I wouldn't rely on them completely. However, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a useful tool that can gauge your psychological and emotional strengths; for instance, it can tell you not just whether you're an extrovert or introvert, but how much of one you are. And the results can change over time, as I found out earlier this year. In the late 1990s, the MBTI showed that I was near the borderline between extrovert and introvert. Today, I’m a more extreme extrovert.
Once you get all the information you need, use it to write a personal value proposition, which can form the basis of the Summary or Objective that will headline your resume.
With your newfound self-awareness in mind and on paper, you'll be better able to target jobs that complement your passions and your strengths, making it easier to build the rest of your resume and move your career in the right direction for you.
What about you? Have you ever discovered something about yourself that helped you maintain or change your career direction? Please drop in a comment and share it.