An important step in career development is self-assessment, because knowing about yourself, increases the chances of knowing what you’ll find fulfilling in your career.
What does self-assessment involve?
Knowing what you like. Knowing what you’re like.
Reflecting on your skills and strengths, values and personality type, asking people who know you well for feedback and making ‘lists’ can all give you useful clues. As well as understanding your skills and values, try to be aware of other internal and external factors that can influence your career thinking too.
Some people find self-reflection easy; others welcome some support with this. The activities below can help you name skills, strengths, values and your personality type.
Online tools are available to help you, or you could make an appointment to discuss self-assessment with a career consultant.
Once you are aware of what is important to you and what you have to offer, you could use a career matching tool to generate some ideas of the jobs that might suit you.
Skills and strengths
How do I conduct a skills and strengths audit?
You can start by listing the skills you have used and developed during your studies, employment, hobbies, life experience etc. and then assessing whether you think you are proficient in using that skill or if you’d like to develop it further.
When you’ve done that, spend some time identifying the skills that you have most enjoyed using in those contexts. These skills are your strengths, and if you can find a career that will allow you to regularly use your strengths, you will have a greater chance of job satisfaction.
It is possible to be highly proficient at something, but for it to not be a strength. The difference between skills and strengths is that we usually feel energised when we use our strengths. Think about occasions when the time has flown by without you looking at the clock because you were so absorbed in your task – that’s probably because you were using one or more of your strengths.
Equally, you might have a strength that you aren’t yet competent in, but that you feel enthusiastic about developing.
Skills and strengths tools aim to increase and use your vocabulary of skills and strengths:
If you’d like to work with a pre-defined list of skills, download our LSE version.
LSE LIFE have developed a tool on Moodle to review skills: Me + LSE.
Prospects and TARGETjobs both have a section on skills and competencies which you could use to develop your own list.
CliftonStrengths is widely used to help people think about strengths. You have to pay for the assessment.
High Five Test is a free alternative to CliftonStrengths.
When you have completed your audit or strengths tool, show it to a trusted friend, colleague or mentor. You might be surprised by the ideas and insight they add.
Put simply, your values are the things that are important to you in life and at work. They can also be referred to as guiding principles. Being clear about your values can direct your actions in a more intentional way, help you to make decisions and allow you to interact with people in ways that feel genuine and honest.
Examples of values include community, optimism, directness, ambition, happiness or status.
Everyone is different and there are no positive or negative values. It is important to be honest with yourself about what is important to you.
There are many lists of values available online, but the process of identifying your own can be more effective if you think about experiences you have had, rather than simply reviewing a page of words.
Look at the following links to identify an approach that works for you:
Your Ideal Business Partner Values Generator – this method encourages you to identify times in your life when you felt happy, proud and fulfilled and to use those to help you recognise your values.
Leadership coach Scott Jeffrey takes a similar approach, but also recommends considering a negative experience, where you were angry or frustrated, to help you identify the values that were being suppressed on that occasion.
If you prefer a more structured approach, The Life Values Inventory is a free online programme that asks you a series of questions about your values and actions and then presents you with your results.
You could look through a list of values and make your own judgements, here’s a list of 400 from Live Bold & Bloom.
The key is to narrow them down until you have around five core values that you can easily keep in mind. TapRooT recommends adding a verb to each value to bring them to life. For example, if your values are ‘well-being’ and ‘making a difference’ – they suggest changing those into actions by adding ‘Promote well-being’ and ‘Seek opportunities for making a difference’.
Personality type indicators
Understanding your key personality traits plays a role in self-assessment. For example, if you are someone who enjoys being surrounded by people and activity, it is likely that a solitary job won’t suit you very well.
There are online tools that can help you to learn more about your personality. Commonly, these free online services give you an initial description of your results free of charge but charge a fee to access a more detailed report. They usually require you to register an email address to take the test.
The VIA Institute on Character, an organisation dedicated to promoting the ‘character strengths’ that ‘make up our personality’, offers a free online survey that assesses you against their 24 defined character strengths. Click on ‘Take the free survey’ to start and you’ll get access to your results, with your greatest character strength highlighted.
Keirsey Temperament Sorter – is a widely used personality instrument with 70 self-directed questions designed to help you uncover your personality type, which will fit into one of four temperaments. Click on ‘Start’ and when you’ve finished the survey, you’ll receive your result and an overview of the key characteristics of that temperament.
16 personalities presents 16 personality types based around what’s known as the ‘big five personality traits’ model. After answering the questions, you are presented with your results and a detailed overview of the personality type you fit most closely with.
Having undertaken some self-assessment, you might feel more self-aware and better prepared to review the career options open to you when you start to research different sectors and job roles.
There are career matching tools free online that analyse your skills and preferences, and suggest suitable job matches for your personal profile.
Prospects Planner for students, graduates and postgraduates asks you to rate various skills and motivating factors based on how important they are to you. The ‘scores’ you receive are then compared with a database of occupation profiles and possible career matches are suggested.
Prospects Job Match asks you whether you agree or disagree with a series of statements and then matches you to one of 15 job groups, ranging from ‘creator’ to ‘guide’, and suggests a range of related occupation profiles. It’s quick and easy to register.
Most of the following are US based tools. While they each provide you with a useful taster that should help you to build a picture of your career options, their full reports are only available for a fee.
You might find it useful to undertake more than one of the free tests and then cross reference your taster results to look for common themes or career types.
The MAPP (Motivational Appraisal Personal Potential) career assessment is based on your skills and personality. For free, you receive a sample document based on your results and an opportunity to compare those results with 5 careers from a library of over 1000 options. You search the database, choosing either a category or keyword, and the system shows you how well you match the careers you choose.
Holland Code Career Test measures your level of interest in a wide range of activities and uses your responses to prioritise your top career interest areas across 6 categories, i.e. building, thinking, creating, helping, persuading and organizing. It then suggests careers that match your interest profile.
Career Explorer by Sokanu, requires your response to over 300 questions, exploring your personality, skills and preferences for your working style and environment. It then suggests a range of career matches and lists some of your key characteristics. You can access a useful sample of your personalised report.
None of these tools will tell you definitively what career would suit you best, but they can all provide ideas to inspire you and stimulate further research. Don’t be disheartened if you aren’t interested in any of the options that come up – try instead to identify any common themes and start from there. For example, all the careers suggested might involve people, or data, or analysis or community, etc.
If you need help to explore your findings, you could make an appointment with a career consultant.