In a workplace that gives narrow job descriptions, offers job categories, requires certain skill sets, and may attempt to force us into a narrow box, knowing oneself becomes very important.
In order for each of us to find the best fit in terms of job and career, we first need to determine what will best work for US, before we try to conform to what will work for them…
To do this, we need to do an inventory, and here are a few tools to start.
Step One: Write a mini autobiography. I’m not suggesting you write a novel (unless you want to). Simply list the key experiences and/or turning points in your life.
This might be 4-5 lines, or a dozen, but don’t make it complicated. Simply list these pieces of your history. Next, write what you took out of these experiences. Again, keep this brief.
How is this exercise relevant to your career? By better knowing your personal history, you’ll learn more about your triggers, your values, and the type of environment that will work for you in a job or a career.
Step Two: Make two lists – One list should include what you love to do AND are good at. Please be honest and comprehensive. Although you may love to sing karaoke, if you’ve been given half-hearted applause by even those who love you best, then this is not one of the items to put on your list.
The second should be a list of things you don’t love and/or know or have been told you’re not particularly good at. Perhaps organization isn’t your forte, or looking at numbers makes your eyes bug out. Whatever it is – add it to the list.
In making these lists, specifics are key.
There are multiple tools to help you find your strengths, and natural characteristics, and I would suggest using these tools if you’re having a hard time getting started. Books such as the Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tim Roth, or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are a few such tools.
But simply making a list – and asking your friends for suggestions – is a great place to start.
Step Three: Two more lists: What you want in a work environment is one, and what you don’t want in a work environment is another. Putting these lists together is a different type of exercise from the former exercise. Here you want to add things like: I can’t sit all day – I have to be able to move around. Or, I love to work by myself. Conversely, I don’t want to be responsible for administrative details, or I don’t want to have too many meetings, etc.
Again, these lists are better defining not just your talents and desires, but also in what kind of environment you truly thrive.
Step Four: List your definable skill sets. Are you an excellent writer? Are you able to write software code? Maybe you’ve led large groups of people, or have raised revenue. This is the place to put the type of skills you could easily add to a resume, but is NOT a listing of where you’ve been – this list is about measurable things you have done or can do.
Step Five: Define where you want to be – what are your aspirations? Think short term, medium term and long term. Given what you’ve learned about yourself, where would you like to be in 1 year, 5 years, and 10-20 years?
After you’ve done the inventory, you then need to translate the outcome into a message of what’s right for you in the workplace.
Look at these lists next to each other. What have you learned? What is surprising? What kinds of jobs or careers make sense for you, and where is there a disconnect?
At the end, you want to know: what drives you, what your ‘soft spots’ are, what you bring to the table, and what you need to work on.
Once you’ve done an inventory once, it’s important to update it periodically. Revisit what you’ve learned, assess what’s changed, and how you’ve grown.
But how do we put all this newfound knowledge to work for you in a career that allows you to grow and offer your best value to others?
Next Up: Finding Out Where YOUR Skills Can Lead You: The Importance of Informational Interviewing
Aurelia Flores is Senior Counsel at a Fortune 500 company and former Fulbright Fellow who graduated from Stanford Law School. Her website, PowerfulLatinas.com, offers stories of success, along with resources and programs focused on Latino empowerment.