Careers – First, Know Yourself
By ALEXANDRA LEVIT
When it comes to career reinvention, too many people make a fundamental mistake: They don’t know themselves.
So when I talk to people about making a career change, I always suggest first doing a few self-assessment exercises. Career self-assessment is the process of getting acquainted with what you like — and don’t like — in a work environment.
You can do this by simply making a list of your skills and interests, and asking yourself questions such as "What type of work would make me sit in traffic for hours just for the privilege of showing up?" and "What energizes me at work?" Increasingly, though, career changers are drawing guidance from more sophisticated tests.
After getting laid off from an investment bank in New York, 25-year-old Alan Katz worked with career counselor Claudine Vainrub, principal of EduPlan, an education and career consulting company, to determine his next steps. He completed a 360-degree survey, in which he collected feedback about himself from friends, co-workers, and family, as well as assessments about his work behaviors and career interests.
"The assessments helped me understand my skills, specific roles I play effectively and career interests," says Mr. Katz, who paid a total of $2,500 for the tests and professional consulting over a six-week period. "The results prompted me to investigate entrepreneurship, and I’m now developing a start-up company in manufacturing."
Many experts agree that assessments are best used in conjunction with an experienced career counselor who can hand-select tests for you — and help you interpret the results. Ms. Vainraub, who is based in Miami, chose the 360-degree questionnaire for Mr. Katz to better define his work priorities. "We found that his personal vision of leading an enterprise forward was, in fact, quite different from his current career in finance," she says.
People described Mr. Katz as enjoying managing and motivating others, and driven when involved in a project. "Those are very much the qualities of an entrepreneur," Ms. Vainraub says.
If you can’t afford or aren’t sure you want to invest in a personalized assessment, start with free assessments online, including the Coach Compass Assessment (www.coachcompass.com) and the CareerLink Inventory (www.mpcfaculty.net/CL/cl.htm). Most take around 10 minutes to complete.
Ms. Vainraub recommends starting with free assessments from O*NET(online.onetcenter.org),a source of occupational information, and from Rutgers University (careerservices.rutgers.edu/OCAmain.html).
When completing these, make sure you keep your expectations in check. It’s unlikely that one test will result in career fulfillment, so take several and see if you can detect patterns in the findings. Should you need something more precise, it may be in your best interest to contact a professional.
Mr. Katz says he would go through the self-assessment process again. "Self-assessment is great for people who are unsure of the correct career move to make," he says. "I now have a lot more confidence that I’m headed in the right direction."