Start by examining what makes you who you are. You will then be better able to identify opportunities and make decisions regarding your career direction. The following sections will guide you in this process. Be sure you are completing a "self" assessment. Although the thoughts, ideas, and opinions of others may matter a great deal to you, it is important that you articulate your personality preferences, values, skills, and interests and how these influence your career decision-making process.
You are encouraged to engage in a variety of self-assessment activities: the more information you gather about yourself, the richer your self-knowledge. You will then be in a stronger position to generate and assess occupational options, leading ultimately to a career that is both satisfying and fulfilling.
What do I like to do, at work and outside of work?
Interests are often the first factor a person thinks of when considering an occupational direction, and can help you determine your key areas of motivation.
Likes, dislikes, and indifferences regarding various occupations and career-relevant activities are indeed important determinants of career choice. Make note of what attracts your attention: What do you enjoy learning? What conversations do you find yourself listening in on? What events do you like to attend? What news articles or issues grab your interest? Answers to these questions will help to give you a clearer sense of direction regarding potential occupations that relate to your interests.
To aid you in further expanding your awareness of your career-related interests, here are a few assessment tools available to you:
Strong Interest Inventory - registration and information on cost available through the Centre for Career Development front desk
Career Cruising: Explore My Interests (www.careercruising.com Userid: uwaterloo Password: crc)
TypeFocus: Interests Assessment (www.typefocus.com Access ID: uw74 – make up own password/userid)
What do I do well? What talents do I enjoy using? What do I want to improve?
A skill is a demonstrated ability to do something well. Skills can be learned and developed in a variety of ways: through academic or vocational training, self-study, hobbies, or on-the-job activities. In the labour market, skills are the currency used by workers in exchange for pay, so the more you develop your skills, the more marketable you will be.
If you were asked right now to list your skills, what would your list look like? It might be a short list, not because you do not possess many skills, but simply because you have never been asked to identify them and are not accustomed to thinking or talking about them. Each person can possess up to 700 distinct skills. However, most people have trouble identifying their skills and, even when able to do so, feel uncomfortable promoting them. Having a thorough and realistic understanding of your skills will enable you to pursue occupations that you are qualified for and that you will enjoy.
SkillScan – online or card sort versions available through Centre for Career Development front desk
One of the most important factors in determining your happiness and success in a job is understanding your personality preferences. Everyone has a distinct set of personality preferences, comprised of individual traits: thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and attitudes. Are you easy going? Strong willed? Practical? What energizes you? Be honest when you assess these attributes. This will help to ensure that your results are truly reflective of you.
Available resources to further aid you in exploring your personality preferences:
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): registration and information on cost available through the Centre for Career Development front desk
TypeFocus: Personality Assessment (www.typefocus.com Access ID: uw74 – make up own password/userid)
Interested in learning more about the assessments? Sign up for the Exploring Your Personality Type workshop and discover how to apply your results.
What do you feel strongly about? What types of work environments would make you happy?
Have you ever wondered what causes someone to devote their life to helping others in developing countries, while another person pursues a career in the corporate world? What causes someone to become unhappy with what he or she thought was a dream job or organization? Values are often at the root in such cases.
Values reflect what is worthwhile and important to you in the way you live and work. They give purpose to what you do. Having a clear sense of your values is one of the best ways of knowing whether you will enjoy a career or not. Studies show that successful, satisfied, and motivated employees are almost always involved in careers in which their values are respected and reinforced. When values are not satisfied or respected, burnout occurs, often very quickly.
It is important not only to identify, or label, your values, but also to prioritize them, since satisfaction of your core (most important) values will factor greatly into your overall career satisfaction. Identify your deal breakers, as these will often make the difference between job satisfaction and dissatisfaction.
Values Activity – available through the Centre for Career Development front desk
TypeFocus: Values Assessment (www.typefocus.com Access ID: uw74 – make up own password/userid)
You can also derive important information about yourself through more holistic activities:
Considering your previous experience in all life roles (e.g., worker, volunteer, student, parent or caregiver) is a great way to uncover your skills, interests, personality preferences, and values. Basing your self-assessment on real experience is much more valid than simply selecting items from a list. In the latter case, it is far too tempting and easy to select those characteristics that you wish described you rather than those that actually do.
List 3-5 experiences from your past that are positive for you. These are experiences that you are proud of and that make you feel energized as you recall them. They can be anything from building a house to drawing a picture or running a race. It only matters how you feel about them. The standard to use in choosing items for this list is your own satisfaction in feeling "I did that!"
Describe these experiences with words associated with all of your senses: what you saw, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted. It is also helpful to describe your experiences from the perspectives of how you felt at the time and how you feel now as you recall them.
Remember to provide details. For example, rather than write "I was an excellent telephone customer service representative," write "In a typical day, I responded to more than 150 customer phone inquiries. This volume was almost double what other representatives handled. Based on satisfaction surveys, my customer service skills were consistently rated in the top 3 of the 40 representatives. Because of my high ratings, our manager asked me to participate in the training of new recruits. I then trained more than 20 new staff members."
Examine each accomplishment for interests, skills, values, and personal attributes. Are there any themes?
If you look over your past paid and unpaid work experiences you can often see a pattern emerge: themes and threads appear. You can use those themes and patterns to propel yourself to your next experience.
What are the themes in your career so far? What are the talents you have consistently used in all your jobs regardless of your job title? What threads tend to run through your life? Because those threads and themes will help catapult you to your next job or career.
Beyond your personality preferences, values, skills, and interests there are a variety of situational factors that will likely influence your career planning process. Consider what impact gender, culture, family and significant others, sexual orientation, and disability might have.
Many resources are available on many of these topics, and Centre for Career Development staff are available to help you work through any challenges associated with these criteria.
Cultural values have been identified as important influences in career decision making. Perspectives on work and career choice vary from culture to culture. In certain cultures, career decision making may be a family or group process whereby family and/or community expectations or needs play a strong role. When a decision maker has career goals that do not align with those of the family or community they they may experience conflict both internal and external.
Depending on your family, parental over- or under-involvement can be problematic. Is your family open to an expression of your career views that may be different from theirs? Pressure to meet expectations regarding career choice can often be overwhelming and can result in a premature or delayed career decision.
Bearing this in mind, it can be beneficial for friends, partners and family to participate with you in the career planning and job search process. People who know you well can offer insight (e.g., skills they have seen you demonstrate), advice, feedback, and encouragement. They also know have insight into your personality and mare likely aware of some of your accomplishments.
People with physical, sensory, learning disabilities or chronic medical conditions are advised, like all career decision makers, to focus on personality preferences, values, skills, and interests when engaging in the career planning process. Examine your strengths as well as your perceived weaknesses. Although it is important to consider how your situation may impact your ability to succeed in the occupations you are considering, are you limiting yourself unnecessarily? You may find that the disability has minimal or no impact at all on your choice of career.
After conducting your self-assessment, thoroughly research the occupations of interest to you. This should address all aspects of a job, such as the tasks involved as well as the nature of the typical work conditions or environment. Determine what, if any, challenges could present themselves if you chose to pursue work in that field.
In the work search process, the topic of disclosure may arise. Be prepared to share your assessment of your disability and how it can be accommodated in the workplace. Ultimately, the choice of whether and when to disclose rests with you. For more info on disability disclosure, visit the Find work in Canada page.
If you would like to talk through your career planning and work search options with a career advisor, consider booking a career planning, work search or mock interview appointment through Centre for Career Development to discuss all the disclosure options available and their respective pros and cons.
At the University of Waterloo, AccessAbility Services offers support for students with any permanent, temporary or suspected disabilities on the topic of workplace or interview accommodations.