"It's never too late to be what you might have been." ~ George Eliot
Many of my clients who are considering a career transition or reinvention have never taken the time to evaluate their skills, values, interests, and other parameters that are important to them in their life and work.
They often have gone directly from college into the working world, taking on role after role, and never really assessing what makes them happy.
It is only when they find themselves miserable, frustrated, and unhappy that they begin to question everything.
It is at this moment that career self-exploration is so important --
To change careers or transition to a new field, you must go back to the basics -- knowing who you are, and mapping out a strategy for a transition that fits who you are.
This is where self-assessment fits in. I like to refer to it as "self-exploration" and not "self-assessment," which frankly sounds too clinical.
Self-exploration is a period in your life when you step back from your busy, day-to-day activities and look inside to take stock of knowing who you are (a sense of identity) and what is important to you.
Self-assessment is usually one of the first steps (and in my mind, the MOST important one) in career reinvention.
It is a process by which you gather information about yourself (skills, strengths, interests, personal brand, and communication style) in order to make better career decisions, and help you decide how to transition into a new field.
During this phase, it is important to work with a professional who is trained in administering and interpreting career assessments. While working with a career counselor or career coach, you'll go through a variety of formal (objective) and informal (subjective) assessments to gather information that will be helpful in the career reinvention process.
Objective assessments are typically developed by assessment experts and provide a third-party viewpoint. Usually, a career coach or assessment expert reviews and interprets the results with the client.
Subjective assessments tend to be more informal, such as a homework assignment or an exercise that you would do by yourself (questions, journalism, visualization exercises, meditation, and obtaining feedback from others). This will help you get a clear understanding of what is important to you and to help you envision the future.
When you step out of the day-to-day grind and slow down and look inside, you begin to get in touch with a part of yourself which can't be tapped during the busy lives we lead.
A period of self-reflection can help you:
During the self-exploration phase, you might want to consider evaluating all or some of the following:
We can't address all of these in this short article. Let's look at the three most important parameters that you should consider:
For me, understanding your values is probably one of the most important (and frankly the least concrete) of all the assessment parameters. Why? Because values touch the core of who we are, why we work, and what we want to get out of our work. And, if there is a mismatch between your values and those of the organization for which you work, this mostly likely will lead to career dissatisfaction and potential illness and undue stress.
Here are some questions to ponder:
Susan Whitcomb in Job Search Magic suggests that you also explore "fulfillment" and "identity" by asking yourself the following questions:
Finding things you are interested in and passionate about most likely will lead to enjoyment and success.
How can you find what you are passionate about and what interests you the most? Reflect on your past and the things to which you have been drawn. When you think about your past, which types of activities attract you? What activities do you love to do, and would do even if you were not getting paid, or getting paid very little?
Skills are important in terms of identifying the right work function - the tasks and position(s) at which you can be successful and be the happiest.
It is important to make a distinction between the skills you are good at and those you are good at AND from which you get the greatest satisfaction.
The skills that give you the greatest satisfaction, called "motivated skills," typically lead to career satisfaction and should be central to your focus in career transition.
I can speak to this personally from my own experience. I remember my first semester in business school when I discovered that I "can do the numbers." I also discovered I am painstakingly slow at doing anything with numbers and more importantly, that I hate being in a job where there is a high level of numerical analysis.
Now, had I known that, would I have gone to business school? Probably not!! I might have studied a different field more in line with my skills and interests. Unfortunately, I did not undergo any type of self-exploration myself until my mid-40s when I was considering a career change. And then it was too late as I went to business school when I was 29.
Here are some questions for you to think about:
After you have asked yourself these questions, and evaluated your values, interests, and skills, you will be ready to take the next step toward career transition or reinvention.
If you really haven't gone through this period of self-exploration, you could be jumping into a new career that won't be an improvement over where you are.. This discovery process can be involved, complex, and even fatiguing, but it also can be illuminating and help guide you to the right career.
Job-Hunt's Career Change Expert, Randi Bussin, founder and president of Aspire!, is a career coach and counselor with more than 25 years of business, entrepreneurial, and career counseling experience, including DISC assessments. Randi has experienced several major career transitions (from corporate to small business owner to career counselor to coach) and personally understands the effort and commitment involved. She has appeared on public television's "Job Doctor," and is a frequent contributor to Bridgestar's Leadership Matters newsletter, The Ladders job-search Web site (www.theladders.com) and her own blog, which offers advice on career transition, job search, and labor market trends. Follow Randi on Twitter @Aspire4Success.