Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power.
~ Lao Tzu
Make it thy business to know thyself, which is the most difficult lesson in the world.
~ Miguel de Cervantes
Whether you are an older worker near retirement or a fresh faced graduate on the job market, the importance and challenge of knowing oneself are illustrated by the two quotes above, one by the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu and the other by Spanish Novelist, Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote.
Before you flood your market with your resume, and even before you take a minute to update it, spend a little reflection time before you jump right into your next job. Self-assessment is the basis for making any career move. You need to understand who you are and what are your true strengths and weaknesses. The more you understand, the better you will be able to write focused resumes and present yourself in interviews in ways that get that job, namely by showing the employer how someone with your background, passion and set of skills can do exactly what they need. More importantly at the start of the job search, others (friends, and potential networking contacts and employers) can only help if you have a clear idea in mind of what it is you want to do.
Psychological assessments and career assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory and the Birkman First Look, designed to give a reading on aspects of your personality to help you with life and career choices can be useful. They have to be administered by certified professionals, are lengthy (3-4 hours), and are evaluated by professionals. You may have these resources available to you as part of a career transition package if your company eliminated your position during a layoff. Others are available at college career centers or state employment centers and online.
If you don’t have access to the big tests, you can take other tests, available on the internet. Although these tests are not scientific, they can help start to point you in the right direction or give you a sense of what your direction is and some career areas that might be a good fit for you based on your personality. One exception that is scientific and online is the Career Key. The test is not free; however, the fee is very low and also supports charitable efforts. (According to the author, “Ten percent of sales are donated to organizations working for the development of youth, the alleviation of human suffering, protection of the natural world/environment, and excellence in journalism.”) The website says that The Career Key will help you in choosing a career, a college major, changing a career, and career planning.
The tests will classify your personality into a type. For example, one of the most famous, the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory, divides your personality into 16 types based on a combination of personality factors (Extroversion/Introversion, Sensing/Intuitive, Thinking/ Feeling, and Judging/Perceiving). The letters represent the dominant aspect of your personality, but everyone has different combinations of the other letters as well in them and different circumstances pull different response behaviors. The test helps you to understand your basic inner tendencies. For example, your type could reveal why, even though your job calls for you to be extroverted—always talking and interacting with people–and you can do it well (because, after all, you are a professional) you find that you do not really like all of that public interaction and cannot wait to get a moment to yourself, in your office, in the break room, or take a coffee break to get away from it all and breathe…by yourself.
Of course, you shouldn’t rely on any test alone for self-discovery and career guidance. Meet with a career counselor. College students and alumni usually have free or inexpensive access to counselors. Also free to the public are the Career One Stop centers, which also have career counselors.