Self-Evaluation can be difficult and even painful sometimes, however, it can be one of the most valuable tools available in preparing for a career change or advancing in a job search.
Sometimes the hardest part of reaching your goals isn’t figuring out what needs to be done, but rather deciding how to do what needs to be done. There are usually several ways of tackling a problem, and all of them can be valid if they’re executed correctly. The trick is to know what works for you.
Every one of us has skills that add value to what we do. Every one of us has had experiences which, whether they were good or bad at the time, helped us to learn and grow within our professions. Every one of us wishes we were better at certain things. The question is: can you put your finger on what all of these things are?
This is where the objective self-inventory comes in very handy. Your action step is to take an inventory of your skills and experiences. Include everything you’re good at, not just the things you see as directly related to your profession. Are you super-organized? Are you highly empathetic? Do you have a knack for making people see things your way? Did you learn more about leadership from your fifth grade camping trip than you’ve ever been taught in a classroom? Did your weekend of base-jumping in Colorado last summer really teach you the value of taking a risk? Write whatever comes to mind. Don’t hold back, and don’t sell yourself short. Your brain is like a warehouse where your whole life is stored; dust off the back shelves and bring out the experiences that really impacted you.
Next, make a list of things you wish you were better at. Is there a particular skill which you feel would rocket you to the top of your field, if only you could learn it? Again, don’t hold back – but don’t let guilt become a factor, either: this is not about what you coulda/shoulda/woulda done if only you’d had the time/money/ambition, but rather about what you can and will do with those skills now. If learning how to use that 3D modeling program or the hottest new graphic design software would really boost your earning potential, write that down. If learning to speak German would really set you over the top in your next teleconference with the big bosses in Hamburg, that’s great (and if learning German would also help you get on your mother-in-law’s good side, that’s even better: it’s all about work-life balance!)
Finally, resolve to do the following two things over the course of the year using the information you’ve just listed. First: from the list of your skills, pick two to three skills to apply in new and creative ways. If you’re manifesting a career change this summer, try to think of ways to transition valuable skills from your old field into your new one. Second: pick one or two skills from the list of things you wish you could do, and learn to do them. These could be as simple as learning to keep your desk organized, or as complex as mastering a computer code language; it doesn’t matter what you decide to do, as long as you follow through and reap the benefits.