Today’s guest post is from my friend and colleague, Sharon Gilbert. Sharon has over 20 years experience working with college students, both as Director of College Recruiting for Human Resource Management Inc. and Asst. Director of Career Services for New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). To learn more about her recently published book Beyond Tuition: Career Coaching Your College Kid, visit www.beyondtuition.com
. . . Lily Tomlin
When I was a recruiter, it surprised me that many people couldn’t name their skills. Often, things we do well come so naturally that we take them for granted and do not consider them skills. However, to an objective observer, they are gifts or talents. Skills may be repetitively exercised like sports activities, a one-time project or experience like raising money for a club or writing a script for a school play. These skills energize us and build our confidence as we use and develop them.
Everyone has a self-image which develops unconsciously as we go through life. The answers are there but we have to dig sometimes to answer the questions, “Who am I?” and, “What’s important to me?” Young people haven’t always had enough life experience to answer these questions with confidence. If you’re feeling confused, talk with someone who understands what makes you tick. Who knows you better than your parents? If you feel comfortable collaborating with them, here are some tips to start brainstorming together:
1. Think about positive feedback or compliments you’ve received. Reflect on enjoyable experiences you’ve had that gave you a sense of accomplishment; or when you felt committed, passionate and enthusiastic about something. Extracurricular activities, past and present jobs, paid or unpaid, should be considered if the task was enjoyable and satisfying.
2. When you come up with examples, figure out the talents you were using in these situations. Break down accomplishment into components. For example, responsibilities as a team leader on a project could be defined as: handling discussions, writing reports, disseminating information, multitasking, leading others, etc.
3. A good check on skills needed for a job can be found by Googling “ONET.” The ONET Online program is the nation’s primary source of occupational information.
4. Interests, personality type and values are as important as skills in finding a good career match. Of course, the demands of the job market play a big role too. Most college career centers have word choice exercises or checklists you can use to determine what skills, interests and values are most important to you in making a career decision.
5. You can learn more about yourself by using career inventories such as, Holland’s Strong Interest Inventory and the Myers Briggs Personality Type Instrument. Make sure to have a career counselor interpret your test results for you. These reports can be a good springboard for conversations with your parent or other mentors.
6. A smart thing to do is to make an inventory of your accomplishments and assemble a skills portfolio with examples. When you start your job search you’ll be ahead of the game.
In conclusion, self-assessment is the first and most important step in career planning. To avoid finding yourself in a career that is not a good fit, examine your experiences to discover your preferred skills, interests, values and personality type, and then relate them to the best career match out there.