Career Tips

Self-Assessment in the Job Search

By Esther Wallen

By the time you leave college, most graduates want nothing more to do with assessments. You don’t care if your personality type is an INFJ or an ESTP. You don’t remember if your Learning Style is visual or kinesthetic, and if your Skills Assessment does not line up with your major, it’s too late now, because it’s time to find a job regardless.

Yes, by the time you leave college, you just want to find a position – hopefully a career, in a field you love, or at least one that is most relevant to your degree. Now, I am not negating the value of those types of assessments. I use them when I work with students and clients to help bring context to their stories. But when it is all said and done, how do you really find satisfaction in your career?

Allow me to propose another assessment. Not one that will put you in a neat category of styles and skills, but one a bit less structured that encourages you to focus on yourself. Before you begin your job search, try to take one more opportunity to conduct a personal assessment. Warning, this is not scientific.

Just like those class papers you wrote in college, where you had to first draft an outline so that you could appropriately map out where you wanted your ideas to go, before you begin your job search, take this opportunity to map out your goals.

Start off by asking yourself, if I were in my ideal position, what would that look like?

Start developing written descriptions of your needs and wants. Take a long, hard look at what is immediately important to you. Are your needs limited to the basics – (i.e. – food, shelter) or do you need your career to provide you with a sense of accomplishment?

Reflect on what you are really interested in doing. You don’t necessarily need to know the exact position you want, but you do need to establish what types of jobs are most appealing to you and if you have the skills and qualifications to do that work.

Consider why you chose your major, and what it is about that field or the work you hope to do that is most satisfying. But even beyond that reflection, think about what you are willing to live with and what you are willing to live without. Is pay less important if you are promised the perfect work-life balance? Is a title less important than a good salary? Are you flexible with location and distance?  Prioritize.

In addition to knowing what you are good at, you also want to take your personal needs and feelings into consideration and make note of what you like and don’t like to do.

Determine your motives. Why do you want to be (fill in the blank)?

Do you want to help people or do you want to motivate leaders? Do you want to stay in your home-town or do you want to relocate for an adventure?

What about work culture? Are you looking at the cultures of the organizations you plan to apply to and determining if you are a fit? Do you gravitate toward a more traditional work settings or are the Google’s of the world appealing to your need for an atmosphere where work and play are routinely combined?

Yes, it is okay to be selfish in this process if it means long-term happiness or success.

Now, think about where you see yourself in your field in five years? Pinpoint your strengths that could help you attain success and identify any barriers that could impact your success. Consider personal and environmental issues impacting your decision-making and success.

Now jump back to the present. As you work toward achieving your educational goals or if you’ve already done so, you will also want to assess your current situation so that you can have a clear picture as to how you can connect your education with your career goals. Look at your experiences, including volunteer experiences and hobbies and see how they can influence your future.

As you can see, embarking on a job search that will lead to job satisfaction is going to require a bit more simply looking at job titles online that look like they may match what you want to do. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself some tough questions now, so that your employers are not asking you those tough questions later. You have to know yourself to know what you want.


Esther Wallen is a Global Career Development Facilitator, Certified Professional Resume Writer and founder of Wallen Career Solutions. Skilled in assisting employment seekers with resume development, job search strategies, and networking, her experiences span more than 5 years in career services, both independently and at different universities in Chicago. You can find more about her at



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