Step 1: Self-Assessment -- Who Are You?
If we think of career planning as a step-by-step process, then self-assessment is the first step. Self-assessment is nothing more than a way to gain heightened self-awareness in areas that pertain to choice of work and vocation. It is a structured approach to help you identify compatible career options, but is also part of a broader career-planning dialogue between you and your career counselor.
Self-assessment is an umbrella term that most often refers to the exploration of three areas within you: interests (what you enjoy doing, or the nature of the work), values (what's important to you, or the conditions of the work); and skills (what you're capable of doing, or work competencies). Skills can be broken down into three categories: self-management (organized, persuasive); transferable (research, oral and written communication); and "hard" or techinical (foreign language, computer software). These three areas serve as a foundation for the self-exploration that leads to the self-knowledge that is applied to career choice.
Additional factors to keep in mind during self-assessment are your professional and personal aspirations, or goals, e.g., "I want to start my own organization."). Are your goals realistic? Are they attainable, considering your natural abilities and external factors such as changes in the economy, technology and society? These should be kept in view during your conversations with your career counselor.
At the Career Center, we use two self-assessment instruments: the Strong Interest Inventory (SII) and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). They are designed to promote insight into aspects of your personality that relate to job and career satisfaction. Keep in mind, however, that they do not tell you what to do or provide clear-cut answers. They are not needed by, and do not help, everyone. Self-assessment at the Career Center is conducted with your career counselor over a period of one or more scheduled appointments.
To take the SII, or the MBTI, visit the Career Center and speak with a counselor during drop-in hours or a scheduled appointment. Each of these instruments carries a fee of $20.
Passion: Why All the Commotion?
"What's your passion?", "Find your passion!" Career counselors, alumni and others always seem to emphasize the "passion" when they talk about career planning. Books, with titles like, Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow, analyze the concept. That's because identifying your passion can be a key clue to establishing a career direction. Think of one thing you love to do, watch, read about or hear. This is something you actively, perhaps even aggressively, choose to pursue in your free time. Now think about the energy that surrounds your passion: you think about it, you spend time on it, you hunger for it, you track it down... it's this deep engagement with something that has launched a thousand careers. Passion might be described as your number one interest, that one thing that draws your attention over anything else; that makes your heart race. Do you have a passion? Do you pursue it now? Does it fit with your values and skills? Think about it and discuss it with your career counselor.
When you identify your passion, other more intangible qualities that affect future career success may not be far behind. Ambition, drive, persistence -- these traits propel people to achieve, dream, explore, focus, and take risks -- all important factors in career planning and management.
Balancing the Perspective
The other side of all this is that knowing your passion, values, and abilities may still not reveal a clear career path, or may still leave you confused. There could be several reasons for this. One, you might be locked into finding the perfect career, which, frankly, may not exist for you (it doesn't exit for most people, which is why they have hobbies, or career fantasies after hours). Another reason could be a values conflict, either within yourself, or between significant people in your life and your own desires. Examples: you love writing music (your passion), but you know that earning a comfortable, full-time living as a songwriter is a 50-50 proposition at best (you, or your parent/guardian, value family and a certain material lifestyle). So, what to do? In this situation, and many others, visit the Career Center and hash things out with a career counselor. The perfect answer may not be found, but two heads are often better than one.
Decisions will confront you at every step throughout the career planning process. How did you decide on Wesleyan? How will you decide which major to choose? How do you decide what to do on weekends? People decide things in different ways. If making decisions is tricky for you (it can be for many people), then assessing your decisionmaking style may be something to put on your self-assessment list. Discuss it with your career counselor.
Give Yourself Permission
Repeat after us: "I will allow myself to be undecided, confused, or unemployed on graduation day." Why? Because, it simply isn't always humanly possible by age 21 to have your career, or even just your first step out of college, mapped out after four years of college. People grow and develop at different rates, with a variety of factors influencing their lives and personalities. Over time, however, if you pro-actively follow our recommendations, you greatly increase your chances of eventually settling into a decision that will place you on a tangible, satisfactory career path.
Proceed to Step 2: Connecting Majors to Careers.
If you're clear on how your major relates to the world of work, proceed to Step 3: Researching Careers.