Career development theory tells us that in order to achieve career satisfaction, it’s essential to match our personalities with our jobs. This entails reflecting on our interests, the skills we have that we enjoy using, and our values related to the work environment (i.e. the content, setting, and relationships with colleagues we prefer). To determine these for yourself, there are many helpful worksheets, inventories, and exercises you can utilize. An excellent list of self-guided and formal approaches can be found on the Self-Assessments page compiled by the Stanford University Career Development Center. They also have an online Guided Career Path tool that anyone can use. Another great resource is the book Outside the Ivory Tower: A Guide for Academics Considering Alternative Careers by Margret Newhouse.
Exercises I'd recommend:
Helps you pick out your skills and interests by examining personal "success stories". Think of an accomplishment in which YOU were the chief actor or player and that you actually ENJOYED yourself in the process. Don't limit yourself to lab and school achievements- extra-curricular activities and those from your personal life count, too. Then describe the situation in the form of a S.T.A.R. (Situation-Task-Action-Result) statement
S/T (Situation/Task)= describe the situation or task
A (Action)= what was the action you took in this situation?
R (Result)= what was the end result? what did you achieve?
After you have your STAR statement, ask yourself, what were the skills you used in the situation? What does the situation tell you about your interests?
Now try to come up with as many success stories/STAR statements as you can (i'd recommend at least 5) and then look for patterns that emerge- are there skills and interests that keep popping up over and over again? You might be surprised...
Skill Inventory Assessment
A different approach for identifying your skills. Take an inventory of transferable skills, like on this worksheet [PDF] from Stanford and underline all the ones you believe you possess. Then go back through the list and circle the top 10 you enjoy using the most. Finally- and this is the most important part- create your own personal STAR statements for each of your top ten skills (see above). You'll find that the Success Stories exercise and Skill Inventory Assessment will be complementary, so it's good to take both approaches.
Value card sort
A hands-on way to narrow down your top values. Take a list of values, like from this worksheet [PDF], and write them out one-by-one on slips of paper or "cards". Take the first 8 cards in your hand, then pick up a new card from the deck. If the value you picked up is more important to you than one you hold in your hand, keep the new card and discard the other. If it isn't more important than any of the cards in your hard, discard it. Go through the entire deck, always maintaining 8 cards in your hand until you're left with the 8 values that are most important to you. Then try to rank them in order, knowing that no single job will ever be able to satisfy ALL of your values. Alternatively, here's a cool online version of the value card sort.
Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI)
Provides information about your personality and the kinds of work environments you might enjoy. There are online versions but for the most accurate results, it's best to consult with a career counselor.
Now that you know yourself better, click here to begin exploring your options.