Your self-assessment may begin with a review of your accomplishments. All of you have many major accomplishments in your undergraduate and graduate education. In reviewing your accomplishments in your research, teaching, volunteer activities, part-time work, or other activities you begin to focus on identifying your key skills and abilities. You also have the opportunity to determine what gives you satisfaction or pride, or what motivates you.
Start by making a list of your accomplishments, those tasks or projects that you did well, and from which you derived satisfaction. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What were the skills that you used?
- What were the experiences and abilities that assisted you in performing that task or project?
- What are your feelings as you look back and review these accomplishments - pride, satisfaction, or something else?
This review process can help you to begin to look toward the future to build upon not only those skills and abilities which served you well, but upon those tasks that "nurtured" your sense of pride and achievement and satisfaction.
As you look at your skills, sometimes it is difficult to step out of the academic arena in which you have been immersed and look objectively at the skills that are useful not only in the Academy, but outside. For example, your research skills, which you take for granted, are also highly valued in positions in not-for-profit, government, and corporate environments or organizations throughout the world.
Having developed the ability to synthesize great amounts of information and develop your thoughts and arguments into a written document, your dissertation, is valued in many different professions. Your stand-up presentation skills as a teaching assistant and presenter at conferences and within the department are strongly desired in all professions.
Most graduate students minimize their "transferable" skills, those skills that are transferable from one work environment to another. Identifying these transferable skills is the first step in looking at your transition outside of the Academy.
What are some of the most common transferable skills for graduate students? This is meant to be a partial list of skills to consider as you review your own experiences:
All graduate students have technical skills also - those can include some of the skills you have developed to use laboratory equipment, your computer skills, and language skills. When you review your greatest strengths, you are usually looking at a combination of your transferable skills and your technical skills.
Interests, quite simply, are the things you enjoy. These things can be part of your current work, or your outside interests. Do you enjoy working with people, data, or things? What types of mental and physical activities are most interesting to you? Some of these interests may be reflected in your hobbies and social activities. Most people who enjoy their work have some inherent interest in the activities they must perform.
Your values contribute significantly to your satisfaction at work. They are very personal and what defines satisfaction for you may be completely different for others. Do you value creativity, risk taking, adventure, personal growth, status, recognition, integrity, accountability, independence, authority, power, control, competing, teamwork, or belonging? If you pursue work that is congruent with your values, you will be more satisfied and successful.
Needs & Preferences
What are your needs and preferences with regard to your work? What are the basic requirements that you have? You may not find a position that matches your needs and preferences a hundred percent but you can begin to identify opportunities that are more of a match for you by thinking critically about your needs. Do you need/want a certain salary to meet your expenses and lifestyle? Are you flexible in your choice of geographic locations or is there a specific city or regional choice? Can you travel as part of your work? How about working in an office 8-10 hours a day? Do you need a flexible work schedule? Do you prefer a small organization? How about working as a member of a team? Do you care what kind of workspace you have? Does the mission of the organization have to fit your personal values? What are your needs and preferences with regard to your work?
Personality has a lot to do with feeling like you "fit" a particular job. How well do you know yourself? There are ways to determine how your personality influences your work-style preferences, including utilizing an assessment, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), offered in Career Services. You can meet with a counselor, certified in interpreting this inventory, to discuss taking this inventory. This is one of the assessment tools available through Career Services.