There's something I tell all professionals looking to advance their careers. When it comes to marketing yourself to employers, remember this piece of advice:
You are not special, but you are unique.
Those who know how to leverage their uniqueness are the ones who create satisfying and successful careers. There is no point in looking for a good job if you aren't 100% sure what 'good' is for you! Which means, you need to identify and embrace what you want to leverage about yourself so you can find success on your own terms.
So, how should you assess your unique combination of values, skills and interests?
Start by taking the time to write out on paper all the things that you excel at. Ask friends, family and even co-workers (they don't have to know you are looking for a job, you can just say you are doing some professional development work on yourself) to give their input as to what they see as your best assets. It's time to organize your thoughts as to who you are and what you can offer to potential employers. Think about it - how can you possibly convince employers to hire you if you can't articulate your values, strengths and interests in a compelling manner?
To give you an idea of what to consider, look at the list below. In CAREEREALISM University, we show students how to objectively assess the following 7 points:
Life Balance - How satisfied you are right now with the 8 key areas of your life. (They are: Mental Self, Physical Self, Career, Finances, Significant Other, Friends & Family, Physical Surroundings, Hobbies & Recreations.
Core Values - Your personal definitions of success for each key area and the priority they hold in your life. (Hint: No two people have the same definitions or priorities.)
Interaction Style - The way you communicate at work and how it is perceived by others. (FYI: You can take the test we use for this assessment for FREE on our site, http://www.jtodonnell.com/assessment/index.phtml)
Work Style - The manner and preference in which you like to accomplish tasks.
Learning Preferences - The ideal resources and methods for you to learn on-the-job
Unique Gifts - The things that you excel at naturally. NOTE: Many people struggle to determine this accurately because what makes us 'unique' feels so normal, that we don't see it as special.
Passion & Interests - The opportunity to observe how your unique combination of values, strengths and preferences are used when you do things you love.
I have to say, in my experience, the self-assessment process (as outlined above) is the most valuable part of any job search because it's not only a validation process, but also gives us the confidence to stop trying to be all things to employers. FACT: It is much more satisfying (not to mention easier AND delivers better results) when we stop trying to be 'the best' and just focus on being our best.
Now...Let's Overcome Your Objections (a.k.a. Lame Excuses) for Not Assessing Yourself:
#1 - I've already tried a bunch of assessment tools and don't feel any clearer about who I am. I actually hear this one the most. If you've taken lots of tests but still can't make sense of how to use the data, then it's time to seek some help. I suggest you get a mentor. Sit down with someone whose professional success you admire and see if they can help you to connect the dots. And of course, working with a career strategist is an excellent way to get your assessment completed. The key is to recognize that you need some kind of assistance. Why? Because it's hard for us to be objective about ourselves, so it helps to have an unbiased professional get involved.
#2 - I'm afraid I'm not assessing myself accurately. That's a common concern. As I said above, it's not easy to assess ourselves. Consider validating your assessment by sharing it with several colleagues to see if they agree with what you see as your strengths...they might even be able to add to your list!
#3 - I've assessed my strengths, values and interests, but feel silly promoting myself. You don't need to become your biggest cheerleader or strut around like a peacock. In fact, studies show that too much ego hurts everyone. However, you do need to possess a healthy balance of confidence and humility. Thus, while you certainly have many things that you are good at, the goal is to pick just one or two that you are most comfortable sharing as your professional strengths. The easiest way to determine this is to answer the following, If I had to be known as the go-to person in the workplace for only one thing, what would it be? The goal should be to choose the one area that you do best AND feel truly satisfied doing. That's a strength you should promote...shamelessly!
#4 - I don't feel like there is anything really unique about me. Hmmm. Well then you definitely need to speak to someone who can show you how wrong you are! On this point I will never waiver: EVERYONE, I repeat, EVERYONE has something unique about them. Until the cloning of humans is commonplace (gosh, let's hope that never happens!), then you cannot tell me there is nothing about you that we can't define and leverage in the workplace. Call me, we'll talk.
So, in summary, if we want employers to see us properly, we must determine our professional values, strengths and preferences. Remembering that everyone is unique, it's time to get nice and clear as to what you want to offer to employers.