Many people begin job searches and career transitions by rewriting their resumes. Resumes are necessary and a very important step, but they are not always sufficient. Starting with a resume is really starting in the middle of the process. There's an alternative place to begin - with a self-assessment.

Power of Self-Assessment: What's YOUR Story?

Self-assessment is a process, and it can be much more if you approach it with the right attitude - not as a penance, not as pointless navel-gazing, but as a gift you give to yourself. Let's talk about what self-assessment entails, and how you can make it a creative and productive journey.

Four factors to take into account when embarking on self-assessment are your:

Personality
Interests
Skill
Values

Many books, tools and web sites provide information and tests to help determine your personality type; take these tests yourself, or join forces with a coach/strategist/specialist to interpret the results.

Interests may be a bit easier to determine - what do you love to do? What do you avoid? What makes you happy, frustrated, fulfilled? Make a list.

Cross-reference your interests list with your skills - both career, such as an accounting degree, and life skills, e.g. coordination, critical thinking, or the ability to problem-solve. Look for useful skills profiler worksheets.

Finally, consider your values. Are you spiritual? Do you like the rush of starting and selling new ventures? March for peace? Volunteer for meaningful causes? Do you live your values as an active participant or as an observer? What feels most comfortable with your true self?

Meet Melissa....(Does she sound like you?)

At this point you can consider partnering with a coach as one option to integrate the information you've collected and begin to draw conclusions that will guide your job search. That's what a woman we'll call Melissa, an IT executive who longed for a more satisfying career, and I did recently.

Melissa was tired of working in IT management. Confronted on a daily basis by angry, frustrated co-workers whose email boxes were overflowing, whose files were lost mid-sentence and who really didn't care about what it took Melissa to solve their issues now, she was grappling with how to change careers. After five years on a help desk she was unsure of her interpersonal skills, unwilling to invest in another IT-related degree to switch specialties, and out of touch with her passions and interests.

Because Melissa was feeling a bit burned out, we didn't jump in at the deep end - personality assessment. Instead we talked about her interests, completed a skills assessment, and explored her values. We were three-quarters of the way through the self-assessment, and close to having enough information to help Melissa begin to build a personal brand: a way to incorporate her personality, interests, skills and values in a coherent, authentic package that would appeal to employers - and as important - be liberating and refreshing for Melissa.

Melissa began to learn about herself again, to feel comfortable in her own skin. She realized that she didn't like conflict and although her problem-solving ability was strong, she had little formal training in active listening. She valued people who are honest and polite, preferred to work independently, and was interested in a role that would free her from the confines of an office and give her the opportunity to travel.

At this point we were ready for the personality tests, which can reveal how a person perceives the world and her place in it, and how these preferences influence how she make decisions. We spent time cross-referencing the results with our other lists and built a list of career choices that made sense for Melissa - and were achievable without significant re-training. We had a good idea of where Melissa would achieve a better culture fit, based on her personal brand. It was time to re-write the resume, start connecting with her network and re-launch her career.

Today Melissa is working as a programmer - which leverages her desire to work independently - for a national company, which gives her the opportunity to travel. As a key contributor on a geographically-distributed team she works with peers who share skills and treat each other with respect. She is adding value to her personal brand by participating in professional groups and feeding her soul by taking painting classes and collecting art.  Through self-assessment, she has found a path; by creating a personal brand, she is increasing her value as an employee and person.

As you consider a career or life change, use the tools of self-assessment to guide you.