Monday, November 28, 2005

Employment Application Process, Phase 1: Self-Assess

In the self-assessing phase of the employment application process, you decide what type of career and job best suits your interests and ability. Being honest with yourself by not inflating your talents and accomplishments will be useful here. You need to be able to look at yourself as others see you. Doing so will go a long way in helping you throughout the employment application process. You will:

  • have a better idea of what skills, experience, accomplishments, and interests your résumé should highlight
  • decide on which skills you want to develop
  • be able to narrow your job search more effectively
  • be clearer in reevaluating your job prospects based on what’s best for you
  • know better what to listen for, how to respond to questions, and what questions to ask during the interview process

Self-assessing requires a job candidate to complete four important tasks:

  1. Discover Personal Values
  2. Identify Career Goals
  3. Determine Personal Strengths and Challenges
  4. Develop a Career Plan

Let’s look at these four points one at a time.

1. Discover Personal Values

Answering key questions about yourself not only helps you narrow the focus of your job hunt, but also jumpstarts your thinking about queries during the inevitable interview. Discover what matters most to you by answering these questions:

  • Which of my qualities do I value most?
  • Which qualities do I most want to develop?
  • What challenge have I met that gave me a deep sense of satisfaction?
  • In what situation have I shown a great sense of responsibility?
  • In what situation have I initiated collaboration to solve a problem?
  • In what situation have I contributed toward improving a policy or a process?
  • What kind of professional work do I most enjoy?
  • In what kind of professional work am I most accomplished?

2. Identify Career Goals

Identifying your interests and goals is valuable for at least two reasons:

  • It helps you create a fresh, realistic, and clear statement for the job objective section of your résumé.
  • It addresses the reality that most people value job satisfaction more than any other aspect of their employment—even salary.

Evaluating your qualifications is not as simple as answering questions about your skills. How, for instance, can you be sure that you are being realistic in your self-assessment? Have you been too generous or too negative in your appraisal? Are you evaluating yourself based on the job requirements needed or the skills in greatest demand?

With your values and mission in mind, answer the questions below to determine your career goals:

  • In what field do I want to work?
  • For what organization do I want to work?
  • With what kind of people (e.g., positions, personalities) do I want to work?
  • In what position do I want to work?
  • What work-related skills (e.g., research, information management, people management, communication, creative, technical, interpersonal) do I most want to use?
  • Where (geographically) would I like to work?
  • Am I willing to travel?
  • What are my baseline salary requirements (amount, terms)?

3. Determine Personal Strengths and Challenges

Many interest and personality inventories used routinely by corporations are available to help you look at yourself with an unbiased eye and within a structured framework. (Search the Internet to learn more about them.) Many of these instruments have received short shrift or a bum rap from human resources directors; however, no can deny that the pervasiveness of these personality measurement tools have dramatically influenced how interviewers approach their job of posing questions and listening to candidates’ responses to them.

Get started here by listing ten adjectives that best describe your strengths (e.g., focused, artistic, logical), and ten that describe your challenges (e.g., discreet, patient, collaborative)—and then go to work on using your strengths in correcting those challenges.

4. Develop a Career Plan

Developing a career plan starts with a simple statement: “I am a professional.” Professionals live professional lives by:

  • joining at least one professional association
  • reading industry-related books and periodicals
  • attending industry-wide conferences, seminars, panels, lectures, and discussions
  • visiting industry-related web sites
  • learning about the major players and issues in their field
  • tracking industry trends

You may consider sharpening your strengths and conquering your challenges by offering your talents to nonprofit and corporate voluntary programs, choosing projects suited to your areas of strength, and seeking mentors to get their feedback on your progress. Such work will make you feel useful and cultivate your contacts list.

The next installment of WORDS ON THE LINE will cover Phase 2 of the employment application process: Research.

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