Home Career Management A Job/Career Self-Assessment Exercise: Part 1

A Job/Career Self-Assessment Exercise: Part 1


A central component of job search planning is the ancient Greek maxim first uttered 3,000 years ago by the Delphic oracle: “Know Thyself.” If you don’t know who you are and what constitutes your life goals, you are doing yourself a disservice by plunging into a job search or seeking a career path without answering those questions.

Knowing who you are and what you want to do—

  • enhances the effectiveness of your search for the right career and position,
  • hones your ability to recognize it when you find it, and
  • improves your ability to “present” yourself and perform well when competing for the position.

Having a clear vision of your goals is the key to success in any career transition.

Having clearly in mind what you want to do, however, does not mean that, when you begin your job search, you will know what the specific job is or where it can be found.

What it does mean is having a lucid picture of:

  • the substantive nature of your ideal work, what tasks you would be performing, and what skills are required;
  • what your ideal work environment would be; and
  • what compensation and rewards you can expect to receive in return for your efforts.

In this multi-blog series, we’ll examine how to do this.

This career assessment exercise is designed to help you clarify your career goals. The result of this inquiry can be a useful profile of the type of work you would find enjoyable and in which you would be productive and suitably rewarded.


First, a few general guidelines:

This is a brainstorming exercise, so resist the temptation to be judgmental about your answers to the questions – just record whatever comes to mind.

Think broadly about your responses to the assessment questions. For example, work environment may include such considerations as geographic location, commuting time/distance, size/type of office, office furnishings, smoking prohibition, etc.

Compensation/rewards might, in addition to salary, include such things as having your name on the letterhead, having a reserved parking space, being reimbursed for costs of advanced education, specific employee benefits, etc.

In answering the self-assessment questions below and in the following blogs in this series, be open to your feelings as well as more objective criteria. For instance, it may be that feeling challenged in your work is just as important to you as having direct client contact. Include in your answers the feelings you wish to experience with respect to your ideal employment.

Here’s how to do the exercise:

Use a separate sheet of paper or word processing page for each major set of questions: Background Questions, Generic Job/Career Questions, and Specific Job/Career Questions.

Read the question and write down whatever comes to mind. Revisit the question from time-to-time in order to flesh out your responses. Think broadly about each question. Brainstorm each question in the same way. Ask yourself: “What is important to me about….?” until nothing further comes to mind. Then, leave the exercise for a day. When you come back to it the following day, review your notes on each area and ask yourself: “Is there anything else that is important to me about this? Anything that I have left out?” Also, try framing your question in the negative, for example: “Concerning my substantive work, what do I definitely want to avoid?” Upon reflection, you might realize, “I want to avoid sitting at a desk indoors all day long.” Your answers might lead you to discover other things that are important to you.

When contemplating your response to specific practice questions, consider not only the substantive response, but also the “process” nature of your activity: research, writing, litigating, negotiating, teaching/training, analyzing, etc.

This self-assessment will help you to be more effective in your job search and more discerning in evaluating employment opportunities that arise. You will be in a stronger position to judge whether a job is right for you and to know what things to negotiate to make it even better.

Background Questions

Who am I?

  • What is most important to me?
  • What are my “essentials?”
  • What are my strengths?
  • What are my weaknesses?

Where have I been in my career?

  • Legal positions
  • Other positions
  • Internships/Externships
  • Summer Jobs

Where am I now in my career progression?

  • Exactly where I want to be at this stage
  • Above where I thought I would be
  • Not where I want to be

What is important to me about the work I do?

Where do I want to go from here?

  • My career goals
  • My financial goals
  • My “lifestyle”/work & life balance goals

What are my most important personal values?

What are my core workplace values?

Am I more verbal than cerebral?


Next: A Job/Career Self-Assessment Exercise: Part 2


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