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Unit 2: Self-Assessment

Self-assessment sounds so easywho knows you better than you? Yet many people skip this
step, as it can seem a bit overwhelming. Graduate schools are full of people who skipped the
self-assessment stage prior to their first career choice, so they had to go back to school to
completely retrain once they realized that they chose a career path that was all wrong for them.
In other words, a little time and effort in this stage now can save you a lot of time, money, and
suffering later on!

So lets look at the most common approach to this task. Many students will simply ask a friend,
relative, or career counselor, What should my major be? Or, even worse, theyll choose their
major based on which one lets them avoid a particularly challenging course or professor. If these
approaches seem OK to you, then the exercise below should be enough to meet your needs.
Simply spin the wheel below, and whatever major comes up, thats the one you should declare.
[Complete exercise online.]
Do you feel confident in the outcome? Chances are, if you are truly undecided before spinning
the wheel, you feel no less confident in your choice of major now than you did before.

Lets try another exercise. Its equally unscientific, but at least it takes a few key facts about you
into consideration. Take out your checkbook register or your credit card statement and look at
your discretionary spending habits for the last few months. Like most students, you probably
dont have much money left over after youve paid your bills, so the way you choose to spend
that limited resource can be very telling about your interests and priorities.
[Complete exercise online.]
Although these exercises are fun, and they do get you to think outside the box a bit, you
generally dont walk away feeling very confident about the resulting choices. To do a thorough
self-assessment you need to look at three key things about yourself:

1. Values
2. Skills
3. Interests
Lets look at an example of how these fit together and why all three are necessary.

Anh has been passionate about music her entire life. In particular, she loves
great blues vocals. Because her interest is singing, shes decided to be a

As a next step she hires a vocal coach and works extremely hard only to
discover that she doesnt have great pitch, and her voice will never be
professional quality. Her skills are not singing. She does find that shes
good at sharing her enthusiasm for the music with others. She has a skill in
music promotion, so she starts promoting local singers to local clubs and

Over time, she begins to get frustrated working as a starving manager
representing starving artists. She decides she values a high salary more than
she does service to the arts, so she decides to pursue a career with a big
label record company as a producer managing international artists.

Interest Singing Career: Singer

Skill Sales Career: Local Booking Manager

Value Salary Career: Global Record Producer

As you can see, it is the interaction of values, interests, and skills together that help you find the
best possible career path for you.

In this section we will go through a series of exercises to help you more clearly define and
prioritize the things that fulfill you (values) and motivate you (interests) as well as the unique
knowledge, strengths, and abilities that can make you successful (skills).
2.1 Values

Our work values are the main forces driving us to give our best
performance on the job. They are the things that motivate us to
do our best work.

Work values vary greatly from one individual to another, as we
all have different life experiences that have developed our
personal reward profiles. For example, you and your best friend
may have a great relationship with many shared interests, but
have very different taste in jokes or books. The same thing is true
with work values. You may have a great deal of respect for
someones work or work ethic, but realize that your work values
are very different from theirs. Too often, however, people fall
into the trap of thinking they should value certain things in
work, because the people around them all share similar work values.

When your friends and family are highly motivated by financial security, it may be difficult to
allow yourself to consider a career in education or non-profit. If your friends and family are
highly motivated by service to the community, it may be difficult to allow yourself to consider a
career in financial analysis.

By being honest with
yourself about your work
values at the beginning of
your career, you can save
yourself a great deal of
heartache, time, and money
later on in life.

These situations often get described as a midlife crisis when, for instance, a mid-career lawyer
announces that shed always wanted to be a musician, and shed only pursued law because
everyone expected her to make a lot of money. So she quits her job at the law firm and starts
all over at the beginning of a music career, already years behind the other musicians her age. At
the other extreme you see the mid-career teacher who announces he never really liked teaching,
but everyone told him hed have a more secure job. But he really wants to have a financially
comfortable life, and he doesnt mind taking some risks for that, so he goes back to school to
start over with an MBA.
These individual differences are a positive thing, because if we
all had the identical work values, wed all be fighting over the
same rewards. Can you imagine if everyones top work value
was money? Who would manage our social programs? By the
same token, if everyones top work value was helping others and
social responsibility, who would manage the financial engines
that keep our economy strong? The vast difference in work
values from one individual to another help to create healthy,
productive organizational systems in the business world.

Although personal work values are never in conflict with
personal morals, they can evolve over time, and they may have little effect on our decision-
making outside of the workplace.
For instance, many new graduates find the opportunity for learning critical as they assess their
work values. However, later in their careers when they are established experts, it may become
more important to them to be able to influence others, and learning may become less important.
Another example is the changes in work values that occur as your stage in life changes. Prior to
having children, many people are very motivated by the opportunity to have frequent travel.
However, after they start a family, they may value flexible work schedules much more than
Throughout your life and at each career transition you face, you will want to reassess your work

Work values are very
different from morals. Our
morals are a deeply held
belief system that changes
little over time and provides
a framework for our
making in life.

values. The tools in this chapter are designed to help you to do that more effectively.

[complete Work Values Assessment online.]

2.1.2 Peak Experiences and Values

Have you ever had a moment where you were
completely and fully engaged in a task and you felt
absolutely fantastic while you were doing it? These
are the times when you feel good about yourself
and anyone with whom you are working. You may
feel like youre in a zone where you are
incredibly productive and effective. It may be a
moment where you realized what a tremendous,
positive asset you were to a particular task or

Many things can be learned from these peak experiences about your work valuesthe things
that motivate you to achieve your best work. Try taking a look at a specific peak experience in
your life using the worksheet below. Ideally this experience is a time when you are working on
a project or task and feeling extremely effective and positive about your work.
Use the form below as a guide to help you focus on the different components of the experience
to see what may have brought out the best in you. Press the Submit this Form button at the end
of this exercise, and a copy of your answers will be emailed to you.

Title of Experience

Type of work/task/project being done:

Was the work itself fun or interesting?

Was it a learning experience or one in which you already had expertise?

Was the experience extremely challenging or relatively easy?

Your role in the work (Were you responsible for designing, organizing, presenting,
completing, helping, etc.?):

Were you leading the effort or supporting a tea you liked?

Were you developing a vision or implementing a solution?

Were you in a teaching role or a learning role?

Interpersonal environment:

Were you working alone or in a group?

Did you have space for quiet concentration or group activities for joint problem solving?

Was it a formal, structured group or an informal, loose setting?

as your work more competitive or collaborative?

Were you working with long-time family/friends or with newer acquaintances?

Rewards and Motivators (What was motivating you?):

Was there the potential of financial reward?

Did you receive praise or recognition for your work?

Did your work have a positive impact on the world or help others?

Did you get to solve a complex problem or invent a creative solution?

Submit this Form

In going through this assignment did you make any discoveries? If not, try doing this again with
a second peak experience and look for common denominators between the two.
The process of carefully examining these peak experiences is one of the best ways to discover
what you will need to be fulfilled and successful in your career. It can, in many ways, be much
more telling than the paired word exercise, as that assessment is much more limiting and
hypothetical. The peak experiences exercise can be more challenging though, because it is so
open-ended. For this reason you are encouraged to meet with a Rockwell Career Center
counselor if you need assistance with this exercise.

2.2 Skills

What happens to convert the room full of pre-schoolers announcing theyre going to be
astronauts, doctors, explorers, and inventors to the room full of college students who dont
know what they want to do when they graduate?

Too often we are discouraged from our dreams when we start to wonder if we can achieve our
dreams. The training and dedication required to achieve our goals can seem overwhelming or
even impossible. Well-intentioned friends and family may try to protect us from disappointment
by steering us down easier career paths rather than
letting us struggle and grow through training,
competition, and even some rejection as we develop
our skills.

I met with an alumnus of the Bauer College who is
very passionate about connecting Bauer students with
volunteer opportunities. He kept repeating to me how
important it was for students to really experience non-
profits and develop their leadership skills before they
graduate so they can make better career choices. (I agree with him entirely, by the way.) I
finally had to ask him why hed chosen to work in corporate accounting rather than non-profit
management, when his heart was clearly in non-profits. It turns out that when he was
graduating, he wasnt sure he had developed enough leadership skills to be successful in non-
profit management, so corporate accounting seemed like a safer route, because he knew he
had those skills. At that point it became clear to me that part of his real vision for connecting
Bauer students to volunteer opportunities was to make sure no other students missed a chance to
follow their dreams the way he had. It wasnt until later in life that he realized the skill
development part of the equation can be the simplest, if you identify the skill gap early enough.

Astronauts and CEOs are not born that waythey work very hard for many years to develop
the skills necessary to achieve their goals. The question is not whether or not you are capable of
a job, but how hard are you willing to work and what are you willing to sacrifice to achieve
your career goals? Yes, the world is full of aspiring movie stars and authors, but you will often
find the ones who make it are not necessarily the most naturally gifted, but more often the
ones who seek out feedback and training to improve their skills and then work like crazy to be
the best.

In Geoffrey Colvins book Talent is Overrated: What Really
Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else, he
gives one scientific study after another demonstrating that the
key differentiator between superstars and wannabees is
deliberate practice, not innate talent.
With that said, there is also a tremendous amount of research
out there, largely put together by Gallup, Edward Anderson, and
Donald Clifton, that we all have natural strengths, and we will
achieve success faster and more easily by leveraging these
strengths rather than by spending all of our time trying to fix
our weaknesses. This theory makes sense when you think about things such as singing. If you
cant carry a tune in a bucket, you probably wont be the next, Jackie Evancho, the 10-year-old
girl on Americas Got Talent who could sing opera like a professional. But, back to Colvins
point, Jackie Evancho studied with a private vocal coach for several years before auditioning for
Americas Got Talent. Although natural talent can give you a head start, it is not a substitute for
deliberate practice and dedication. So, although it is useful to inventory your strengths, it is
equally useful to look at your skill gaps.

As careers that fit your
interests and values start to
rise to the top of your list,
dont ask, Can I do that?
Ask yourself, What do I
to learn or do to be able to
do that?

The best news is that the skills most in demand by employers are skills you can easily develop
while at the Bauer College.

In 2010, the National Association of Colleges and Employers surveyed hundreds of campus
employers to determine the skills most in demand across all majors. At the same time, the Bauer
College surveyed its campus employers to see if the skills being sought on our campus were any
different. For both sets of employers, relevant experience was the most critical factor in
selecting a candidate. Once that qualification was satisfied, heres what else they wanted:
NACE Employers Bauer College Employers
1. Leadership
2. Major
3. GPA
4. Extracurriculars

1. Leadership
2. Professional Image/Attire
3. Business Etiquette
4. Ethical Decision-Making
5. Workplace Big Picture
Because NACE covered a broader pool of applicants, things such as major and GPA were more
critical. Because Bauer employers already know you are a business major with a good GPA,
they become more interested in the finer details of candidate selection. It is their feedback on
desired candidate skills that is used to develop and refine this course each year to make sure
Bauer students have the skills necessary to effectively compete in interviews. As a result, by the
time you finish this class, you will have had the opportunity to develop and refine all of the Top
5 skills in demand by Bauer employers.

2.2.1 Skills Assessment Through Achievements
Too often students try to tell me that they dont have any
skills. If this were true, we wouldnt have let you into the
Bauer! (We are very selective, after all!)

Our skills often come so naturally to us that we dont even
recognize them as skills. For this reason, an easier and more
objective way to identify our unique abilities is through our
achievements. Achievements are things you did well, enjoyed
doing and are proud of. They can be those moments at work
when you thought, They sure are lucky to have someone like
me on the team! They may also be those times outside of work
when you thought, I really nailed that! or, I totally rock!

If you honestly cant think of any times when you experienced
this, you might want to ask the people around you about those
things theyve seen you do that impressed them as exhibiting a

If you ask for someones
feedback and input, you may
not argue with them about
what they say. The correct
response is always, Thank
you for your feedback. If
you disagree with their
thoughts, you can choose to
ignore them, although there
is usually something useful
to be learned from any
feedback you receive.

particular skill or positive trait. Often those around us are better able to see our special skills and
abilities than we are. You can also consider taking on a volunteer opportunity with an
organization of interest to you so you can start creating new achievements through service.

List five achievements below of which you are especially proud. (Press the Submit this Form
button at the end of this exercise, and a copy of your answers will be emailed to you.)

Submit this Form

For each of these achievements, in the worksheet below, write a BRIEF description of the
achievement, and then list the values, interests, and skills illustrated by this achievement. You
may find it necessary to tell someone else about the achievement and get their feedback on the
values, interests, and skills they see illustrated in the example. We are often too close to our
achievements to be able to objectively see just how good we are or how we demonstrated our
values in our work.

Heres an example:

Sample Achievement Title: Founded successful
lawn business

Brief Description:

In high school I knew I needed to start raising money
to cover college expenses, so I started a lawn
business. I handled all marketing and billing for the
business. I grew the business to more than 10 yards a
week. With special services thrown in, I earned close
to $1,000/month after expenses while still managing
to keep my grades up in school.


Autonomy, Salary, Balance


Entrepreneurship, Marketing


Organization, Initiative, Accounting, Marketing,
Time-management, Prioritization, Sales

Complete the worksheet below for each of your accomplishments and save your answers. You
will need this not only for self-assessment, but also for your interviews later on. Unit 2 will refer
back to the results of this exercise when we discuss behavioral interviews, so you will be glad to
have the results saved so you wont need to repeat the exercise.

Achievement Title:
Brief Description:
Submit this Form

In looking at the values, interests, and skills from each of your five achievements, did you
notice any patterns? Its often surprising when we look at our own behavior to realize how often
we use the same skills in our success or how often the same values and interests are motivating
us to do our best in different situations. The patterns demonstrated across multiple achievements
are the best indicators of your true skills, interests, and values. Youll find these are more
predictive of your true gifts and passions than any other assessment you try.

The skills you see being used most often in your accomplishments are often good indicators of
your natural, baseline strengths. Career opportunities that leverage these natural abilities will
allow you to grow faster than careers requiring skills that do not come as naturally to you. The
Career Counselors in the Rockwell Career Center are a great resource to help you define the
skills, interests, and values illustrated in your achievements and to help you identify these
patterns if you are having trouble doing it on your own.

2.2.2 Evaluating Skills
Earlier we had an example of the impact of skills on someone who wants to be a singer but cant
sing. There are those skills that do not come naturally to you, so the effort to fill the skill gap
may be more than you care to pursue. Generally the lack of skill is not as much of a barrier to
your career choice as the unwillingness to make the tradeoffs required to attain the skill.

Interest space Dream Career: Astronaut

Skill Required Extensive math and science training

Current Skills Visual arts (Poor science skills)

Career Option 1 More science classes & try again

Career Option 2 Space exhibit designer

In this situation many would decide that the effort required to start the journey toward a possible
career as an astronaut requires more risk and sacrifice than the
dream is worth to them. In these circumstances, people can take
Option 2 and look at their skills and interests in combination
again to seek out alternative career paths. In this example,
designing displays for a space museum or creating illustrations
for teaching astronomy in schools might be alternatives that take
both interests and existing skill sets into account.

However, dont be too quick to give up on Option 1. There is a
key assumption in this equation based on poor science skills.
Sometimes the most useful thing is to challenge this assumption
by asking whether it is based on objective or subjective
feedback. How does this person know he/she has poor science

Objective feedback is a performance evaluation based on facts without the influence or personal
feelings or bias. In this scenario, it could be based on a series of test scores or grades in school.
Although even in those situations, there could be circumstances that made a person score
artificially low on a test where they may have been sick on testing day, suffered from test
anxiety, or had a very ineffective teacher. This is why you would want to look at the results of
more than one assessment. I made terrible grades on creative writing in elementary school, but I
was very successful writing news releases in my professional career. The issue wasnt my
ability to write, it was my ability to force the assigned vocabulary words into coherent stories.

Objective feedback can also be consistent feedback from experts in the field who have worked
with a person. Again, the feedback of just one person may not be objective or representative, so
it might be worth getting a second opinion. Sylvester Stallone was repeatedly told that he
couldnt act. It wasnt until he wrote the movie Rocky and refused to sell it unless he was cast
as the lead, that he had a chance to prove the experts wrong!

Subjective feedback is the opposite of objective feedback. It is information about a persons
performance on a task that is heavily influenced by personal feelings or bias. Friends and family
are often incapable of giving objective feedback to someone because they have so many
personal feelings for them. We are also generally incapable of being objective about our own
performance because of our many emotional connections to the task and our very personal
experience of our own performance. Unfortunately, it can often be the feedback of one, well-
intentioned family member or friend that convinces us that we dont have what it takes to be
successful in a certain career. At the opposite end, there are those positive and supportive
friends who tell you youre fine just the way you are and dont make you aware of skill gaps
that, if not addressed, could prevent you from reaching your goals.

This is why, before giving up on a particular career path, it is critical that we test our
assumptions about our own skill deficits by seeking objective feedback in the form of external
assessments or expert opinion. Then, if a skill deficit does truly exist, the next step is to seek
objective, expert feedback on what it would take to fix the skill gap. Fortunately a university is
designed specifically to help with the process of getting expert help to identify and fix skill

For instance, leadership is a skill sought by nearly all employers. If your professors and/or
supervisors have confirmed for you that they have not seen you demonstrating strong leadership
skills, the next step is to decide how to address this. You have several options for your next step.
A few of these may be:
1. Do not pursue careers where leadership skills are needed
2. Sign up for the Ted Bauer Leadership Certificate Program
3. Ask a student organization leader to mentor and train you to be ready for a leadership
role in the organization next semester
4. Take leadership classes at Bauer
Although the path to a specific career may seem overwhelming, its not impossible, or the
career wouldnt exist! Graduate schools are filled with people who were unhappy in their
careers, so they returned to school to retrain. Imagine how much further ahead you are if you
can make a careful career choice while you are still an undergraduate! Now is the time to take
the risk and try the classes you think might be too hard, or the internship that seems both
overwhelming and fascinating. Its perfectly alright to decide a particular career goal isnt worth
the effort, but dont give up just because you think you cant do something without at least
exploring the option to test your assumptions about your potential for a particular skill.

The Career Counselors at the Rockwell Career Center are a great resource for objective
feedback on opportunities for skill development to help you achieve your goals.



2.3 Interests

Our interests are a preference for one type of activity over another. They are as unique as our
taste in clothes, movies, and books. Although most of us can think of things we enjoy doing, it
can be difficult to then apply this self-knowledge to the world of work. Even worse, many
people dont believe you can find work that is actually interesting. The best careers are those
where you cant wait to get to work in the morning because you have so much fun doing your
job. With careful assessment and planning, it is possible to have this kind of career.

In the Achievements exercise earlier in this unit you had a chance to look at patterns in your life
that can show what types of things are interesting to you. If you put some time and thought into
that exercise, you should already have a pretty good idea what types of things hold your
attention and make you perform at your best.

If you still arent sure, then lets try looking at this question another way. Beyond what you are
good at, what is it that you LOVE doing? What are your passions? These are the things that you
simply cant feel bad while you are doing them. Write down three things below that you truly


Im hoping that because you had to write these down online, youve taken out anything you love
doing that you couldnt talk about in front of the police, your instructor, or you grandmother.
The remaining list of passions is a great starting point for determining your interests, so lets see
how this approach to uncovering interests works.

For each of the things you love, write down three reasons WHY you love doing them. What is it
about the activity that is fun and motivating for you? Here are some examples:

Example 1:

Activity: Singing in the shower

1. Singing a happy song is uplifting to me
2. I like being able to be loud and silly without embarrassing myself
3. Music energizes me

From this weve learned that this person has strong interests in music, creating positive
environments, and being able to be playful. They will be much more successful in an
environment that is informal and collaborative than one which is very formal and structured. If
they can incorporate music into their career or things that have a positive impact on their world,
they will likely be happier than they would be doing something more analytical.

Example 2:

Activity: Online videogaming

1. I really like winning
2. I like being able to hang out with my friends online
3. I like achieving the different levels

From this weve learned that this person is very competitive and achievement oriented. Theyve
focused this energy on videogames, but it could be useful in any career field. They are also
social and will be happier in an environment where they can collaborate with others, but they
can be as happy in a virtual office working online with others as they could be in a physical
office with others. They would probably also enjoy a career where they could use technology
and, given their enjoyment of achieving different levels in the games, they would probably
enjoy achieving different levels of technical competency and solving different technical

Now you try:


Interests Demonstrated



As you can see, its sometimes difficult to pull these interests from your passions, so it can be
extremely useful to show your list of things you love to someone else and ask them what
interests they see in your list. It is also a great idea to go over your lists with a Career
Counselor at the Rockwell Career Center who can help you evaluate your interests objectively.

REMINDER: If you ask for someones feedback and input, you do not have to agree with
what they have to say. However, you may not argue with someone who is generous enough to
give you the feedback you have requested. The correct response is always, thank you for
your feedback when someone gives you feedback. If you disagree then you can choose to
forget what they said later, but there is often something useful to be learned from any feedback
you receive.

Interests as Demonstrated in Your Long-Term Goals

Another way to look at what is most motivating to you,
and this approach can cover both interests and values, is to
look at your long-term life goals. This can be done very
simply by asking, What do I want to accomplish before I
die? Im not talking about the simple things you can do,
like they did in the Bucket List movie. Im talking
about the things you want to accomplish that you think
will make your time here on Earth worthwhile.

In the space below, list three things you REALLY want to accomplish before you die. Three
things that would make your time here on Earth in this life meaningful:

Submit this Form

Do you want to have a family, start a business, or form
a non-profit to address an issue of concern to you?
Your career interests dont need to be the same as your
long-term goals, but they should fit with them.

For instance, if your dream is to create a non-profit
foundation to help children from your old
neighborhood go to college, youll want a career path
that will help you build the network and financial
resources necessary to support this dream. If your
dream is to have a large family, youll want a career path that gives you the time, flexibility, and
financial resources needed to achieve this dream. Its great to find a career you love so much
that it fulfills your lifelong dreams. However, for most people, a career is really part of a larger
plan for their lives, and they may be willing to make a certain amount of sacrifice in their
careers to make room for the rest of their dreams in their lives. This is another example of the
interplay between interests and values in the career development process.

If you find a career that fulfills your lifes goals, that is fantastic! For many people, though, its
more important to make sure their career doesnt simply interfere with them achieving their
lifes goals outside of work. By carefully evaluating your values and interests, you can better
decide what career path will help you have both a fulfilling career and a full life.

2.3.1 Interests Assessment Instructions

At this stage in your life there are probably many things that are of interest to you. However, it
is important that you prioritize your interests so you can start narrowing down your career
choices so you can move to the next stage of the career development process.

This assessment, just like the values assessment, will present you with a series of paired words.
You should select the interest which is most important to you at this stage in your life and
career. Although we all want a career that has it all, you may have to prioritize which things
are most important to you in your next job. This exercise will help you to do that.

Below is a list of interests being prioritized in this exercise. Before completing this assessment
if is very useful to look back at your achievements exercise to see under what conditions you
have been most motivated and successful in the past. Your answers are confidential, so dont
answer based on what you may think you are supposed to prefer. Try to stay focused on what
type of work or project gets you excited when you need to achieve a goal.

Interests being prioritized:
Managing People
Managing Processes
Managing Information/Data
Managing Change
Solving Problems by Influencing Others
Solving Problems Using Technology
Solving Problems Using Financial Analysis
Buying Things
Building Things
Selling Products or Services
Work as quickly as possible, as your first reaction will be the best, and focus on your priorities
for your next career at this point in your life.

[complete Interests Assessment online.]

Although you may be interested in everything on your list, you will want to place special
emphasis on the interests at the top of your list while exploring career paths. The more you are
able to do the activities at the top of your list in your future career, the more interesting and fun
you will find your daily work.