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Conducting a Self-Assessment

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Self-assessment involves systematically generating data about yourself, and analyzing that data to provide guidance for career and life decisions. Self-assessment typically leads to greater personal awareness and understanding. It can be used to define possible career roles, identify training and development needs, and guide your career progression. An accurate self-assessment can help you decide.

  • which jobs and positions to seek or avoid
  • what strategy to employ for getting a particular job
  • which job to select from among alternative job offers


  • whether to accept assignments, transfers, and location changes
  • what sequence of job moves will help you attain your preferred position
Self-assessment can help create a better match between you and a job. Given its benefits, it is not surprising that there are dozens of books that advocate self-assessment as part of career planning. You can conduct your own self-assessment or obtain an accurate and meaningful assessment without doing the entire analysis yourself.

You can consult career and vocational counselors, who provide assessments based on valid, reliable instruments and years of clinical experience. You might also speak with your supervisors and peers, who might have insights about your job-related skills and abilities, or family members, who may help you define your career interests and goals. The most accurate assessment would involve a combination of different sources of information and multiple analyses.

Guidelines For Effective Self-Assessment

Developing an accurate self-assessment is difficult because you are so intimately familiar and involved with the data. Your perception of your performance may not agree with how others perceive it. Therefore, certain methods need to be followed in performing a self-assessment to increase its accuracy. We offer the following guidelines:
  1. Generate information without evaluating it. The most common problem individuals have in self-assessment is that in their rush to analyze the data, they fail to gather all available and relevant information. For example, if your self-assessment indicates that you have many personal contacts each day, you may conclude based on this evidence alone that you are highly social. However, you may be overlooking the real meaning behind this behavior: "Many personal contacts" may actually be more supportive of the assessment that you enjoy many activities or have a people-centered leadership style. Very often, unless you gather further data, you may draw inaccurate conclusions. Remember-you should first generate information fully and completely, and only then analyze it for meaning.

  2. Generate useful information from multiple methods and sources. Don't worry about redundancy here. The more data you have on yourself, the more likely it is that you will have tapped most aspects of your identity. Every method used to collect data and every source of information has its limitations. By using several, you may partially compensate for the weaknesses of each method.

  3. Interpret information in the form and context in which it is generated. While prematurely evaluating your data is the foremost problem in developing an accurate self-assessment, misinterpreting the data is another common problem. Misinterpretation often occurs when the context in which information is generated is ignored. For example, a frequently used self-assessment instrument is the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory (SCII). This inventory provides an analysis of a person's interests; it provides no information on the user's skills, abilities, or values. SCII results only reflect a person's interests and compare them to the interests of people in various occupations. Interpreting SCII results as an indication of which jobs you would do well or which occupations you should pursue would be erroneous.

  4. Organize information into identify statements. The most difficult and rewarding process in self-assessment is analyzing the data. The analysis starts with specific bits of information and moves to generalizations, which are called identity statements. It is important to stay close to the data, making as few inferences and assumptions as possible, until a tentative identity statement is defined and substantially supported. Mary generated her self-assessment data during her senior year of college. This included writing a twenty-eight-page autobiographical paper, generating a twenty-four-hour diary, completing the SCII, drawing a lifestyle representation, maintaining a record of how she felt when completing other instruments in her self-assessment, and reviewing her college application. In analyzing the information, she uncovered twenty-one identity statements, of which "need for diversity" was one.


    The analysis process used by Mary was as follows: First she clustered her data into tentative identity groups; then she labeled each group completely, descriptively, and non-evaluative-ly with an identity statement. By postponing the labeling process until all the data was reviewed several times, it was easier to avoid premature evaluation of data. Patterns were searched for rather than imposed because of preconceptions. Inferences and assumptions could be checked by reviewing the grouped data to see whether the information converged. Contradictory bits of information could be identified and used to challenge the integrity of an identity statement.


    The development of identity statements is a time-consuming, emotionally demanding process that requires substantial analytical skill. Unfortunately, not all people are good at self-analysis; some need assistance in the process. Books on self-assessment and career planning can provide exercises to guide your analytical thinking, encourage you to work with others (classmates, work associates, supervisors, friends, family), and identify sources of career counseling.

  5. Assess the accuracy and importance of identify statements. Once you have generated and organized your self-assessment information into tentative identity groups, you need to review the data within each group and apply descriptive, non-evaluative labels. The labels provide a way of concisely communicating your identity. The accuracy of a label can be estimated by examining the similarities among the data supporting it. If many bits of information from many sources tell a consistent story with few contradictions, then the identity statement is likely to be both accurate and important. In contrast, if there are relatively few bits of information from few sources, and they give a mixed or contradictory message, the identity statement is likely to be less accurate and less important. Reviewing identity statements for accuracy and importance makes it possible to refine your self-assessment.

  6. Cluster identify statements to facilitate drawing implications for career decision making. Just as several consistent bits of information provide greater support for an identity statement, clusters of identity statements provide greater support for the work role and life implications to be drawn from those statements.


    Mary developed a set of twenty-one identity statements, grouped into five categories. It should be noted that other self-assessments will identify different identity statements and categories. In reviewing several hundred self-assessments, we have discovered scores of possible themes. Twenty to thirty identity statements usually suffice to characterize each individual.

  7. Draw implications for career decision making. The self-assessment process will be of little value to you unless you draw reasonable career implications from your identity statements. Identity statements should be used to analyze the feasibility of various career possibilities.
Excerpts from Mary Johnson's Career Implications Based on Her Identity Statements

On the basis of my self-assessment, I believe that my career is the logical focus of my life. It has the potential to satisfy my need to accomplish things and my need for security as well as my aesthetic interests, if managed effectively.

I plan to seek a position in a creative industry such as cosmetics or advertising. While the industry should be creative, the position needs to be creative only to the extent that I can engage in many different types of activity and interact with different people.

While my career should be demanding in order to fulfill my need to achieve and be recognized, it should not run me. I must be in control and able to establish a balanced life. I would probably not be satisfied with a 9:00-5:00 job, and I must feel free enough to help my spouse in his career, manage our home, and devote attention to our marriage. I would not mind working late, but not for show. Time wasted is time I could spend achieving a balance.

I would probably be more satisfied with a medium-size rather than large institution. I need a place to shine, to seek out challenges and demonstrate my abilities. A medium-size, though still prestigious organization might be more impressed with my credentials and give me the opportunity to influence others and form relationships.

I have a strong need for "people contact," and, in fact, dynamic interaction with people has often served as a prime source of satisfaction. However, I don't prefer to work on a team. Therefore, I should engage in work which I can accomplish alone, but which requires a large degree of interaction with people.

In order to satisfy my desire to influence people, I should be in a position to provide input to my boss, who presumably would be effective with his or her boss. I must be able to function as an individual and express my opinions so that they will be heard.

I would prefer to have friendly, although not close, relationships with people at work. I fulfill my need for closeness through my family, and am not inclined to devote the time to becoming close to many people outside that sphere. However, I find friendly relationships gratifying, and I prefer to work in a warm atmosphere where conflicts can be easily resolved.

Self-assessment has several benefits:
  1. It helps identify your strengths and weaknesses, so that you can establish realistic career objectives

  2. It provides an information base for you to tap when presenting yourself in a resume or at a job interview

  3. It provides a framework for generating questions to be answered in the career exploration process

  4. It suggests which work roles are incompatible with your identity

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