Self-Discovery: The First Step

By Patricia Gorden Neill - February 26th, 2013

Sometime in high school, most students begin to think about college and career. The first step in preparing for college is to stop and think about who you are and what you’d like to do with your life. Do you already know you want to be an environmental engineer or computer networker or history teacher? Most likely, you have a few things in mind, but still have questions. That’s both natural and good, because now you can begin to assess yourself to get a better idea of your values, personality, skills and interests. The things you learn about yourself in the self-assessment process will go far in helping you to choose a college and career that’s a good fit for you.

Values

People form their values from their interactions with family, friends and their life experiences. What is important to you? What will ultimately give you the most satisfaction and happiness in life? Is achievement more important to you than security? Do you want to be a decision maker or to help others in meaningful ways? While all of these things may seem abstract to you now, thinking about them honestly and candidly can help you focus on what makes you tick. Discussing values with your family or people you respect can help you sort out what will make you happy and give you satisfaction in choosing a college and career.

Rutgers University has a simple values test that could help you discover more of what you really want out of life. Knowing your top three work values can help guide you in future decisions regarding colleges or careers.

Personality

Who are you? Are you an extrovert or introvert? Are you task oriented or prefer discussing the big picture? Do you tend to employ instinct and imagination or do you prefer facts, detail and logic? Some jobs and professions fit certain people better than others. A kind, caring individual probably wouldn’t go in for being a hard-driving corporate CEO, for example. Social butterflies would likely not enjoy the life of a research scientist. For this reason, it’s a good idea to delve into your own personality to discover more of who you are. While taking the popular personality test known as Myers-Briggs Type Indicator requires professional interpretation and a probable fee, there are numerous personality type assessments that you can take for free. You can find one such personality inventory at Personality Pathways.

Skills and Interests

You probably already know some of your skills and interests. Think about your favorite classes in school. Consider the books you read for fun, or the sports you like to play. Your past accomplishments will point out some of your skills—the science fair project you created, for example, revealed your ability to devise a scientific experiment that proved a theory. You were able to build your mom a sturdy and beautiful bookcase using carpentry skills learned in shop. Make a list of the skills you think you have and discuss them with family and the school counselor. Their insights will tell you even further of skills you may not have thought about.

The things you enjoy doing for fun will tell you your interests. Some people love working with children, others like to explore nature on long hikes and others still do complex math problems for fun. Make a list of your interests, and keep them in mind when it comes to figuring out what you’d like to do for a living. Using your skills and talents in your future job will enhance not only success on the job, but your satisfaction with the work you choose to do.

The Skills Profiler at Career One Stop can help you make a list of your skills and suggest jobs and careers benefiting from those skills. If you already have a career in mind, the Skills Profiler can tell you if your skills match that specific career and list other careers that also benefit from your particular skill set.

About the Author

Patricia Gorden NeillPatricia Gorden Neill edited medical and scholarly journals for over 20 years in the ivy-covered halls of the University of Rochester. She is a freelance writer, often covering higher education and the concerns of college age students, and is regularly published on a variety of websites.