What You Need to Know About the Self-Assessment MythMay 24, 2017
by Nicola Vetter
image by Nicola Vetter (81-year-old Giora Feidman is still an extraordinary and charismatic clarinetist and we had the pleasure of enjoying a concert in Hamburg, Germany in 2016)
In this article, we'll explore the myths around self-assessments. You'll learn what's useful and what's not to help guide you on a career path.
Why Do a Self-Assessment?
Anytime you learn about yourself and become more aware is a good thing. Understanding why you behave the way you do is insightful and allows better choices.
A useful self-assessment tool can be helpful to learn about yourself. It can provide insight into your present work and help if you are thinking of a different career.
For example: Do you know how your personal values match with the place you currently work at? Do you even know what your personal values are? Some processes identify personal values. That's a good place to start if you are considering a career change.
A self-assessment can confirm why you are the way you are. That confirmation can help to be more accepting of yourself and others.
A Lyft driver named Eric took us to the airport the other day. He was working his way through university to become a geological engineer. I asked him how nervous he was about his future. He said he worried a lot and that was why he was studying to become a geological engineer. There are a lot of opportunities for work in the energy industry. He remarked how he could easily get a job with an energy company that would pay him a starting salary of around $70,000 a year. The problem was, everyone he knew in that industry hated their jobs. His friends said the energy companies are only interested in money. They have little regard for the environment or their employees. Despite this, many stay on for the money. Despite the lure of money, Eric is going to look elsewhere. One of Eric's personal values is to protect the environment. He can't stand the idea of working for a company that is destroying the environment. He also wants to work in a company culture that values employees.
A Self-Assessment Is only a Tool
It's a myth that a self-assessment tool can guide you to exactly the right job and meaningful work. I have a drawer full of elaborate reports that I found fascinating (hey, they were talking about ME) but was never able to put them into useful practice…
Some Weaknesses of Self-Assessments
Self-Assessments can be helpful by providing clues. But many of them fall short by focusing on external behaviors that put you in a kind of box. I remember how strange it felt to be in a behavioral cookie cutter box. Then I didn't know what to do with the report or how to make it actionable. There wasn't a strategy on how to apply the findings. I never found a meaningful job from any self-assessment. I often wondered if there was a better way…
Then I made a discovery
The author Cal Newport wrote a fantastic book called “So Good They Can't Ignore You”. The idea is that you create meaningful work, rather than searching for work that matches what is meaningful. Cal turned career search on its head. Instead of expecting the world to provide you with a meaningful job, you become useful to the world by developing a superior skill to solve problems that need solving.
In other words, you create a meaningful job. Brilliant.
The book suggests developing a skill that is so good that people can't ignore you. That skill is extremely valuable and also really rare. Things that are rare are in demand. People want things that are rare.
Cal Newport advises developing and building up a massive amount of what he calls Career Capital. Career Capital are skills you have that are valuable to the working world.
How to Create Career Capital
You do this by applying the idea of Deliberate Practice. Deliberate Practice is a term coined by Florida State University Professor Anders Erricson. It's a style of difficult practice of continuous improvement of a task.
Deliberate Practice creates exceptional skills that become Career Capital.
Identify a Problem
Next, you identify a significant problem. Then you invest your Career Capital into coming up with the best solution possible.
It's a strategy to create a career that becomes fulfilling by mastery of a skill and continual development of that skill. You can use the results of a self-assessment to further refine what skills you need.
Most people will not have the patience and perseverance to engage in Deliberate Practice long enough to develop mastery. It's too hard.
And there lies the opportunity.
For those willing to take on something hard, they will fill the need for people with rare, superior skills.
This skill is what elite athletes or musicians have because they are forever stretching themselves to get better through Deliberate Practice.
Self-Assessments can be useful if you understand their limitations and use them as clues to create meaningful work.
I suggest turning the typical career seeking strategy around.
Seven Steps to Creating Rare and Valued Skills
- Do deep research into what kinds of careers are projected to be in demand for the next 20 years.
- Now consider a self-assessment as an extra tool to refine the choice to a particular career or careers.
- Pick a learning goal towards a career choice that will create a ton of Career Capital you can start saving.
- Learn how to do Deliberate Practice that will enable you to reach that goal. Find books on the subject, read, and apply them.
- Understand that you are creating a career that is realistic, needed, and in demand. You are taking control of your life and autonomy in the work you choose.
- This takes time. You need patience and diligence. You are panning for gold and gold is valuable.
Understand the benefits and limitations of self-assessments. Use them as a tool to gain insights about yourself. See where they might provide clues about what interests you, what motivates you. What problems exist that need solving? Self-assessments aren't a cookie cutter answer. It's up to you to be the creator of fulfilling work. Go for it. Be one of the one's that will take on difficult Deliberate Practice.
Question: What self-assessments have you found to be particularly useful and why?