Self-Knowledge Self-ExplorationStarting your job search by doing extensive research on yourself is the technique that has the highest success rate of any job-search technique. According to Richard Bolles (What Color is Your Parachute? - 2017 Edition) it has an 86% success rate, the highest by far of any other job search method. “Such a success rate is astronomically higher than virtually every other job-search method there is. For example, doing homework on yourself works twelve times better than sending out resumes, when you are looking for work.” (Note – this high success rate is consistent with recent data on scientific and professional placements from many sources such as AAAS, NCDA, NACE, Lee Hecht Harrison, Challenger Gray & Christmas, The Five O’Clock Club, etc.)

Five Reasons Why Doing Homework on Yourself Works So Well

  1. By doing homework on yourself you learn to describe yourself in alternative ways, and thereby you can approach multiple job-markets. Instead of using a narrow job title, you may use a more inclusive description. You are a person who has these skills and these experiences. If teaching and writing and conducting research and project management are your favorite skills, then you can approach the job-market of teaching, that of writing, that of conducting research, or that of project management. Multiple job-markets or combinations of job-markets are open to you; not just one.

  2. By doing homework on yourself, you can describe in great detail exactly what you are looking for. This greatly enables your friends, colleagues, mentors, professional contacts, and family members to help you. Not just, “Uh, I’m looking for work, let me know if you hear of anything,” but exactly what kind of “thing,” and in what work setting. This helps them to help you tap into that large pool of unadvertised or yet-to-be advertised positions, as well as making you aware of positions you might have overlooked.

  3. By ending up, after doing the homework on yourself, with a description of a job that would really excite you, you pour energy and motivation into your job search. Before, your job search might have felt more like a duty than anything else. Now, with some clarity in your vision, you are dying to find that. So, you redouble your efforts, your dedication, and your determination when otherwise you might tire and give up. You are persistent because the prize is worth fighting for.

  4. By doing this homework, you no longer have to wait for organizations to identify themselves as having vacancies, before you decide which ones to approach. You choose places you would like to work, and then approach them (through a bridge-person, or through direct contact) regardless of whether they have a known vacancy. Often a position becomes vacant just before you walk in the door, or they create a position just for you, and you have no other competition for it. You are proactive and that feels so much better than waiting (and getting yourself depressed). Being proactive, and choosing them specifically for contact, shows your initiative. You can become especially attractive to prospective hiring officials.

  5. Let’s face it – it’s very competitive out there. When you are facing many other competitors for a job that you want – who may superficially look equal to you in skills and experience – if you did your self-inventory, then you can accurately describe to potential employers exactly what is unique about you, and what you bring to the table that others don’t. These things usually involve not only skills and experiences, but also positive traits and personal strengths that you have discovered in yourself.

All of this explains why starting with doing homework on yourself is the most effective job-search method in the world. It’s not magic, and it’s not guaranteed to work 100% of the time if that’s the only method you use. But it sure beats just hitting the “send” button and praying, and it sure beats being passive and waiting to be “discovered.”

self-assessment exercises

These self-assessment exercises are tools designed for you. You can use them to learn about yourself privately and on your own time. They are created to assist you in clarifying and determining the elements you need or want for a good fit in a career.

It is important to write your answers down as you complete these exercises. Remember career development is an ongoing process. A hard copy of your answers will assist you in preparation for your job interviews, develop documents such as your resume, and support your decisions when you are reviewing your career goals and direction now and again at a future time.

Please answer the questions as honestly as you can with little regard to what others think or may expect of you. This is the time to determine what YOU really want.

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When we determine our interests we can either choose to incorporate them in our hobbies, our career or save them for a later stage in life.

Please answer the following questions to the best of your ability:

  1. What do you love to do in your spare time or at work? Don't forget to list your hobbies, community projects, social group involvement, or memberships in organizations.
  2. If you go to a bookstore what subject areas do you spend time browsing? If you open the newspaper what section calls your attention first?
  3. List some of your "dream" jobs no matter how outlandish they may sound. Describe a typical day (environment, schedule, tasks, co-workers, etc.).
  4. If you were to look back on your life what would you like to be remembered for? If you have only a year of your life left and you absolutely had to work- what would you be doing in the position?

Incorporated ideas from The Ivory Tower by Margaret Newhouse, PhD


These questions will help you identify the skills you would like to incorporate in your career.

Answer on your own:

  1. What were you doing when someone has complimented you or told you that you are really good at...? Write down at least five compliments here.
  2. What do you naturally do well?
  3. List the skills you have obtained in school, community service, past/present employment, hobbies, internet, computer, sports/recreation, studying/learning, peers/colleagues, religion, community, leaders/role models, watching/observing others, religion, community, culture, teachers, family, friends, day-to-day experiences, books, trial and error and failure.
  4. What are your ten greatest successes to date (in your eyes)?

Answer with family members, friends and/or co-workers:

  1. Ask family members, friends, mentors what are you good at or sets you apart from others.
  2. Ask close friends/family what career they think you would enjoy or be good at and why. (Many times our close friends, family, co-workers know us better than we know ourselves).
  Transferable Skills
  Career Preferences

Make a two-column list of characteristics your job must have and characteristics it must not have. Creating this list will visually assist you to see the characteristics that are most important to you in your career.

Career Preferences Self Assessment (PDF)