Here are a few activities to help you discover who you are, what matters to you, your talents, strengths, and interests. Taking an inventory of those skills will help you answer questions about what you want to be next.
When you contemplate the future, it’s good to revisit what really matters to you at your very core. Thinking about your values is a great place to start.
Identifying what matters to you is helpful whether you're thinking about how you spend your money, what kinds of activities appeal to you, whom you want to spend time with, and what type of work you want to do.
Take the think2perform Online Values Exercise
The think2perform Online Values Exercise includes 51 named value cards and four rounds of reviewing the cards. The total time to complete this activity is about 15 minutes. In the end, you'll have five value cards with descriptions that name and describe critical areas that matter to you.
After completing the exercise, note your top five values. Think about your previous roles, and answer the following questions to learn more about each of your identified values:
What led you to prioritize this value?
What does this value mean to you?
How do you strive to live this value?
How do you want to use this value more?
Reflect on how each value influences what you choose to do and how it plays out in your work. Consider talking about your values with a friend or family member. Write down your answers to these questions.
Now that you’ve considered what you value, you’ll shift your focus to your talents. If you are like many people, you probably aren’t always consciously aware of what you are truly good at. It’s likely that you just do what you do, and you may not realize that not everyone thinks, acts, or solves problems quite the way you do. Let’s look at a few ways to identify what you are good at and the unique value proposition you bring to a potential employer.
Take The CliftonStrengths Assessment
The CliftonStrengths® Assessment helps you identify your top strengths. It also gives you language to talk about your unique skills. Since this is a tool many companies use, using strengths terminology can help you and potential employers understand one another.
This 30-minute online assessment costs about $20 and includes 177 questions. Each question consists of two statements, and you use a scale to select which of the two statements is more like you. From there, you'll receive a report listing your top five strengths and a personalized description of what those strengths look like for you.
Find a quiet location where you will not be interrupted, and take the assessment. Don't overthink your choices, and go with your first response. To get accurate results, choose very few "neutral" responses.
Reflect on Your Top 5 Strengths
Once your assessment is complete, set aside 30 minutes to read and reflect on your results.
Read through your Top 5 report. Make a note of insights that resonate with you and how they impact your work.
Make a note of your Top 5 Strengths.
Reflect on your Top 5 strengths and your personalized strengths descriptions.
Consider talking through your Top 5 report with a friend or family member.
Review this report intermittently as you prioritize which jobs to apply for and as you create and update your job application materials.
Gather Colleague Feedback on Your Strengths
Along with taking assessments, talking to people about their experiences interacting with you is an invaluable way to learn more about your skills and strengths. Connecting with your former coworkers and talking with them about their experiences working with you is a great way to learn more about how you show up at work and how others see you professionally.
Here are recommendations on how to plan, have, and record your findings from these meetings;
Make a list of 2-5 colleagues for these conversations. Consider the following people: former coworkers, previous managers, friends, professional connections, and anyone who might have unique insight into your previous work.
Reach out to each of them via phone, email, or your preferred communication medium.
Ask if they are open to chatting with you for 30-45 minutes about their experiences working with you.
Connect with them via phone, virtual meeting, or in person to talk.
As needed, use the following questions to get the conversation going:
What have you observed me doing well?
Where have you seen me struggle at work?
What unique skills do you think I have?
What did I seem to like and dislike doing at work?
What is your perception of my top skills?
What other feedback would you like to share with me?
Make notes from your meetings with people. Reflect on their insights.
Gather Insights From Previous Positions
In addition to your strengths, it’s valuable to know your work-related preferences. One great way to identify your work likes and dislikes is to reflect on your previous positions and what you liked and disliked about your past jobs.
Completing this reflection for your previous jobs will increase your understanding of your likes, dislikes, and work style preferences. You can use these insights while networking with people, which will empower them to keep an eye out for a role and organization that might be a good fit for you. In addition, you can use these insights to help you select roles that seem like a good choice for you and ask better questions during the interview process.
Ask yourself the following questions about jobs you’ve had in the past, and note your answers:
What You Thought Went Well
What made you look forward to going to work at this employer?
What was most satisfying about this job?
What were you good at in this job?
How did your manager help you grow? Find joy in your work? Build trust?
What You Would Change
What did you find frustrating about this employer?
What parts of this job were disappointing?
Which parts of this job were most difficult? Were they challenges that you enjoyed? Did they get easier over time?
What did your manager do (or not do) that reduced your effectiveness?
Use the answers to these questions to help you discover what you want and don’t want in your next role.
Think About Compensation
Now that you are getting a better picture of what your target job might look like think about the level and kind of compensation you want or need in a job. This will include the money you will earn and the benefits provided, perks, and opportunities you value. All together, these components make up your total compensation package.
Identify Your Target Salary Range
Your target salary range, a key component of your total compensation, is essential during your job search. Here are a few numbers that may influence the target salary range you may share with potential employers during the hiring process.
What you need to make to pay your core monthly bills.
The absolute minimum salary you are willing to accept.
What you need based on your budget, savings plan, and financial goals.
The minimum salary you would happily accept.
What you’ve made previously.
What colleagues make.
What you’ve seen listed in current job postings.
What you think you are worth.
What you would like to make.
What you’d be really excited about making.
Your dream salary.
Think about the numbers that align with each of these reference points and decide what overall salary range makes sense for you. As a guide, consider using the minimum salary you would happily accept as the low end of your salary range and what you'd be really excited about as the higher end of your salary range. If you are applying for more than one type of role, you may have a salary range for each type of work.
Prioritize What Matters To You
Research Salary Details
Use these strategies to research general salary ranges for a specific job title:
Visit Payscale.com to research job titles and salary ranges by geographic area.
Visit Salary.com to research job titles and salary ranges by geographic area.
Use these strategies to see what other employers are currently paying for a specific job title:
Using Indeed.com, search for your target job title in a state with pay transparency laws, like Colorado or California. Note the salary range included in the job posting. Use a cost-of-living calculator (like this one from Payscale.com) to adjust the quoted salary to align with the cost of living in your area of the country.
Using LinkedIn.com, search for your target job title in a state with pay transparency laws, like Colorado or California. Note the salary range included in the job posting. Use a cost-of-living calculator (like this one from Payscale.com) to adjust the quoted salary to align with the cost of living in your area of the country.
Determining what the next right role is for you is always a balancing act between many factors. Job responsibilities, commute, and salary are usually top considerations. Beyond those basics, people may prioritize some aspects more than others. Some may place a high value on having a specific job title, receiving tuition reimbursement money to earn their next credential, and opportunities for promotions. Someone else may prioritize having exciting work, schedule flexibility, the ability to work remotely most days, and low health insurance premiums. Still another person may be most interested in working alongside colleagues in an office, having the opportunity to mentor new hires, and finding a job they can keep for the next decade or more.
As you evaluate possible employment options, keep in mind what means the most to you.
Make Your Preferences List
Now that you’ve reflected in a few different ways, it’s time to gather what you’ve learned and use that to put together your preferences list for the job you want. Note your answers to these questions:
Are you interested in a full-time, part-time, contract, or freelance job? How many hours do you want to work a week? What work hours and schedule would you prefer?
Would you like to work in-person, part in-person and part remotely (hybrid), or all remote?
How many miles/minutes would you be comfortable commuting? How often would you want to commute?
Would you like to travel for work? If so, how frequently?
Salary and Benefits
What base salary would you like?
Would you expect a bonus or commission? What might that look like?
How much time off would you like?
What benefits matter most to you? What would be nice to have?
What field or fields would you like to work in?
What size of a company or industry would you like to work for?
What company culture aligns with what you want your work life to be like?
What do you want in your immediate manager?
The Job Itself
What job titles might be a good fit for you?
Would you like a manager, individual contributor, or player/coach role (doing both)?
What focus area(s) would you like to have?
What skills would you like to be able to use regularly?
What day-to-day activities would you prefer?
List and Describe Your Target Job(s)
Review your job search preferences.
Create a short list of 1-3 target jobs for you. Include the following details for each:
Target Job title(s) for this type of role.
Target work logistics.
Target base salary range.
Target employer details.
Target job responsibilities.
Use this information as you prioritize job applications!