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Turns out Socrates did know a thing or two about landing a job. Self-knowledge is the first career capsule I’ll pop open because not only does it make sense chronologically, but it is probably the most determining factor for career and overall life satisfaction.

Considering how beneficial the development of self-knowledge has been for my career, I’m always amazed at how little most people invest in it. And it comes with a bonus: it’ll make all the difference in your personal life as well, which, believe it or not, includes your work life (that’s right, your professional life doesn’t exist in a hermetically sealed bubble. If it did, I bet it would be fun to bounce off the walls though, tee hee…).

Who am I?

More than just a pivotal plot point in Ben Stiller’s 2001 comedic hit, Zoolander, this question is at the core of what you have to offer the world and what you want and need from it. What is the essence of your personality? What are your likes and dislikes? How do you tend to relate to others and the world around you? What roles do you occupy in life; wife, son, friend, parent, intern? What are your greatest strengths? What are your limits? What is the state of your health, your finances, your expertise?

With so many questions, it can be hard to choose a starting point or even the right vocabulary to work with. I personally am a big fan of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI, as it’s more commonly referred to. I’ve used the free test offered by HumanMetrics.com and have been very pleased. Alternatively, you could look into other personality tests, perhaps even administered by a career counsellor.

What do you want?

Is something you might say to a stranger with a clipboard who unexpectedly shows up at your front door. But it’s also a big part of getting to know yourself. And allow me stress the ‘you’ part of this question. Don’t dwell on what your parents have always imagined you doing (*cough* med school) or on the occupation your high school guidance counsellor thought you would be great at (High School Guidance Counsellor, strangely enough).

Sometimes I think that the hardest thing in life is to being true to yourself. What you’ve learned about yourself, by answering “Who am I?” will come in handy here. If you crave alone time most days you might not aim to work as a sales person or you might decide you want to work on that. Some things are hard to get around; if you are deathly allergic to shellfish you might not set your hopes on becoming the Executive Chef of a fancy seafood restaurant.

In my experience, it’s important to go beyond only thinking in terms of jobs. Think in terms of your whole life. Do you prefer to sprint to the top to retire young? Are you more of a stop-and-smell-the-roses-along-the-way type? Do you want to have kids? How important to you is a regular sleep schedule? Do you like to travel? Are you aspiring to home ownership in the next few years? What things are most attractive to you in a potential employer?

For many people I know (myself included), deciding what you want is a real challenge. No worries. Future career capsules will talk about the kinds of experiences that can help you figure this out.

A Neverending Story

While many personality types prefer closure, this is one thing that requires attention throughout life. Sorry dudes. You grow, your perspective changes, as do your circumstances. You leave bad habits behind and you pick new ones up along the way.

So sure, it might seem tedious, but I’ve found that a strong foundation in all-things-you comes with an unparalleled level of self-confidence that makes everything else easier, from interviews, to doctor’s appointments, to lovers’ spats.

Stay tuned for another dose of career capsules. Coming soon…

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