This section of the website is in continuous development. Why have I published this anyway, against all the ‘rules’? This is not a commercial website and I hope you can find something useful on here already and developing this will take a while as I do this in my spare time alongside my full time work as a career professional.
Let’s have a look at ‘you’! Feel free to click on any of the sections below to read on and to start your audit.
Before you can make a plan for your future and make it reality by promoting yourself as ‘suitable’ for certain opportunities, or even see those opportunities, you would ideally need to have a good awareness of ‘you’. What do you like? Where do you want to go next? What are the options are for accomplishing this?
This ideally is something that can’t be rushed, but if you’re in a hurry because you have been made redundant, I hope you’ll find something useful. Ideally though, this is something to go through as you go along within education or a job and should be ongoing reflection rather than a one off audit.
Qualifications are not always essential for what you can do, but they do open doors. Making the most of your qualifications doesn’t only mean using the title of the qualification. You ideally have to analyse what skills and experiences you have developed whilst completing a qualification. Also analyse the work context you use the qualification in, the context you studied in and its usefulness for any further steps you want to take.
In addition, consider:
- Is the qualification still relevant? Did you gain something you would still like to use in the future? Or do you want to move on into something different?
- Do you need to do additional training or gain a higher level qualification for something you would like to move on or in to?
- If the qualifications or training you’ve had isn’t useful anymore for any next step, what qualities, skills, etc… have you gained from it you can use to get into your next opportunity? How can you best link those skills and how can you use them to promote yourself?
There are three ways in which qualifications are important:
- ‘Official’ qualifications you have gained at school and/or university
- Additional training you have completed on the job, including CPD (Continuous Professional Development), often leading to certificates
- Additional training and qualifications you have completed outside work leading on to a qualification
‘Official’ recognised qualifications
If you are interested in official (Ofqual) qualifications, have a look at the education pages. If it’s not already familiar to you, you can assess where you are. What level have you achieved and is it enough? Or are you overqualified for your next step and do you need to handle this in a way that will maximise your chances?
Additional training and CPD
Now may be the time to dig out all those additional certificates, health and safety certificates, evidence of CPD you have completed etc… Have a good think at what you have done for which you didn’t get a certificate and I would strongly suggest making a list or database of your CPD and additional training if you haven’t already done so. This will give you an excellent overview of where you are.
Training and qualifications away from work
Don’t underestimate this part. Very often when we do an evening course or two, or we have a hobby or past time that gives us extra evidence and skills, we regard this as leisure and ot part of work. Within a very dynamic work environment which is often more skill based than qualification based, these extra qualifications and skills are important and can mean the difference between an opportunity that is open to us or not.
Start compiling a folder, both online,and (definitely also) off-line of all the qualifications you have. You can either rank them chronologically or by relevance. Keep it handy in case you need it and more importantly, keep it up to date so you can respond to a quickly changing situation on time and efficiently.
Skills are essential in promoting yourself for either a new job, a project or other a new contract you are vying for. Make sure your skills are clearly visible for any interested part, employer or professional contact you meet. If they want to find out what you can do, they need to find it. Try not to mix it in with other information.
If you’re not aware of your skills there is not much you can do to promote them, of course. So, making a list of them is our next tasks:
- Linked to your qualifications (gathering all those certificates and diplomas in a neat folder isn’t enough!), analyse which skills you have gained from completing all that training.
- Now have a think about your job/last job and any other jobs you’ve had in the past. Which skills did you pick up from them and which are still relevant. Also think about the level of skills you have. Some skills, such as language skills, are like a muscle; if you don’t use them, you lose them.
- Your next step is to think about any skills you use in your hobbies and other activities you do outside work. It’s not the intention to start picking only those skills you could or want to use for any next job or opportunity. You’re making a full audit to see what your strengths are and linked to that, what your options are in a very open and accepting way.
Now it’s turn to do the same with your experience and experiences. No need to list the waterskiing you did on your holiday, but at the same time, don’t ignore the photography course you did a couple of years ago, or the volunteering for the local charity you did for a while.
You will have noticed by now that some of the things we are gathering are similar to those you would put on a CV. If you do this well, then we’re making a file with all the information you need to write a good CV, for your self-marketing later on as well as for your decision making. I would propose presenting the information you find in a format that could slot into your CV. A good idea could be to include:
- The place the experience to place in
- From when to when…
- If appropriate, the job title you had or would give yourself
- Some of the tasks you did – this last item is particularly useful in that it will be evidence for things you claim you have elsewhere, such as specific personality traits, skills and aptitudes.
Now collect all this information in a handy file from which you can select any required items later for any job you need to find or apply for. At the same time of course, it will increase your awareness of what you have to offer and it helps you create a master file from which you can develop ideas for your next opportunity.
Make sure to include:
- Industries you worked in, volunteered in or were linked with
- Ambitions you have or had and how they worked out in the different opportunities you listed – including how your ambitions developed
- Gained experiences
- Aptitudes you developed and what activities you used them in
- Linked to what we did already, include in the activities you describe what you took away from them
This concludes the easy part! Hahah.
What we have done so far is, as I mentioned, evidence that would be useful for any job application or for marketing yourself for a next opportunity. It’s also useful for your decision making but the times that qualification ‘X’ automatically prepares you for, qualifies you for and aims towards career ‘Y’ are long over. For some career paths, that’s still the case of course, but even they are becoming more dynamic and require more flexibility and creative input from you.
What do you hope to achieve with your next step. This can be at a personal level as well as a professional level.
Linked to this, if you are leaving or planning to leave another opportunity, what frustrated you, where were you let down and where were your hopes frustrated. Where could you go next to avoid this in the future?
Take your time to do this. Let it simmer in the background while you go about your day to day life. Ideally, this is something that will simmer in the background as you go through life. Explore what’s important, but let it come up as it comes up. Don’t force it to avoid creating false hopes just to come up with something. Think of the implications if your hopes were to come through. How woul you feel? What would be great and what would not be so great? What are the implications, both good and less good? Could you live with the downsides?
Rank them according to how important they are for you. Are some of your hopes mutually exclusive and will you have to make a choice? For instance: hoping to travel more may be difficult to realise if you’re at the same time hoping to start a family.
Personality is one of those things that is very controversial when it comes to planning your options for the future. In my view that’s mainly because of the many dodgy personality tests in magazines or on the web. We’ve all seen them – ‘Find your ideal job by measuring the size of your big toe’ or something similar. There is also a group of people, including scientists, who discredit personality tests altogether, claiming that there is no scientific evidence behind them. On one level I agree that they have very limited use. Often what counts against personality tests is that people, especially those same writers for magazines, attach way too much meaning to those tests. It would be silly to take a Myers-Briggs test and base your major decisions on the outcome. Scientists have come up with a personality test that’s more ‘scientific’, the Big 5, but I would claim that even that is not very scientific. The ‘big five’ personality traits this theory, and the test, is based on, is still a gross simplification and an arguably arbitrary selection of five personality traits that are supposed to matter.
Another category is that of psychometric tests along the lines of the Morrisby test. Here too, basing your major life dicisions uniquely on the outcome of such a test is at best a bit irresponsible. Morrisby does measure aptitudes rather than personality and it measures you against everyone else who has taken the test, which has been available for a long time, so it’s really good at what it does.
Having said all this, all of these tests, personality and otherwise, have their uses if you’re able to see them in context. The way in which personality and aptitude tests can be useful is because they make you think. They don’t give you all the answers and they can’t, but they do give you a good head start which you wouldn’t get otherwise!
Myers-Briggs and the Big Five: if you would like to find a very short introduction/comparison between the two, have a look here. Meyrs-Briggs consists of a combination of different personality categories, offering 16 different personality profiles. Have a look at a good free test online and have a go but avoid those that look like a horoscope if you can. I’ve met a lot of people who have found it really useful and enlightening, but use common sense and your mind in interpreting your profile. Even if it doesn’t fit, and for some it won’t, it makes you think about the different categories it measures and it helps you come up with your own answers. There are some websites with a good explanation of the different personality profiles versus career options and their explanations are equally helpful in making you think about personality and career. Equally, the big five will make you think about where you stand as a person. Since the big five offer a sliding scale and not just 16 personality types, the links between its results and career options can be a bit less clear. Have a look at the following:
Ideally you would need to look up some of the free examples online. They are easy to find and there are some good ones! The intention is to get to know yourself a bit better in a way that would otherwise be a bit difficult.
Morrisby and other aptitude tests:
Rather than explaining it all myself, have a look on their website. In short, Morrisby offers a so called ‘battery of tests’ consisting of 12 areas. The paper version is comprised of 6 ability tests, 4 personality measures and 2 dexterity measures. It measures, amongst other things: verbal, numerical and perceptual aptitude, mechanical and spacial ability, as well as an interest questionnaire. The online version is a bit more compact, but is equally effective.
At the moment you can take the Morrisby test online and have an online appointment afterwards to discuss the results and put them in context. If you live in Dorset, you could take the test through Ansbury Guidance, where you can have a face to face appointment instead of an online one.
This is my personal opinion and experience but I find IQ tests for the purpose of planning of limited validity. They invariably test academic intelligence more than general or other kinds of intelligence. Equally, or even more so than other tests, they are succeptible to you being motivated to take the test, rested, generally healthy (and not distracted by pain for instance) and in a stable state of mind (not worried or distracted). I have taken several of these tests with a variety of scores at the other end. Also, even though intelligence is important, it’s only a very small part of your aptitude and its ability to predict suitability for a career path is limited I think. Different careers not only need different measures of intelligence (not every career requires the proverbial rocket scientist), they also need different kinds of intelligence (creative versus academic versus kenesthetic intelligence etc…). However, if you feel an IQ test would be useful, feel free to take one to get to know yourself better. Just like with aptitude tests, I would advice against the free online kind as both need to be interpreted and taken by someone who’s trained to do this.
Preferences and Dislikes, or rather likes and dislikes, is sort of an audit within this audit. The idea is that, as you go through your daily life, you notice things. The point of the exercise is to take note of them. This will hopefully inform you of well… your likes and dislikes. It will help you get a better idea of what you are looking for in any future ideas or options. It’s something we do every day, if all is well, of course. However, when we do this on a daily basis, telling ourselves “I like this…” or “I don’t like this…”, we turn around and we’ve forgotten because there’s no longer term purpose or focus linked to these thoughts.
To avoid this from happening, because we’re someone on a quest, we need to find a solution. One thing you can do is to use a template. This can be a very simple template such as the one below. This will ‘fix’ things down a lot more and will give you an overview of what you feel and think, rather than just an ‘in the moment’ assessments that’s quickly and easily forgotten.
Lifestyle has less to do with what you are looking for in a job than with what a job can give you for you to maintain your lifestyle and the kinds of things you are used to or that are important for you in life. Things that can influence you from taking up an opportunity because it has a considerable impact on your lifestyle could be:
- Money: we all work to earn money amongst other things. For some people, their earnings are their main motivation and some careers will alow for that. There is a lot of information about wage levels per career online. Be careful and ask yourself who’s offering the information. Good websites to look at are Reed, Totaljobs and other job vacancy websites.You can check wages on https://listentotaxman.com/
- Ask yourself, how much does your lifestyle cost?
- What will different careers offer you and what/who are they looking for? Which skills, experience, aptitudes, etc… do you need for a job like that?
- What can you do without if you have to and what can you not do without?
- Expectations: what are you expecting from any work opportunity as well as from life? Some opportunities expect you to travel or they expect you to work nights or early shifts. For some you are away for months and if that fits in with you, that’s great, but if not…
- Think about what gets you going and what doesn’t. Do you like shift work or occasional, frequent or constant travelling?
- Do you expect to work with people from different cultures/in other colours and will the opportunity offer that?
- Would you expect to be able to take time off at short notice because of family commitments? Would you be able to do that?
- Limitations can stop you from taking certain positions. Are you aware of what your limitations are? Does the opportunity expect you to offer more than you can give? These can be health limitations which are permanent or temporary, cultural limitations, social commitments and maybe limitations in the resources you have to take up an opportunity (living in or near London isn’t cheap!)
- The location of either the opportunity or of where you live can stop you or may take considerable extra planning. If you live in the countryside and you have to rely on public transport, options can be really limited. Equally, if your dream opportunity is in a city which takes ages to communte through every day because of heavy traffic, you may need to think twice.
Have a think about, or make a list of:
- All the things that will enable you to take up a position or stop/make it difficult
- What is important in your life: family commitments, holidays, travel, the amount of money you need, etc… See the list above.
- You can then take these things into account when you are looking into potential career options. But just like with everything else on here, you need to be aware of what you do and don’t want, what you can and can’t do first.
All of this work is worth nothing without you also looking for options and opportunities to match what you have found out about against. This is not necessarily about finding an exact match. Every opportunity will have things within it you really like and things you really don’t like. It’s about finding direction and balance within. This doesn’t need to be a fixed opportunity as such but a broad direction of possibilities. Remember to be open to unexpected options and opportunities. Chance plays a big role within career and future planning. Unexpected things happen on the one hand and things never stay the same for long on the other. How flexible you are to take up unexpected opportunities and cope with change depends on everything we’ve done so far. Some personalities are more resilient to change and are more able to cope with the unexpected than other personalities. There’s nothing wrong with either. You can explore opportunities on:
amongst other websites.
Also see the useful links page for further resources.
Similar to the list of likes and dislikes, once you have found some opportunities and found out what the very general options and implications are, making a list of ‘must haves’ and ‘can’t haves’ is important as well. This is similar to the lifestyle question but contrary to that, it’s about what the job has to have irrespective of lifestyle. This is more than ‘likes’ and ‘don’t likes’ in that it looks at the job as a whole. The intention is for it to to cover anything that has not been touched upon by anything else. So feel free to make it your own of course! It’s your future and planning after all! Here too you can make a list over time:
Next: What do you want to do with this?