Self-understanding must be the first step in building your career plan. One route is to take a personality assessment, such as The Myers Briggs Type Instrument – a proven and valuable tool for understanding your personality type as it relates to your career satisfaction and success. You can use it to help you identify your interests and strengths as well as the areas that challenge you. But even if you have never taken the Myers Briggs and do not plan to take it, you still need to engage in a thoughtful process of self-discovery before you embark on an unfocused search for a new job. Start with these questions:
1. What has been my best day at work? Describe the best day you have had working, and think about why it was such a good day. Perhaps you completed an important project, or received positive recognition for something, or spent the whole day engaged in stimulating work. Whatever brings you satisfaction is unique to you, and as you consider a career move, it is critical to identify those elements in your job. These are the things that are important to you.
2. And conversely, what has been my worst day at work? Think about what made it such a bad day. Was it personnel related, or task related, or office morale related? Knowing what has made you unhappy is as important as what makes you happy – not so that you can dwell on them and complain, but so that you can minimize (or ideally eliminate) those factors in your next position.
3. Make a list of daily or weekly tasks you do at work. Which ones do I enjoy and which ones would I prefer to never do again? This is just another approach to getting at your work likes and dislikes, but focusing on the actual duties you have. Do not gloss over this question; if you can name something that you wish you did not have to do at work anymore, this will help you. You will want to downplay that task in your resume, and look for positions where it is not a major component of the job.
No job is perfect, and someone looking for a job may well not feel that she has the ability to be picky about the details. Of necessity, there will be compromises and trade-offs. However, figuring out what is an ideal fit, a comfortable fit, a tolerable fit, or an unbearable misfit will be a valuable investment of your time. That self-awareness will inform important decisions for you, such as: how to prepare for questions about your reasons for being interested in a new position; which advertised positions to pursue; and whether a job offer with a disappointing salary might be worth considering because of the other aspects that matter to you.