The Importance of Self Awareness in Finding your Ideal Career
One of the most common mistakes people make in a job search or any kind of career exploration is taking action before doing any preparation, if they ever do any preparation at all. While it is true that the large majority of people find their next job through some kind of personal connection (aka “networking”) and thus it is critical to make networking a steady and integral part of your search, if you haven’t taken the time to establish some self-awareness aka “who you are” and what you’re looking for, and subsequently to crystallize that message, you’ll usually wind up doing yourself more harm than good with the actions you’re taking. Let’s take a deeper dive into the importance of self-awareness before treading the muddy territory that can befall a career seeker.
Taking Step Back for Self-Awareness.
The first step in your job searching process should be to step back, identify and clarify what you want to do next as a professional and in what kind of environment or situation you want to do that thing. It’s often said that it’s pretty tough to get anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going, and that rule certainly applies with your job search.
To use a marketing analogy – which is apt because this process is about marketing yourself – no company would simply put a product out there and expect people to buy it without having identified the product’s positioning or niche, it’s features and benefits, and, of course, the target customer. You need to take the same approach to marketing yourself in your job search. Put in the time and the work upfront to; set objectives, plan, develop a strategy and know and feel good about what you want others to know about you and what you do. Taking a step back is all about developing an omniscient frame of mind so that you can communicate your true self to those who might hold the key to the career move that you want the most.
Are you helping people help you?
The good news is that, once you’re ready to start networking, there are lots of people out there who are not only able to help you but will be very willing and even enthusiastic to do so. Every one of us has a network – which is simply the people we know in our lives, professionally as well as personally – and ultimately the key is to leverage the network and talk to as many of those people as possible about who you are and what you’re looking for. But the real key is to help them help you. This is where it is vital to invite the highest level of honesty and, at times, criticism about the real you. Ideally you want to have good picture in your mind about what your strengths and weaknesses are from a trusted friend or advisor that really knows you. This can be difficult because it’s important to communicate that you want true criticism from whomever that trusted individual is. Seek out best friends, family or close professional contacts and put on your thick skin because you might need it!
In any case, you can best do this type of preparation by setting yourself up to have the full picture of yourself. This includes how others see you as well as how you see yourself. When it finally comes time to network or interview, you are being as clear, focused and as distinctive as possible about who you are, what you can do and what you most want to do professionally. Conversely, if you haven’t done the work upfront, those people who are there to help you may not be able to, and you may not get another chance with them because you weren’t prepared, focused and together.
While it may seem contrary, vulnerability is one of our greatest strengths, especially in the process of networking and career seeking. Showing some vulnerability when networking, interviewing and even just day to day conversation provides an easy way to connect with others more deeply. Showing a vulnerable side of yourself in a controlled way can make others more comfortable with opening up themselves and most importantly allow them to have more complex but genuine perspective of who you are as a person and that you are more dimensional than the career you are going after.
However, vulnerability can be overdone which is where self-awareness comes into play. It is important to strike a balance between the vulnerabilities you share with the strengths that tie into them because at the end of the day you are typically communicating what makes you the right fit for a position. Just being vulnerable, and leaving there, does not help in quite the same way. Make it a component of your rapport building strategy – NOT the whole strategy.
What Picture are you Painting of Yourself?
The more you can paint a picture a picture of yourself for someone, showcasing who you are as a professional that they can see and understand, the more your message sticks with that person. People tend to fall in love with big picture themes and ideas about people because it sets them apart from the norm. This adds excitement into the mix and, trust me, you will want that on your side when going after your ideal career.
This is another key part of how this all works. Any one of your networking contacts may not be a direct link to your next position, but they might pass along your name and your story to the person who will be, which is how it often happens. Being able to clearly, concisely and memorably answer the questions “Tell me about yourself?” and “So what are you looking for?” will not only greatly facilitate your process but may even open yourself up to new possibilities and opportunities you never knew existed. It all comes back to what you allow a person to remember about you, and what stands out. Such a strategy makes it that much easier to make an impact on others where they will always think of you first as the ideal candidate.
Fall in Love with Your Own Story
So, before you put yourself out there, take the time to assess, clarify, plan and know yourself before you show yourself. Believe me, taking a little extra time on the front end will in the end save you time and will increase the odds of you finding that which you really want and that which will make you truly happy and fulfilled in your career. At the end of the day, you will be much more comfortable having practiced building a story around yourself that takes your true self into account at every step. We believe that career transition is about finding your best self and carrying that forward into everything you do.
Thanks for reading! Please share this with someone you know who needs it the most. They will thank you for it and so will we!