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Your Career

Get to Know Yourself

When you make decisions based on knowing yourself well, you’re more likely to feel good about them.


That’s why knowing yourself is the basis of the 4 step career planning process. It helps you organize your thoughts about who you are, what’s important to you, and what you want.

In this video, Craig discusses how getting to know himself better led him to switch his career and education plans from becoming an electrician to pursuing a career as a hairstylist:

Training to Be a Hairstylist at a Vocational School (2:26)

Craig is attending a private college offering licensed vocational training. Learn why he changed his career and education plans and is now studying to be a hairstylist.

Career counsellors, teachers, and online tools can help you discover your abilities and interests. But they may use words you haven’t come across before. To better understand these words turn them into a question. By answering the questions, you can learn a lot about yourself.

For example, try thinking about how you would answer the questions that go with the “career speak” terms below:

  • Values: What’s important to me?
    Example: I value meeting new people and spending time outdoors.
  • Interests: What do I like to do?
    Example: I enjoy reading, camping, and travelling.
  • Skills and abilities: What am I good at?
    Example: I’m good at playing hockey, backcountry skiing, and teaching my friends Spanish.
  • Strengths: What comes easily to me?
    Example: I’m good at learning new languages and leading groups of people.
  • Motivators: What am I passionate about?
    Example: I feel strongly about protecting the environment and understanding other cultures.
  • Assets: What do I have experience doing? What do I know about?
    Example: I have a wilderness first aid certificate and speak two languages.

Now take 5 minutes to write your own answers to these questions.
Don’t think about them too much—just put down what pops into your head.

When you look at your own answers, do you see a pattern? Does it give you any ideas? For example, the sample answers above might make you think of a person who would enjoy being a teacher or an outdoor sport and recreation guide.

Now that you have a better understanding of what words like values, interests, and skills mean in career planning, you can start to think about them more deeply.

Think about your values

Your values are your standards and the things that are important to you. A satisfying career usually reflects them. Here are some work values that people often find motivating. Which ones motivate you? What others are important to you?

  • Variety
  • Independence
  • Money
  • Prestige
  • Competition
  • Security
  • Respect
  • Creativity
  • Novelty
  • Work-life balance

For example, do you value:

  • Making important decisions?
  • Being respected by others?
  • Having time to pursue other activities?
  • Learning new things?
  • Protecting the environment?
  • Belonging to a group?
  • Helping others?

Think about your interests 

Your interests are activities you do because you enjoy them. You'll be more satisfied with your career direction if it includes activities that you enjoy. Which of these work-related interests do you have? Add others to the list:

  • Solving problems
  • Selling ideas or things
  • Being physically active
  • Working with facts
  • Working with numbers
  • Working with words
  • Working with machinery or tools
  • Helping people
  • Using your imagination
  • Building or fixing things
  • Creating things

Think about your abilities 

Abilities are your natural strengths—the things that come easily to you. Different occupations require different kinds of abilities. Try to identify yours using these as suggestions:

  • Working with numbers
  • Creating things and using your imagination
  • Being able to see objects in 3 dimensions (from a drawing or blueprint)
  • Listening, expressing feelings, working well with others
  • Using words and ideas
  • Performing physical tasks
  • Noticing differences in details and finding errors
  • Learning scientific and technical principles
  • Creating or using systems to gather information
  • Planning and developing projects
  • Co-ordinating and handling details
  • Figuring out how things work and putting them together

Think about your skills

Your skills are the activities you’ve learned to do well. Core or transferable skills, such as communication, leadership and teamwork skills, are useful in most work situations. They are the skills you will continue to use throughout your career. 

Identifying your skills is really about knowing and appreciating yourself. When you spend time recognizing your skills and talents, you develop a stronger sense of who you are, what you can offer, and what you need to learn to grow—and that feels good!

Work-specific or technical skills, such as using a particular software program or operating a diesel engine, tend to be directly related to an occupation or workplace.

Your accomplishments are what you achieve when you use your skills.They're the highlights of your best experiences. To sell yourself to potential employers, you need to identify and describe your accomplishments.

Think about your traits

Your traits are the personal characteristics that you would bring to an occupation. Career options that emphasize your positive traits are likely to be good choices for you. Which of the following words describe you? Make a list of your traits:

  • Accurate
  • Curious
  • Resourceful
  • Versatile
  • Outgoing
  • Helpful
  • Logical
  • Self-confident
  • Thorough
  • Perceptive

Think about your priorities 

What's your personality type and what does that tell you about you personal priorities? Consider the following ideas and questions to help you understand what you care about. Add some of your own, too:

  • Think about your school and volunteer experiences. What would you like to be the same, and what would you want to be different in the future?
  • What are your best subjects at school? Would you like to study them in a post-secondary program?
  • What kind of environment would you like to work in? For example, do you prefer to be outdoors or in an office? With a small group of people or in a large organization?

Think about what you want

Choosing a direction is not only about what you already like or can do. It’s also about what your career can do for you. Do you want to make a difference in people’s lives? Do you want to maintain a certain lifestyle? Do you want a flexible schedule? Do you want to travel for work?

Here are some more questions to help you get a general sense of your career preferences:

  • What makes work meaningful for you?
  • What do you expect from work?
  • What type of lifestyle do you want?

Getting to know yourself can take many forms. To learn more, explore these videos of students connecting their hobbies and interests to future career paths. 

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