Skip to main content

Self Assessment

Before beginning your career journey you need to conduct a self assessment, which is the discovery process that leads you to look at what makes you a unique individual. By overlooking this step you may not be sure of your direction, what route to take, and even if you are on the right path. In addition, employers tend to value those who are self-aware, which can be seen in their resumes, interviews, and as an employee.

Work Values: What matters to you?

For some, values may be hard to specify or define. When values are fulfilled a person may use words such as “contentment,” “satisfaction,” having “meaning,” or feeling “filled” with the work they are doing. When values are not fulfilled, a person may experience opposite feelings, losing their motivation and happiness at work.

Values change over time and can be heavily influenced by circumstances. You may not think or put much value in health or money until you get a phone call from a doctor or are laid off.

When looking at a career path or company it is important to understand what you value in a work environment and decide what is important. Here is a small sample list:

  • Autonomy
  • Job Security
  • Recognition
  • Helping Others
  • Collaboration
  • Achievement
  • Prestige
  • Helping Society


Conduct a work values assessment to see what your values are, and then research your career choices to make sure they are in line to give you the work satisfaction you need.

Skills: What are you good at?

Regardless of your career path you will need skills. When it comes to choosing a career path there are two parts in assessing work skills: the skills you have, and the skills you enjoy using.

School can be very helpful in seeing what skills you have. With testing, projects, and exams you will see what some of your strengths are, especially in the technical areas. But hard or technical skills are just one type of skill.

There are also soft or personality skills. Here are a few examples:

  • Communication
  • Problem solving
  • Team work
  • Administration


  • Innovation
  • Creative

There are several self evaluation assessments available online you can use to determine your skill sets. But after you determine your skill set the next question you need to answer is: which ones do you want to use for work?

You may have great office skills, but if you don’t like administrative work you want to stay away from positions that keep you attached to a desk all day long. If you’re great at working with people, and love interpersonal interactions, then logically you will want to be in a position that allows you to use that skill and avoid the ones that don’t.

With skills and career path it’s a three step process: knowing what you’re good at, knowing what skills you want to use, and then finding those companies and jobs that allow that to happen.

Interests: What do you like to do?

John Holland, Ph.D., observed that work interests could be classified into 6 types or styles, which he referred to as the Holland Code.  The 6 types/styles are:

  • Realistic

Prefer athletic or mechanical tasks. Enjoys working with “things” such as tools or machines. Don’t mind getting their hands dirty.

  • Investigative

Observing, learning, understanding and evaluating. Like to use their head first and prefer intellectual stimulation.

  • Artistic

Like to be creative, intuitive, and use the imagination. Like the unstructured and “discovering.”

  • Social

Like to work with and help people. Teaching, mentoring, and enlightening.

  • Enterprising

Like to influence, lead, and persuade others. Are entrepreneurial in their approach.

  • Conventional
Enjoys clerical tasks and working with numbers. Likes attention to detail and order.

The Holland theory states that out of the list, 3 will be your main interests, with one usually being the primary. When it comes to your career path it is important to know what you enjoy doing and pick those jobs or companies that will match.

Some of the types such a realistic/social, artistic/conventional and investigative/enterprising may seem like they are opposite to each other. It is possible for you to have these opposite preferences as long as you are aware of it and can accommodate for both.

However, if a career path or company seems to be the opposite of your type, you may want to pause and and think about the type of positions and work environments that could fulfill your needs.

Personality and Preference: Who are you?

This is the core of self assessment — understanding who you are and how you like to do things.

When it comes to understanding your personality and preferences, assessment tools are widely used by career professionals in Canada. There are several great tools available for you to try. Two examples are The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and Personality Dimensions (PD).

The MBTI looks at an individual in four dimensions: how a person gets their energy, how a person takes in information, how a person processes that information, and how a person acts to the outside world. Once the assessment is complete the individual will have a 4 letter code. This code will be a holistic view of the person’s preferences. The MBTI states that certain codes “fit” better with certain careers than others.  

Personality Dimensions (PD) also looks at an individual in 4 different dimensions. But instead of using letters, it uses colours: Green, Blue, Gold, and Orange. PD looks at the colours from a person’s characteristics, values skills and stressors, and states that each person is a blend of all four colours, and ranks them from most like you to least like you to define your personality type. PD also states that some colours are a better “fit” for some careers over others. 

A Word of Caution

Career assessments are wonderful tools that can help you understand yourself better and provide direction. But there are some things to keep in mind while using them:

  • No tool is 100% accurate and biases can come into play and statistical anomalies can happen that can skew results.

  • Your state of mind can greatly affect the results of the assessments. If you are having a particularly bad day while doing them your results may be different than if you were your everyday self.

  • Do research on the tools before using them. Some have been researched thoroughly and have both statistical reliability and repeatability. Some others may have very little research done on them and their results may not be very accurate.

  • Conduct informational interviews with others in the fields you are considering. They will be able to provide you with information about the field/job that no test can provide for you.  

Finally, remember that regardless of what any assessment says, you know yourself the best and are the final judge.


Other Resources

There are several other tools for career direction and exploration that you may find valuable including Career Exploration, by The University of Waterloo Centre for Career Action.



If you are uncertain about your career direction, or who wish to explore viable options, and want to learn about resources available to help you make appropriate strategic decisions, career advising appointments are available with a Career Education Specialist at the Career Centre.

Note: If you are considering switching programs or have other academic related concerns, please contact the Centre for Student Development & Counselling (undergraduate students only) at (416)979-5195.  

View Career Compass for more tips from career experts, industry professionals and alumni.