Published: October 19, 2020 by Jillian Collins
Imagine asking yourself a set of “career preference” questions five years ago, the same questions five years from now, and those very same questions today: would the three of ‘you’ agree that you prefer working within a youth library, or that you prefer academic libraries? How many co-workers make up your ideal work setting? And do you like what you are doing? Depending on how much work experience you’ve had so far, you may not be sure about your responses, but that just means that now is the perfect time to take advantage of one of the most useful career resources, the self-assessment. Even better, keep it updated as you progress through the program and you’re exposed to new ideas and career options. Consider the self-assessment as an extremely valuable career check in and check list.
Purpose and Practice
The self-assessment was created by former iSchool career counselor, Jill Klees. The self-assessment is purely for you, helping you to identify and/or discover patterns that define the type of career you would thrive in. It’s not a test, and there are no right or wrong answers; instead, consider it a group of “prompts” that will help you reflect on your preferences at this point in time, based on what you know and have experienced so far. It may feel a bit weird at first if you’re not used to this type of introspection, but it’s a terrific career development habit to master. Think of it as how you determine what career choices will best reflect who you are and what’s most rewarding to you. Then, when you need to evaluate a potential job, you’ll have a great set of criteria to work with.
The Career Self-Assessment and You
For your formatting convenience, the career self-assessment sheet can be filled out and kept up periodically. There are three sections: functions, people and setting. These categories are prompted by questions for you to answer and reflect on. Here’s the type of information you’ll consider:
Functions: The job you like is the career you will be fulfilled by. What part of any job, or even professional organization participation, was the most rewarding and fun? What subject in school made that light bulb go on in your head; what made you say, “This makes sense!” What LIS topics or issues caused you to think “this is fascinating and I’d like to learn a lot more about it?”
People: Co-workers, bosses, patrons, students and/or clients –these fall into the area of “people.” In most jobs, you’re likely to only be able to choose among co-workers and patrons, students and/or clients. Do you feel most productive if you have interacted with a lot of people, or is that exhausting? Do you want to work with patrons, students or clients (each can be demanding and rewarding in their own way)? Have you been comfortable working in a team before, or do you feel like a team-heavy workspace just isn’t for you?
Setting: As you consider this category, remember that the ‘setting’ today – global pandemic, etc. – is not the one you remember from prior career or work experience, and it will not necessary look the same in the future. But this is where you’ll consider the variables of space that have led to your most productive and proud moments on the job. A stable and predictable pace or a start-stop rapid pace? Structured schedule, or expectations in unexpected tasks with your daily duties? Quiet and low-key, or at a productively high volume? And most likely for the foreseeable future, are you comfortable with working remotely?
You’ll find variations on these questions on the worksheet. Re-word them so they make sense to you, but have the same meaning – functions, peoples, settings. You should update your self-assessment sheet at least after each semester. For example, were you enlightened by a digital curatorship course last semester, or are you feeling more excited to learn about how you can improve selection in a school library, based on the youth literature seminar that just ended? Note it in your self-assessment document so you don’t lose these valuable findings from your self-reflection process.
Things change, as we are all aware, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t take charge of at least some of the ways those changes will affect your career. You have more control than you think in this career circus, and the self-assessment tool is a great resource for helping you exercise that control.
Just think how fascinating (and enlightening) it will be when you have that career conversation with yourself five years from now…because you’ve kept your self-assessment current from now until 2025!
Quick Jot from Jillian
I did the self-assessment in January 2020, and pulled it up while working on this post. At the time, I was working in a movie theater, and had prior experience working in offices. I felt better working at the movie theater. I had great co-workers, and, heck, I even enjoyed the 90% of the general public that had manners and understood I couldn’t let them in 30 minutes late to Uncut Gems. I thought about the stress of having to work concessions (how to clean, prep, handle the volume of people while you’re the only person on the register), versus how much fun ushering was (including cleaning the theaters after the show gets out). Re-reading what I wrote 10 months ago, right before I started my very first semester, is, in many ways, like revisiting a time capsule.
Reflecting on my past answers provides me with some context to my attitude today. Some examples of additions to my self-assessment are, as follows:
- Functions: My favorite subject has always been history. Now I see I apply it practically and pragmatically: what I learn constantly relates what I am doing, or what I am thinking is going on, or going to happen. I am drawn to history because it draws me to ideas, concepts, and understanding how to solve problems. And I count personal experience as history, which is what I am most familiar with.
- People: I have always felt better with a good team of people, with different backgrounds, stories, but a common goal in terms of work. That was not only the case; environments where I felt anxious or intimidated stopped me from interacting, and took away more than I could give. A good team will be able to lend a hand if I get overwhelmed, just like they can count on me to do the same. Sometimes though — I know I can, and have — to go it alone. Example: being the only person between popcorn and a sudden influx of 50 guests and counting — because an unexpected surge brought in more guests than crew for Sonic the Hedgehog.
- Setting: I need to see things as they happen, but not from behind a desk. I need to be able to chat with people – professionally, of course – and not remain isolated in either the memories of anxious office jobs past. Humorous atmosphere, but with a good mix of specific task and opportunity to make personal connections.
Most importantly, the observations I now have of my work preferences enable me to clarify my career choices: clear to me today, even clearer tomorrow.
Selected Career Opportunities
- Threat Assessment Analyst at Gavin de Becker & Associates (Los Angeles, CA; Remote). Apply on LinkedIn
- Acquisitions Processing Archivist at Stanford University (Stanford, CA). Apply on LinkedIn
Mark Your Calendar!
Librarians Leading Change: Insights and Inspiration — Hosted by ALASC
- Date: Tuesday, October 27, 2020
- Time: 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. (Pacific Time)
- Location: Zoom (don’t forget to register for this event!)
Building Career Opportunities in Grad School — Hosted by SLASC
- Date: Monday, November 16, 2020
- Time: 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. (Pacific Time)
- Location: Zoom