One of the most important elements of a successful career is self awareness. But what does it mean to be self aware? And why it is so important for your career? Here are our tips on how to cultivate self awareness throughout your life.

Why is self awareness important?

To be self aware is to have an anchor that will keep you on a steady path throughout your life. When you are self aware, you will not doubt yourself even in the face of negativity or criticism, because you’ll know your strengths and development areas. When you are self aware, you will know which careers and roles you’ll thrive in and which ones you should avoid.

What exactly does it mean to be self aware?

Self awareness is generally defined as the “conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings”.

Building upon this core definition, in the context of your career, we have developed a framework for discovering your ideal career.

Your ideal career is at the intersection of the following four dimensions:

  • Interests: What do I enjoy doing?
  • Personality: What are my personal qualities?
  • Skills: What am I good at?
  • Values: What is important to me?

Let’s look at each more closely in the context of our ideal careers.

Skills: What am I good at?

The World Economic Forum has compiled these top ten skills required in the workplace by 2020.

Activity: On a sheet of paper, list each skill. Next to each skill, write out a description of how you have demonstrated this skill in your professional or personal life. If you don’t have experience with the skill, worry not! Make note of it and find opportunities to develop that particular skill through volunteer or work experience.

Interests: What do I enjoy doing?

This one can be tricky, but we have a few questions to get you exploring. When it comes to interests, remember, it’s what you spend your time doing that matters, not what you intend doing.

Activity: Relax, sit back on the couch and give honest answers to these questions about yourself.

  • When you read the news, what topics do you usually read?
  • If you could teach a course on anything, what topics would you teach?
  • What do you usually do on a Sunday afternoon?
  • If you could switch careers with someone, with whom would it be?
  • If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with your time?

Personality: What are my personal qualities?

To determine what career type is most suited to your personality, we have some help from professionals. The Holland Occupational Themes is a theory of personality that focuses on career and vocational choice. It has proven extremely useful in the context of a career search.

Activity: Fill out the Holland Occupational Themes personality questionnaire honestly and to the best of your ability.

Values: What is important to me?

Values are your guiding light, your anchor as your navigate your life and specifically your career throughout your life. It is important to remember that your values will change as you go through life, so check in with yourself every few months to determine what career is best aligned with your values.

Activity: Relax, sit back and honestly answer the following questions:

  • What’s more important to me: getting it done quickly or getting it done right?
  • Would I work at a tobacco company? Or a gun manufacturing company?
  • Do I prefer a lot of autonomy or do I prefer guidance from my boss?
  • Do I like to work in a team or mostly by myself?
  • Do I want to travel for work?
  • Do I want my colleagues to also be my friends?
  • Will I accept a lower salary if everything else in the job offer fits my needs?
  • What’s more important to me: becoming an expert in one area or getting experience in different areas?

And for some parting advice

You now have a basic framework for building your self awareness in the context of your ideal career. But before you go, some important advice.

  • You will change throughout your life. Embrace it.
  • Self exploration is a lifelong activity, so check in with yourself every few months.
  • There is no such thing as a perfect job, there is only an ideal job.
  • Everything involves sacrifice, so figure out what you’re willing to give up for your career.