Chapter 1: Discover Your Career Self


Are you a student just starting out in a program and wondering if this is the right fit for you? Are you completing a placement and trying to identify what areas of the field you are most interested in? Are you a job seeker who is struggling to understand why you don’t enjoy the career you’ve been doing for years? Have you been laid off and now you’re using this opportunity as a second chance to pursue something new?

Wherever you are in your employment and career journey, the path always starts with YOU. The first step to reaching your ultimate success and job satisfaction begins with a process of self-discovery. By taking the time to explore your own interests, values, skills, work preferences, and accomplishments, you will not only become more self-aware and self-assured in your career decision making, but you will also be able to articulate your strengths to employers in the future. This is often easier said than done, as it is not something we’re commonly asked to think about. Consider the definitions of the following concepts and reflect on the corresponding questions and strategies. It may be a good idea to write down some of your thoughts.

Scroll down to read the concepts below or click on one of the following titles to read a specific concept:


Throughout your varied life experiences, you have the opportunity to identify and explore your likes and dislikes. You learn about yourself by evaluating patterns of what captures your attention and awakens your curiosities – these become your interests. Ask yourself:

  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • What courses or school subjects have interested you the most?
  • What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
  • What jobs have you enjoyed the most and why?

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From an early age, you develop ideas from your family, culture, education, religion, and society as to what you believe is right and wrong and it is these beliefs that often dictate your behaviours. While many of these ideas will change over time, many of them stay with you, and will become your personal reference as you go through life; these are your values. Our work values are directly correlated to our job satisfaction. Consider the following work values:

  • Achievement
    • Do you enjoy using your strongest abilities to accomplish your tasks?
    • Do you like being challenged and doing interesting work?
    • Do you like learning and gaining new skills?
  • Independence
    • Do you enjoy working on your own and making decisions?
    • Do you enjoy finding new ways to do things and being creative?
  • Recognition
    • Is it important for you to advance and have opportunities for leadership positions?
    • Do you desire to direct and influence those around you?
    • Is it important for you to have a prestigious job?
  • Relationships
    • Do you need to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly environment?
    • Do you want to work with diverse people of many cultures and backgrounds?
    • Do you feel a need to help and care for other people?
  • Support
    • Is it important for you to have the support of your boss to get your job done?
    • Do you feel more effective when you have access to the right tools, training, and resources needed to do your job?
  • Working Conditions
    • Are job security and good working conditions a priority for you?
    • What kind of work space do you prefer?
    • How important is it for you to be paid well and have good benefits?
    • Do you need variety in your daily work tasks?

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Over the course of your life span, you will develop many different skills and abilities. Before diving headfirst into your job search, you will want to know what skills you have and how to describe them. This will allow you to know exactly what you have to offer and will help you communicate it to employers in interviews while networking, and through your resume, cover letter, and other job search tools. Some of these skills you will have learned from navigating everyday life situations and some will be learned more purposefully through education, training, work, and volunteer experiences. There are two main types of skills that you should be able to identify:

  1. Technical or Industry Specific Skills (Hard Skills): These skills are specific to your industry and the type of jobs to which you are applying. For example, administrative assistants require the knowledge of how to use Microsoft Office software to prepare and format business documents, such as correspondence, reports, statements, forms, presentations, applications, etc.
    • Identify the Industry Specific Skills you have learned in college by reviewing the Learning Outcomes section on your program’s website, as well as your course descriptions.
    • Make a list of the tasks that were required in your previous jobs and list the skills that were associated with them.
  2. Essential Employability or Transferrable Skills (Soft Skills): These skills are more general and considered essential to succeed in any job or industry. You develop and utilize these skills through a variety of experiences and everyday tasks. For example, these could include verbal and written communication, interpersonal, problem solving, and time management skills.
    • Identify these skills by thinking of tasks and responsibilities you performed effectively in your jobs, volunteering, school projects, and extra-curricular activities, and then identify what skills you used to perform them.
    • Review the resources listed below for descriptions and examples of essential skills sought by employers

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Before writing your resume, cover letter, and preparing for interviews, it is helpful to spend some time identifying examples of your past achievements. Typically, these are characterized by occasions where you recognized a problem or a situation that could have been improved, you acted or responded to it, and it resulted in recognition or a positive outcome. Not only do accomplishments provide you with an opportunity to demonstrate your skills, but they also give you the chance to showcase your achievements, and you should be proud because you’ve worked hard for them!

Accomplishment statements are highly favoured by employers because they provide tangible evidence as to what you can bring to the workplace and substantiate the skills or competencies you present on your resume. Accomplishment statements also demonstrate why you would be the best candidate for the position and can be used by employers to help differentiate you when compared to other applicants who have may have had similar experiences. To have the most impact, accomplishment statements should:

  • Be relevant to the employer and the position.
  • Make a connection with the job requirements, and help an employer to visualize you making
    similar contributions to their organization.
  • Incorporate metrics, such as quantifiable figures, numbers, statistics, percentages, or dollar
    amounts when relevant; for example: “Created a marketing campaign that increased product
    sales by 30% in three months.”
  • Use strong action verbs; for example: “completed,” “raised,” “achieved,” “delivered,” etc.

Start by brainstorming the tasks and activities you performed well from your past or current experience. When thinking about each experience, ask yourself the following question: How was my performance measured in this position and what value did I bring to this workplace or organization?

It can be helpful to list your experiences to date (work, volunteer, education, academic projects, assignments, and presentations) and identify achievements for each of these. Think of significant contributions, individual or group projects, recognition received from a formal performance review, or informally from coworkers, team members, customers, professors, and supervisors. Accomplishments can also include awards or any contributions you made that had a positive impact on your workplace. Refer to Chapter 2 to see a more detailed explanation of how to write Accomplishment Statements.

Other Assessment Methods

We recognize that it can be particularly difficult for you to identify some of your own personal strengths. That being said, there are a number of other methods of assessment you can use in order to assist you with this. For example:

  • Peer Assessments: Ask those who are closest to you, such as your friends, family, classmates, and coworkers to point out what they think your strengths are.
  • Online Assessments: Consider using integrated online tools such as Career Cruising or Type Focus to assess personality, interests, values, and skills to help you better understand yourself and identify matching careers. Contact your college or community employment agencies to acquire free access to complete these assessments.
  • Formal Assessments: Contact the Counselling department to inquire about completing formal career assessments that may provide more concrete insights

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Contact Counselling Services for more information regarding formal assessments.


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Be the Boss of Your Career: A Complete Guide for Students & Grads Copyright © 2021 by Lindsay Bortot and Employment Support Centre, Algonquin College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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