What’s Up with Self Awareness?

Dolly Parton once said “Find out who you are and do it on purpose”.

It’s possible, depending on your age, that you don’t know who Dolly Parton is, but believe me, she is a very wise woman indeed and has made a fortune being herself while people all over the world love her for it. I’m not suggesting you open your own theme park, wear outrageously large wigs, or start writing classic country tunes, but figuring out what makes you tick and what you are good at, is as important for your future career as it is for your personal life.

Many books have been written on this subject and there are plenty of assessments out there that can help you develop insights about your own personality, how you make decisions, solve problems, whether you work best alone or as part of a team and whether you need structure and routine, or lots of change and minimal defined boundaries. I’ve made a list of a few resources at the end of this article.

You might think that taking any job early in your career is the sensible thing to do, and if it’s work experience of any kind you need to get to where you are going, maybe you are right. But before you jump at the first opportunity offered, try to do some serious thinking about whether this represents a good fit for you personally.

When I graduated I thought that working in a large blue chip corporation, just like my Dad, was the thing that I should do with my career. Lots of job security, a very competitive salary, a defined career path and a well known brand on my resume. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I hate hierarchy and overly structured environments, I felt lost in the huge organization and my love of change meant I was bored after 12 months and looking for something new.

My next role was in an entirely open plan office. I adored the fast pace of the organization which was smaller and seemingly constantly in flux, but I found that I was going home every night mentally drained because of all the social interaction that an open plan environment inevitably requires. It was then I started to realize that, despite my outgoing personality, I am an introvert who needs regular time away from people to recharge. For the first few years of my career I lacked any kind of self awareness and so my message to you is, try to start developing an understanding of yourself early, before, like me, you make these mistakes. You have to spend a long time at work and your future success will hinge on how happy and productive you can be there.

Take a look at some of these resources (some free, others easily available online):