University graduates are being encouraged now, more than ever, to take stock of their experiences, skills, and interests before seeking employment. Career guides like “You Majored in What?” and “What Color is Your Parachute?” encourage young adults to map out their past employment, to describe their strengths and skills, and to pursue jobs outside of the bounds of their university degree.
But is investing in this time-consuming self-reflective process worthwhile?
As a recent university graduate with a degree in the under-funded field of Biology, I can attest to the value of a self-reflective career guide. I recently completed the exercises outlined in the career guide “You Majored in What?” by Katharine Brooks. This guide, like many others, takes the reader through a series of exercises that encourage you to take a look at your accomplishments outside of the classroom. In doing so, you gain a better understanding of the skills that you have developed from extra-curricular activities, volunteering, and past employment.
The Value of Self-Reflection
There is great value to applying self-reflection to your job search. By mapping out your experiences you start to see where your interests lie and what strengths (and weaknesses) you possess. You’ll learn where the hands-on experiences that you’ve had in volunteer and job responsibilities can lead you, while gaining a better understanding of yourself as a worker.
Using Self-Reflection in Your Job Search
For me, a thorough look into my background has strengthened my job interview technique. Now, when a recruiter asks for a story that demonstrates my ability to [insert somewhat abstract job-related skill here], I have a better idea of where I might have developed that skill-set. For example, based on my international experience from work and study abroad programs, I know that I’m skilled at adaptation and time management. If asked for an example of adaptation, I can describe a number of experiences where I had to adapt to new cultures, transportation, or even coursework requirements.
This understanding of my skills has also strengthen my resume. Taking time to identify my past activities helped me to identify responsibilities related to the skills that a recruiter is looking for. I’ve identified the areas outside of the field of Biology that interest me, and the skills that I possess for these types of jobs.
See Past the Boundaries of Your Degree
As with any guidebook, you have the opportunity to delve as deeply as you desire; from considering all of your high school club memberships, to taking a look the learning outcomes from each of your university courses. These reflections will be of great use when you proceed in your job search because they’ll help you to realize the depths of your skill-set. You’ll learn to see past the perceived boundaries of your degree.
There is a value to self-reflection based career guides, especially for individuals who did not take a technical course that leads to a specific job. Open your mind to new possibilities and start finding value in your experiences.