Identifying your strengths and weaknesses through constructive criticism.

The Self-Assessment

Self-assessment is a process of careful reflection, discovery, and analysis in order to articulate your strengths, weaknesses, interests, skills, abilities, values, personality, and goals.

Performing a self-assessment at the beginning of your career exploration is important for many reasons. A thorough self-assessment will help you focus your job search and preparation on those positions that hold the most appeal to you and are the best match for your skills. Self-assessment identifies the areas about which you can be confident in your abilities and the areas where you might want to work on improvement. Maybe more important, self-assessment helps you articulate your goals and aspirations, so you know what you’re working towards both in the long- and short-term.

Seeking Feedback From Others

The first step in your self-assessment is to seek feedback in the form of constructive criticism from people you know and trust.

Why Feedback?

While in everyday life image may not be reality, in the job market applicants are often judged on their presentation. The image you project to a potential employer often makes up a great deal of the information he or she will consider about you. It’s important to get a good sense of how you are perceived by others so that you can emphasize your strengths, improve and minimize your weaknesses, and take control of your image. This is where feedback comes in: in order for you to know how others see you, and in order for you to know what you might want to adjust, you need to ask for constructive criticism.

Constructive Criticism

It’s often difficult to know how we really look to others when we’re out in the world. All of us need help and a variety of opinions when determining how we are seen by the people in our lives. Those who can best help us see ourselves objectively are the people with whom we interact most. In your assignment for this lesson, you will be asking a variety of people you know for their honest opinions of both your strengths and weaknesses. The goal of this exercise is to get an objective and accurate understanding of how you present yourself to the world.

The kind of feedback you will seek is called constructive criticism. The purpose of constructive criticism is not to make you feel bad or to focus on your flaws, but to celebrate your assets and identify those areas you might want to improve or change.

Knowing both your strengths and weaknesses can be a valuable tool for improvement. While it’s always nice to hear what people think of as our strengths, it can be equally challenging to hear what people think of as our weaknesses. Focus on using this information to your advantage: analyze each person’s opinion, then take a good look to see how you can improve on the areas they’ve mentioned. Try to avoid becoming defensive when someone offers his or her honest opinion, even if it differs from your own. Remember that this is a self-enrichment exercise—keeping open and available to constructive criticism can really help you develop and mature as an individual.

Listening to constructive criticism will help you become more self-aware and also gives you the tools to be in control of your image. Getting feedback from others can also help you learn more about your attitudes and behaviors. The responses you receive may solidify your own thoughts or they might prompt you to reassess your opinions and look more closely at areas that could use some improvement.

Choosing Your Participants

When you want to find out how an outfit looks on you, you might first start by looking in the mirror and then ask a friend or family member for their opinion. The opinions you receive may differ from your own and differ from each other—in many ways that’s what makes them so valuable. In themselves, opinions are neither right nor wrong. Each person’s opinion is informed by his or her interests, values, tastes, personal experience, and relationship with you.

When you’re thinking of people to ask for constructive criticism, remember that you want a range of opinions from people involved in different aspects of your life. Ideally, some people you ask will know you very well, like family members or close friends, and others will be familiar with you, but not intimate. Refer to your network pyramid: choose people from levels two, three, and four to get a good variety of opinions.

Remember that you are asking these people for their help and their time. Before asking someone for an opinion, take some time to think about how you will present yourself when you ask. If you are just coming back from the gym and haven’t showered yet, this might have an effect on how you are perceived, and it also might not be the best example of how you would present yourself to a potential employer. Take the time to present yourself in a realistic light so that the person you’re asking for help can offer feedback that is useful and relevant.

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