by Dr. Linda Scratchley
Before you begin your graduate program, it is useful to assess your career goals. You will
gain more from your graduate training if you have some idea of your desired outcome,
that is, what career path you want to pursue.
Deciding what type of work you want to pursue requires knowledge and understanding of
your interests, your values, what motivates you, and the skills you enjoy using the most.
Ideally, you want a career that gives you a sense of purpose, expresses your talents and
passions, and is consistent with your values.
Below are a series of exercises designed to increase your self-awareness. Complete these
exercises to assess your unique interests, preferences, and experiences.
Pride Exercise (modified from Schiebelbein, 2001)
The "Pride Exercise" analyzes past accomplishments to provide you with insight
regarding your skills and knowledge. The nice thing about working from
accomplishments or a sense of pride is that it not only focuses on your strengths, but also
clarifies the things that excite you.
Accomplishment Activities Skills and Source of
1. Identify things that you have done in your life that are a source of real pride for you.
Pick three to ten examples where you were a significant actor and where you truly
enjoyed yourself in the process, and list these in the "Accomplishments" column. You do
not have to limit yourself to work - or school - related achievements; also consider
accomplishments from your volunteer and extracurricular activities and your personal
2. In the "Activities" column, list the things that you did that led to the accomplishment.
3. In the "Skills and Knowledge" column, list the skills that you had to use or develop in
order to complete the activities described in the "Activities" column. This third column
provides an inventory of your skills.
4. Take particular note of the skills used in more than one of your accomplishments.
These represent your strengths.
5. Also take note of the skills and knowledge that you enjoy using the most and that you
would like to use in your future work.
6. Finally, reflect upon what excited you about the accomplishments you have listed?
Your sources of excitement give you insight into your interests and values. Make notes
about the interests and values that are reflected in your accomplishments.
7. It is sometimes useful to verify your self-understanding with others who know you
well. Share the strengths, interests and values that you have identified, and ask your
friends and relatives, "Do you think these apply to me?" You can also expand your list of
strengths by asking these people what they would identify as your particular talents.
Career on a Napkin
"Career on a Napkin" is an activity that helps you to distinguish between the kinds of
tasks that are worthwhile for you to build a career around and the kinds of tasks that are
not worthwhile for you to pursue.
1. Consider your participation in undergraduate education, previous jobs, sports teams,
community work, and etc., and make a list of all of the tasks that you have undertaken in
2. Plot each task in the appropriate quadrant.
The tasks that you neither like nor do well should probably be avoided to the
The tasks that you dislike but are good at can be a source of fruitless distraction. It
is easy to get enticed into doing things that you are good at, but if they do not
provide enjoyment, they will lead you down a dead end road. For example, if you
accept a job that is heavily loaded with tasks that you dislike but for which you
have a talent, you may be successful, but you are unlikely to feel fulfilled by the
The tasks that you enjoy but are for which you are not particularly skilled suggest
learning needs. These are the tasks around which you may wish to seek further
training and practice.
Finally, the tasks that you both like and do well are likely to be a source of real
contentment and joy. These tasks will provide a focus for your career choices; you
will want to look for career options that emphasize these kinds of tasks.
1. Summarize the insights from the self-awareness phase into a series of work-related
preferences that reflect what you want from your work. Work-related preferences
typically reflect the kinds of tasks you want to do, the kinds or working conditions you
want to operate under, the location in which you want to work, and the tangible and
intangible benefits that you want to receive from your job.
2. Rank order these preferences from most important to least important. This will assist
you in future decision-making activities.
Desired Activities Desired Working Desired Location Benefits – Tangible
Conditions and Intangible
Activities: Teaching, research, training, learning new things, solving problems,
communicating in writing or in person, entrepreneurial, leadership, management, travel,
media contact, entertaining, financial
Working Conditions: independent versus group, structured versus open-ended, outdoor
versus indoor, classroom, office, or laboratory environment, one site versus multiple
settings, focused activity versus multi-tasking.
Location: university, college, medical, government, private sector, legal, industry,
entertainment, or business setting; rural, city, or small town locale; Canada versus
Benefits: good income, professional status, opportunity to make a social contribution,
opportunity to work for change in law, policy, or governmental operations, environmental
contribution, opportunity to help others, travel, cross-cultural contact, socializing.
Visit the UBC Career Services online resources directory of self-assessment tools and
inventories to extend your self-assessment activities.