For your career to progress, you need to have self-awareness, which means understanding and accepting your strengths and weaknesses. However, even if you are aware of these things about yourself, you might have trouble believing in yourself. For example, you might know that you are good at communicating in front of others, but still feel nervous when speaking to large groups. If this sounds like you, read on to learn more about the importance of self-awareness in your career and how to increase it within yourself.
Know your personality type
Personality type is a term used to describe our characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. Each personality type comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses, as well as general preferences for environments, careers and relationships. Being self-aware can help you know yourself better and work on your potential blind spots before they hold you back. Find out what your personality type is by taking a quiz such as Myers–Briggs or DISC (learn more about these different types). Then consider how certain aspects of your life—including career path—might be influenced by it; go back to step one if necessary.
Change your mindset
When you feel good about yourself, it’s more likely that you’ll go out there and seize opportunities that can help advance your career. Try to think of self-awareness as a positive trait—even if others might not share your viewpoint at first. It’s one thing to say you are self-aware, but an entirely different situation if your actions demonstrate it. Be mindful of how people react to what you say and do—that will tell you a lot about how they see you.
You’re surrounded by people that can help you
The biggest thing you can do to improve your self-awareness is to talk about your feelings. No, that doesn’t mean call up a co-worker and say, I’m so sad! Why are we doing such hard work? Can I have a raise? It means seeking out people that you trust—that care about you—and opening up when appropriate. You should be able to tell them how you feel without fear of judgment or retaliation. If you don’t feel comfortable talking with your boss or coworkers, find someone outside of work who will listen. You may also want to try online counseling sites like Talk space or Better Help; they make it easy for you to connect with a therapist from anywhere at any time (just make sure they specialize in career issues). Whatever method(s) you choose, it’s important that someone outside of your normal circle has an idea what’s going on inside your head. Otherwise, it’s impossible for them to help support you through tough times or give constructive feedback when necessary.
Consider reaching out to a career coach or working with an executive coach to help you zero in on your strengths and weaknesses. Before you can know where you need to grow, it’s important to know what you’re great at—and knowing that comes from honest feedback.
Work hard, not always smart
You hear people say it all the time: Work smarter, not harder. You’ve heard it said so many times that you probably just roll your eyes at it now. But hear me out: This cliché has some real validity. When you’re young and at work, you’re still developing as a professional; there are a lot of things you can do better as time goes on. That doesn’t mean that your performance is necessarily weak or subpar—in fact, quite likely, even if you’re pretty green around these parts, you’ve got strengths that are more than adequate for most situations (and if not, we’ll get to them). But what matters most is that those strengths be aligned with your company’s goals. If they aren’t and someone else’s are?
In a perfect world, we would all have mentors and role models who could guide us through every professional situation. But if you’re new to your field, you might not have anyone to turn to for guidance. That’s where self-awareness comes into play: You have to learn how to read people, understand different personality types and figure out what makes other people tick. If you pay attention to these things around you—and use that information as a template for future encounters—you can become a better mentor figure yourself (no PhD required).
Stay calm and enjoy the ride
Chances are, if you’re reading an advice column, you’re not exactly psyched about your current situation. And that’s totally understandable. When struggling with something at work or school, remember to breathe deeply and to remain calm.