Get to know yourself
The starting point in finding out what you would like to do in the future is YOU! Your future starts now! Studying prepares you for your future career. Thinking about your future career already starts during your first year at university. Thinking and preparing yourself for your career is an ongoing process in every phase of your study at university (and even after!). Important questions to ask in the process of finding out who you are.
Ultimately, the better you know yourself, the better you will be able to define what career you should pursue. This is also what employers and companies increasingly require. Employers are interested in employees and graduates who know who they are and who make conscious choices.
If you want advice and more guidance with your self-analysis: you can attend one of the workshops or make the tests if you need more assistance, make an appointment with one of the EUR career advisors.
To find the right study or career path, it is important to know who you are in terms of your personality. Knowing yourself will help you make good study choices or decisions regarding your future career. Getting to know yourself is an ongoing process. You can learn from and reflect on all your experiences in order to understand yourself better.
There are many ways to help you get to know yourself. We will only discuss the main assessment methods. For more methods regarding your personality make an appointment with one of the career advisors.
Personality tests are not about answering right or wrong. They are meant to help you find out more about yourself and can help you reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. Being able to critically evaluate or reflect on yourself is something that employer’s value. This is why a recruiter often asks you to mention your weaknesses during an interview. Therefore, knowing who you are also helps you prepare for a job interview!
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) looks at your natural behaviour and your preferences. It is based on Carl Jung’s theories of psychological type,which are assessed on a scale basis.
This test is created by John L. Holland and judges your personality based on interests. After answering a list of questions, you will receive a code combination that is based on your interests. The code combination refers to the first letter of each preference, sorted from most applicable to least. Usually only the first three are important because they suit you best.
To find out how you respond to a new situation, you can take the Big Five test that is created by McCrae and Costa. The outcome of this test can help you choose a suitable career alongside your placement on a scale basis of each trait.
This test will help you develop your teamwork skills in the best way. If your team consists of people with different nationalities/cultures, you will also develop your cross-cultural skills. Remember that teamwork is part of many jobs and organisations.
Check which team role you naturally prefer by taking the Belbin team role test.
Developing skills are becoming increasingly important since your degree alone will not give you access to interesting jobs in (ambitious) companies. So, what can or should you do besides studying hard?
In order to become a successful professional you can develop and enhance your skills:
- Through your studies: in courses, seminars, minors, assignments, internships, or,
- Outside your studies: participating in jobs, networking events, committees, voluntary work, sports, etc.
These activities will help you develop skills, which in turn will contribute to the development of your employability.
The labour market is changing due to digitisation and globalisation and it is much more dynamic. There is a shift going on from lifelong employment (a job with a permanent contract or staying a lifetime with the same employer) to lifelong employability (a job environment where only you are responsible for keeping yourself employed during your whole career). You yourself will become increasingly responsible for acquiring, keeping and consolidating good positions in the labour market.
Employability is a continuous process of learning to get (and stay) prepared for the future and therefore continuously being able to do satisfying jobs.
Critical thinking and doing is mostly about how you judge a situation and then decide to act. Important aspects are effective reasoning, using a systematic way of thinking, looking into different sides of an argument and their claims as well as evidence, connecting several sets of evidence and recognising its broader picture, reflecting on your thinking and actions and your ability to solve problems creatively and innovatively.
Creativity is more than just being able to think outside the box. You have to learn to create new and worthwhile ideas using techniques such as brainstorming and mind mapping. From there you need to be able to continue these ideas and efforts.
In Eurobarometer, a survey filled out by international employers, being able to collaborate was ranked as the most valued skill for new employees. 67% of the graduate recruiters indicated "teamwork" as very important.
Collaboration is about being able to work in a team. This means being able to adapt your contribution and opinion during the work progress so that a solution that works for everybody can be agreed upon. See also the Belbin test and find out which role in a team fits you most.
In today's interconnected and globalised world, organisations are more and more international (see also 'Cross cultural skills'). Therefore, employees need to adapt easily in working in an intercultural environment. It may also mean working with people with a different cultural background, although they have the same nationality as yours.
Communication is about having effective (non) verbal and written skills and being able to listen. It is important to keep up all three. Effective communicating means that you must be able to get across the essence of the information you are providing and make sure that the other person understands (know your audience) or that you yourself understand them correctly.
IT is an inevitable part of every job today and it will only become more important in the future due to further digitisation. For your employability it is important to continuously improve your computing and IT literacy.
As mentioned above the labour market is changing; you are responsible for your future and this requires different skills and a strategy from the graduate who want to be employed. It’s no longer doing as you are told, but paving your own path and choosing your own strategy and direction to find/in finding your own destination. It requires flexibility and adaptability, to take initiative and plot your own course, accountability and responsibility.
There are many activities that will help you develop these skills. Below you will find a list of activities that can inspire you. For more information on how to develop skills see also 'Develop yourself by gaining experience'.
You have to think critically, work together as a team, and communicate clearly to make an (outstanding) contribution to the project or assignment where you need to know how to use IT.
This will mean a new environment, new University, new people and you will have to figure out what works best for you in different situations.
Often you will get a case to solve.
You will experience many (unexpected) situations where you have to think systematically, have a creative approach and keep the broader picture in the back of your mind.
This is an easy way to improve your self-reliance in a social manner. The social aspect is very important when you want to find a job; think of networking during career days or at in-house days.
This is an easy way to meet people from different backgrounds and will help you understand their culture better. Become a buddy of an international student with a different nationality than yours (ESN for example).
Finding out your drives and interests can be very helpful in finding out what Master programme, career, traineeship, company, job might suit you.
Motivations are internal and external factors that stimulate people to be continually interested and committed to a job, study, subject (for example your hobby: collecting post stamps) or to reach a goal (for example a sport you do: getting a higher belt in karate). Motivations for choosing a career or a study can be either intrinsic (internal) or extrinsic (external) or they can be a combination of both.
- Intrinsic motivations include: self-development, choosing something you really like doing, getting the opportunity to use your abilities, being really interested in the topics of your study or doing your work because you enjoy it. These motivations arise from within the individual.
- Extrinsic motivations: you chose a study because it has good perspectives and it offers you job security, a very good salary, good working conditions, status, and prestige. These motivations arise from outside the individual.
Several studies have proven that the presence of intrinsic motivation gives higher satisfaction and performance in study and work.
Interests are situations, behaviours or tasks that naturally draw your attention and your curiosity. Interests are activities and situations you enjoy in your everyday life. This means that your work life, your social situations and your private environment at home can give you, recruiters and employers insight into what interests you.
So how does your daily life look like, what do you like doing, what activities you perform; this says something about your interests.
All the things you do in your daily life say something about what you like doing and it demonstrates your interests. Find out what kind of role you would like your interests to play in your future job or career field.
Knowing what you value is important when planning your life and career. A work value is your driver or motivator for your work.
Dr. Edgar Schein defined 9 career values (source):
- Service/Dedication to a Cause
- Entrepreneurial Creativity
- Technical/Function Competence
- Social Relationships,
Test your own dominant career values here.
Following the previous questions, you may now have a clearer view of your motivations, your interests and which of your personal values influence your job or career choice. However, that is not enough information to clarify what you want! Work also involves the type of practical tasks you have to do, the regulations you will have to apply at work and how you have to execute certain tasks.
Think about these examples when you try to answer these questions:
- Do you like to do research, to really dig into a subject, or
- Do you prefer to help/advise people/organisations and solve their problems, or
- Would you like to have influence and to be the one who determines, defines what’s going to be done in a company/department or organization, or
- Do you like making future plans, policy for a company/organization, or
- Do you like working towards a goal and leading a team to achieve these goals, or
- Do you like to support professionals (legal, HR, ICT) so that they can perform to the best of their ability
You can also think about tasks like writing, advising, organising, presenting, talking, maintaining, studying, guiding, serving or promoting.
The next step is to find out what kind of industry you would like to start your career in. The type of industry could have affect your choice of Master programme, what you need to develop besides your studies and how/when you apply for a job.
Within an industry, there can be big differences between countries and companies. It is therefore also important to find out what kind of culture suits you.
- Glassdoor – inside company information from employees and job applicants
- Magnet.me – discover your career opportunities
- Inside Buzz – recent graduates share their experience at top employers
- Guide to work – overview of relevant information per country
- Career development website - thinking about your career
- Prospects – a careers website for graduates
- Career Test – what suits you best
- Open Colleges - career advice, options and career change ideas
- Compas CarrièreStart – advice for starting your career (in Dutch)
- Career tests - find out which job suits you (in Dutch)
- Intermediair – how to make career choices (in Dutch)
Your qualities determine what you are good at. Qualities can best be explained in terms of your skills, your knowledge and your personal characteristics.
You will broaden your skill set during your studies and after graduation. This can be through work experience, courses, workshops, network events, training or voluntary work. From every new experience, you will learn and develop new skills. If you regularly reflect on these experiences and analyse your skills, it will help you improve yourself and you will get to know yourself better.
It is impossible to master every skill, but remember that your skill development is an ongoing process. Look for opportunities to continue developing your skills and remember that you are never done with learning.
Knowledge is something you build up through life experiences, work experiences, reading, studying and social interaction with others, and again, you are never done with it. You should also remember that knowledge is something you can broaden and improve.
- To identify what job or career to pursue, you can analyse what kind of knowledge you have acquired and wish to use in your future job. You can analyse which topics, subjects and courses really caught your attention. Which courses did you get good grades in? Which study books did you like to read? Which paper, subject or course did you devote more time to because you found it really interesting? This might indicate that you would also prefer this in your job.
Personal characteristics can give you an indication of what you are good at (social, flexible, conscious, persuasive, well organised, responsible, friendly, too many to mention here). These qualities are often difficult to identify, because these are so obvious to you. You feel as though you were born with them. You do not even consider it a quality, because it does not take you any effort to perform or show them. Even so, these are qualities, strengths and you should definitely include them in your self-analysis. These qualities might even be your so-called core qualities.
Once you have a clear idea of who you are, what you want to do and what you are good at, it is time to consider the different aspects of making a solid career or job choice. The decision making process can be visualised as three circles, the first containing your interests, values and motives, the second your skills and knowledge, and the third one your personality. The overlapping part of these three circles constitutes the focus area of your career planning activities.
Now you have found out a lot about yourself it is time to make a plan of action.
Write down what information you need to come to a decision:
- Do you need information about specific branches, companies, organisations?
- Do you need information about the content of specific positions?
- Would you like to talk to a professional who works in your desired field?
- Do you need to know how to write a successful application letter?
- Do you need to know what it means to study abroad?
- Do you want to develop specific skills?
- Do you need to know more about a job application process?
- Do you want to learn about networking?
- Do you need to know what the Dutch working culture is like?
- Do you need to see a career advisor?
The answers to these questions you’ll find with the help of the following pages: