Self-assessment covers a lot of territory. Some of it is about your strengths and accomplishments. Other aspects are more personal, centering on what makes you happy. All of it is important when defining a career path after graduate school.


Consider your research, teaching, work or other activities. Distill key skills and abilities. You want to assess what gives you satisfaction or pride, and what motivates you.

Make a list.

Start by making a list of your accomplishments. Ask yourself:

  • What skills were used?
  • Which experiences and abilities drove your performance?
  • How do you feel about them — pride, satisfaction, or something else?


If you’ve been in academia for a while, it can be difficult to see how your skills apply outside — but they do. Research skills you take for granted are highly valued in nonprofit, government and corporate environments throughout the world. Organizations also highly value an ability to:

  • Synthesize large amounts of information
  • Present thoughts and arguments in writing
  • Teach others, like you did in the classroom
  • Present at conferences or within a department

What are my transferable skills?

Most graduate students minimize their “transferable” skills, those portable from one work environment to another. Identifying these is the first step in looking at your transition outside of the academy. This is just a partial list of skills to consider:

Administering Analyzing   Coaching
Coordinating  Creating Designing  
Editing Evaluating Facilitating
Influencing Interpreting Investigating
Leading   Managing Motivating
Negotiating Organizing   Planning
Problem-solving Questioning Researching
Speaking Supervising Synthesizing
Teaching Writing  


Interests, simply, are things you enjoy. These can be part of your current work or outside interests.

  • Do you enjoy working with people, data, or things?
  • What types of mental and physical activities are most interesting to you?
  • What are your hobbies and social activities.

Most who enjoy their work have inherent interest in the activities they perform. 


Values are a prime driver of job satisfaction. They are very personal, and what defines satisfaction for you may be completely different for others. Do you value creativity, risk-taking, adventure, personal growth, status, recognition, integrity, accountability, independence, authority, power, control, competing, teamwork or belonging? 

Needs & Preferences

What are your basic requirements in a position? You may not find one that matches 100%, but you can identify opportunities that are more of a match by thinking critically about your needs.  

  • Do you need a certain salary to meet your expenses and lifestyle?
  • Are you flexible geographically or are you targeting a specific city or region?
  • Can you travel as part of your work?
  • How about working in an office 8-10 hours a day?
  • Do you need a flexible work schedule?
  • Do you prefer a small organization?
  • How about working as a member of a team?
  • Do you care what kind of workspace you have?
  • Does the mission of the organization have to fit your personal values?
  • What are your needs and preferences with regard to your work?


Personality and "fit" go hand-in-hand. There are ways to determine how your personality influences your work-style preferences, including assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which we offer for a discounted rate.