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Assess Yourself Before Job Hunting

If you’re a 50+ job seeker, you might be tempted to rush into action, frantically answering job ads or posting your resume online. Don’t. Your job search has a better chance of succeeding if you step back and assess yourself first.

What’s in It for You?

There are many reasons to do a self-assessment. Here are four:

Understanding what you can do and like to do helps you target jobs and employers.

Self-assessment alerts you to skills that need brushing up.

Knowing your strengths will help you answer questions calmly and confidently in job interviews.

For career changers, assessments can point to other fields where you can put your skills to work.

What to Assess and How:

Assessments can be grouped into several broad categories:

Skills—your ability to perform a task or to carry out a responsibility. You can either write down your skills yourself or check them off from a list. Skill assessments let you easily match your skills with the jobs that require them. Try the free Skills Profiler on Career InfoNet.

Interests—topics or fields you that interest you or in which you like to participate. Interest inventories measure the fit between particular interests and specific jobs. Two reliable assessments are the Campbell Interest and Skill Survey and John Holland’s Self-Directed Search. Both are available online for a fee.

Personality—how you process information, make decisions, and interact with others. For work purposes, one commonly used personality measure is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. To take the full MBTI, you have to work with a certified counselor.

Work values and preferences—what you think is most important or worthwhile in a job. Values assessments help you decide the type of work environment you prefer.

Explore Assessment Tools

Jot down notes about yourself. Think about what you have to give the world. Ask friends, coworkers, and family members for their feedback. Then pick the tools that make the most sense to you.

Career books and Web sites for the mature job seeker are likely to include lists of skills and job descriptions to help you see how your skills fit. The “Over-40 Job Search Guide,” by Gail Geary, has a helpful chapter on how to transfer your skills to a new job or field.

Online career assessments let you match your skills with different occupations. Some tests are free; others charge for more personalized service. For links to a variety of online assessment tools, see The Riley Guide and the Job Hunter’s Bible (look under Counseling). Also take a look at reviews of more than 30 online assessments at 

Career professionals administer and interpret skills-assessment tests. Most who work in this field call themselves either career counselors or career coaches. See the AARP tip sheet titled “Do Need a Career Coach or Counselor?”

AARP Foundation WorkSearch offers interest, ability, and skills assessments through the 73 offices of the Senior Community Service Employment Program.  

Last Word: Know What You’re Getting

Before taking any assessment, find out the following: whether or not you’ll have to pay for the assessment, how much it costs, and what the fee covers. Will you get an automated report? Information on how to interpret the results? A session with a counselor? Make sure you’re clear on these issues up front.


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