Ancient Military Wisdom Meets the Civilian Job Market – Part 2: Know yourself and you need not fear…

Hello again, well as promised here is part two of my merging of ancient military wisdom with the trials and tribulations of stepping from the armed forces into the opportunity-filled civilian job market. In my last post I looked at the first part of a Sun Tzu quote “If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles”. In this article let’s look at the other half “know yourself…”

What’s the background? UK unemployment is at a 6 year low, vacancies are up, wage growth is low and there are recent surveys that suggest that almost half of employees are unhappy with their jobs and many are planning to move.  So if it’s important to you to get a job that you enjoy then this blog post might help.

Know Yourself

Now some of this might seem like stating the obvious, but my day to day experience of developing people in business tells me that self-awareness and personal insight is a bit like common sense, frequently not that common. So it’s worth talking about.

How do you know yourself? There are 3 broad approaches: personality assessments, deep personal questioning and external feedback. Either one of these on their own has weaknesses. If you can combine all three then there is triangulation of sorts. There is a health warning though, you still need to make your own independent judgement about what this information is telling you.

Let’s look at each of these approaches in isolation.

1.  Personality Questionnaires

Personality Questionnaires are predominantly online tools that ask a host of questions to try and determine your underlying preferences, the concept being that what you prefer to do, you are more likely to do well. It doesn’t mean that you can’t do the stuff you don’t like well, it just takes more effort. There are potentially hundreds of these tests available, some free, some that cost. There are two different types: ipsative and normative. There are type based and trait based questionnaires. With this plethora of choices how do you choose one that works for you? My personal view is find one that has some reasonable reputation behind it. Ideally take an ipsative questionnaire as this can reduce the chances of you unintentionally faking the results. Regarding type and trait based questionnaires, there are lots available. Type based can be useful in team development scenarios however they can have a tendency to “put people in boxes”. If I was going to pay for a questionnaire to help personal insight, I would go for a trait based questionnaire. You can find information on many of the commonly used tools at the BPS Test Centre . Pulling all this together, if you are going to take a questionnaire to help you know yourself you are probably looking to spend a little bit of money, with report prices varying from £30 to over £100.   Also you may need to have someone qualified to feedback the content of the questionnaire to you so that the correct context is put on it. It’s not always necessary but something to consider. Lastly, why not try a few free ones so you have prior knowledge before you experience them during a recruitment process.

2.  Deep Personal Questioning

This is the bit that sounds simple, but isn’t. It’s a case of asking yourself some penetrating questions, taking some time to think about it and writing the answers down. This will help you gain insight into what you actually like doing, what drives you and where you want to be professionally and personally. You can google whole lists of questions and you can watch motivational speakers on YouTube – I can recommend the Tony Robins TED talk, to give you an idea of what to ask yourself. For me the top 3 questions are; What do you enjoy doing the most? What do you enjoy doing at work the most? And what does success look like to you? If you can tie 1 and 2 together your chances of achieving 3 are much, much greater. Oh and by the way, write your answers down, this gives clarity and allows you to review it easily. Yes I did say that twice…

3.  External Feedback

We all have our own perceptions of how good or bad we are at things. Other than performance appraisals, OJARs, SJARs or whatever they are called in your organisation, unless we are really lucky we seldom get truly honest personal feedback from our peers and colleagues. This is essential for those in leadership positions who are seeking to improve and is potentially very powerful for service leavers. There are a number of ways to get this feedback; 360 degree feedback reports, mock interviews with feedback and frank discussions with people you trust to give you a blunt assessment.

Now Fuse It

Now you have the information you need. Fuse it together, question it and question it again, does it feel right. Be honest with yourself, it’s really important that you are. Now combine this with the recent skills audit that you did once you decided to leave the Services. You did do one didn’t you? You should now know yourself a bit better.

You know your enemy, you know yourself, now you no longer need to fear…

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