Tips for Grads: Assessing yourself

By Olivia Gacka, PhD Student

When was the last time you took an honest assessment of yourself? I’m not talking about a Buzzfeed personality quiz that tells you what kind of plant you are (but if I were…I got bonsai tree). I’m talking about assessments where you can learn more about yourself, your strengths, things you need to work on, what sort of environment you want to be working in, etc.

As UW-Madison graduate students, we all have access to a free Imagine PhD (for Humanities and Social Sciences) or myIDP account (for Biological and Physical Sciences). You’ve heard us talk about an Individual Development Plan (IDP) before, but let’s take a second and look at some of the assessments we use, through these websites, to build those IDPs. These assessments are meant to help you better understand yourself, where you are, where you want to go, and what you need to do to get there:

  • Interests Assessment: A great way to explore what sorts of things you want to be doing in a job- do you want to be mentoring people or left alone all day? Analyzing data or exploring creative concepts? From there, you’ll be given examples of the job families that mesh best with your interests, and those that clash with them. For me, it was a great way to find out what I’m apparently not at all interested in doing, which I don’t think I would have realized otherwise. It’s a real eye opener.
  • Skills Assessment: This one lets you identify skills you know you’re good at and skills you have less or no experience with, and then charts your answers against commonly found skills in job families you’re interested in. It’s a great way either to find out what you need to work on to prepare yourself for the job you want, or to discover there may be another job you’d be perfect for that you hadn’t thought about.
  • Values Assessment: This is the one I feel like most graduate students don’t give enough thought towards. Certainly, our number one priority when trying to get hired is getting hired at all, and getting hired somewhere that will pay us the amount of money we want to be making. Thinking about whether the place you’re interviewing with reflects your values almost sounds like a luxury! But I can speak from experience. When I thought it wasn’t important that I love what I was doing as long as I had a “good job”, that was the year I switched jobs four times. It’s worth it to take the assessment and find out what’s most important to you for the sake of your happiness, job performance, and overall success.

Tips for Grads is a professional and academic advice column written by graduate students for graduate students at UW­–Madison. It is published in the student newsletter, GradConnections Weekly.