Understanding Your Personal Traits

Each person has a unique personality that he or she brings to the job search process. Gaining a better understanding of your personal traits can help you evaluate job and career choices. Identifying these traits and then finding employment that allows you to draw on at least some of them can create a rewarding and fulfilling work experience. If potential employment doesn't allow you to use these preferred traits, it is important to decide whether you can find other ways to express them or whether you would be better off not considering this type of job. Interests and hobbies pursued outside of work hours can be one way to use personal traits you don't have an opportunity to draw on in your work. For example, if you consider yourself an outgoing person and the kinds of jobs you are examining allow little contact with other people, you may be able to achieve the level of interaction that is comfortable for you outside of your work setting. If such a compromise seems impractical or otherwise unsatisfactory, you probably should explore only jobs that pro-vide the interaction you want and need on the job.

Many young adults who are not very confident about their attractiveness to employers will downplay their need for income. They will say, "Money is not all that important if I love my work." But if you begin to document exactly what you need for housing, transportation, insurance, clothing, food, and utilities, you will begin to understand that some jobs cannot meet your financial needs and it doesn't matter how wonderful the job is. If you have to worry each payday about bills and other financial obligations, you won't be very effective on the job. Begin now to be honest with yourself about your needs.

Inventorying Your Personal Traits. Begin the self-assessment process by creating an inventory of your personal traits. Using the list available on the internet, decide which of these personal traits describe you.

Focusing on Selected Personal Traits. Of all the traits you identified from the list available on the internet, select the ten you believe most accurately describe you. If you are having a difficult time deciding, think about which words people who know you well would use to describe you. Keep track of these ten traits.

Considering Your Personal Traits in the Job Search Process. As you begin exploring jobs and careers, watch for matches between your personal traits and the job descriptions you read. Some jobs will require many personal traits you know you possess, and others will not seem to match those traits.

A freelance writer's work, for example, requires self- dicipline, motivation, curiosity, and observation. Authors usually work alone, with limited opportunities to interact with others. A corporate trainer, on the other hand, must interact regularly with staff or clients to carry out training programs. Corporate trouble-shooters need strong interpersonal and verbal skills, imagination, and a good sense of humor. They must enjoy being up in front of groups and must become skilled at presenting information using a variety of media.

Your ability to respond to changing conditions, your decision-making ability, productivity, creativity, and verbal skills all have a bearing on your success in and enjoyment of your work life. To better guarantee success, be sure to take the time needed to understand these traits in yourself.

Using a Cost-of-living Index. If you are chinking about trying to get a job in a geographic region other than the one where you now live, understanding differences in the cost of living will help you come to a more informed decision about making a move. By using a cost-of-living index, you can compare salaries offered and the cost of living in different locations with what you know about the salaries offered and the cost of living in your present location.

Many variables are used to calculate the cost-of-living index. Often included are housing, groceries, utilities, transportation, health care, cloth-ing, and entertainment expenses. Right now you do not need to worry about the details associated with calculating a given index. The main purpose of this exercise is to help you understand that pay ranges for entry-level positions may not vary greatly, but the cost of living in different locations can vary tremendously.

If you lived in Cleveland, Ohio, for example, and you were interested in working as a photojournalist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, you would earn just over $500 per week to start ($26,643 annually). But lets say you're also thinking about moving to either New York, Los Angeles, or Minneapolis. You know you can live on $26,643 in Cleveland, but you want to be able to equal that salary in the other locations you're considering. How much will you have to earn in those locations to do this? Figuring the cost of living for each city will show you.

Let's walk through this example. In any cost-of-living index, the number 100 represents the national average cost of living, and each city is assigned an index number based on current prices in that city for the items included in the index (housing, food, and so forth). In the index we used, New York was assigned the number 213.3, Los Angeles was assigned 124.6, Minneapolis was assigned 104.6, and the index for Cleveland was 114.3. In other words, it costs almost twice as much to live in New York as it does in Cleveland. We can set up a table to deter-mine exactly how much you would have to earn in each of these cities to have the same buying power that you have in Cleveland.

You would have to earn $49,720 in New York, $29,044 in Los Angeles, and $24,382 in Minneapolis to match the buying power of $26,643 in Cleveland.

If you would like to determine whether it's financially worthwile to make any of these moves, one more piece of information is needed: the salaries of photojournalists in these other cities. The Newspaper Guild reports the following minimum salary information for reporters and photographers as of April 1, 2000:

If you moved to New York City and secured employment at the New York Times, you would be able to main-tain a lifestyle similar to the one you led in Cleveland; in fact, you would even be able to enhance your lifestyle given the increase in buying power. The same would not be true for a move to Los Angeles or Minneapolis. You would decrease your buying power given the rate of pay and cost of living in these cities.

You can work through a similar exercise for any type of job you are considering and for many locations when current salary information is available. It will be worth your time to undertake this analysis if you are seriously considering a relocation. By doing so you will be able to make an informed choice.
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