By Kathleen Brady

Typically job seekers start their search in the middle by drafting a resume, simply listing all their experiences in reverse chronological order. But a resume needs to be more than just a laundry list of your education, employers and job titles. A resume is a sales document; it is your marketing brochure. To ensure you design an effective one you have to know what you have to sell AND you have to understand whom your target audience is and what they are willing to buy.

To determine what value you have to offer employers, you must invest time to:
  • Identify your values, skills and abilities
  • Recognize your special knowledge
  • Evaluate your experiences
  • List your accomplishments
  • Acknowledge your educational level
  • Recognize your preferred work styles
  • Consider your temperament
  • Examine your interests
  • Evaluate your motivations
  • Set short-term and long-term goals
The good news: there are many self-assessment tools designed to help you figure these things out. Here are my favorites:

The online Self-Directed Search (SDS) ( provides an individualized interpretive report describing what you like—your favorite activities and interests—as well as information about potentially satisfying occupations. The theory behind the assessment is that people are most satisfied in their careers when they are surrounded by people with similar interests. This creates a work environment that suits their personalities. People are more comfortable and ultimately more successful in a work environment that rewards the traits and behaviors that come most naturally to them.

Another useful self-assessment tool is the Highlands Ability Battery ( It uses 19 different timed work samples to measure the speed with which a person is able to perform a particular series of tasks. The scores, shown together on a personal profile and bar chart, reveal patterns or “clusters” of abilities that highlight your natural gifts and talents in relationship to how you learn, how you solve problems, how you communicate, and even which type of work environment best suits you. A certified provider provides a skilled analysis of the written report and helps students/graduates explore the best career options based on their natural abilities.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is based on the theory that individuals are either born with, or develop, certain preferred ways of thinking and acting. By examining your responses to a series of questions, the MBTI defines 16 possible psychological types. This test is offered online ( without the assistance of a qualified counselor or can be administered through a qualified MBTI career counselor who will help you interpret the results.

The DiSC Sort, offered online (, classifies four aspects of behavior by testing a person’s preferences in word associations. DiSC is an acronym for Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. While you don’t need a certified career counselor to interpret the results, someone trained in interpreting DiSC would be extremely useful in terms of guiding you toward the practical application of the information for designing your career plan.

While no one test is going to provide you with all the answers or guarantee career success, any one of the tests described, in conjunction with a trained career coach, can provide useful insights to help you design a focused but flexible job search action plan. Soon-to-be graduates should check with their schools’ career development office to see if anyone on staff is certified in any of these instruments.

The point of entry into any field can vary wildly. In many instances, a new graduate with the technical expertise and industry knowledge may have an advantage over someone with general business or management experience but limited industry knowledge. But understanding what the job requires will enable you to find the appropriate point of entry for YOU and design a job search action plan to showcase how your unique gifts and talents meet the potential employer’s needs.

It is only after you understand what you have to offer and who needs what you have to offer that you can focus on the mechanics of the job search. Because each job choice you make throughout your career is likely to have an enormous impact on your life, getting started can be scary and overwhelming. Do it anyway. I promise, the rewards will be worthwhile.

Kathleen Brady, CPC is a career coach and corporate trainer with more than 25 years of experience helping people realize their professional goals. In GET A JOB! 10 Steps to Career Success(Inkwater Press, 2013) Brady shares her secrets for navigating the job search process from start to finish as well as practical exercises for job seekers at every level. GET A JOB! is available at