Why Deeper Self-Awareness is Critical for Career Growth and Success

self awareness for career success question mark light up with light bulbs

I recently delivered a webinar for a client on Self-Awareness so I thought I’d make that the topic of this blog post.

The webinar was part of a career development programme for women. One of the aims was for participants to increase their self-awareness and knowledge of skills for career growth.

What do we mean by ‘self-awareness’ and why is it important for career success?

What do we mean by Self-Awareness?

Self-awareness is a process that takes time and should be constant throughout your lifetime. It requires some careful thought and reflection. It can’t be achieved by reading a book or blog post. Quite the contrary, if you want to become more self-aware, you will have to be willing to get down and do some hard work. Self-awareness is defined as:

“conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives and desires.” 

In a business context, this sounds rather soft. You might think it is only relevant if your professional aspirations are to be a psychologist or HR professional. You may think it is not as critical as the “hard stuff” like experience, skills or credentials after your name. Right? Wrong!

I have three decades of experience as a leader and business woman. I have worked in diverse industries from fast moving consumer goods to consultancy to technology services to education. My experience is that self-awareness is the most important factor for career success.

Here are some of the key self-awareness questions you need to be able to answer:

  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What are your values and motivations?
  • What elements would a role need to include for you to feel satisfied at the end of a day’s work?
  • What are you curious about?
  • What are you interested in?
  • What triggers stress you, and how do you cope with these stresses?
  • What inspires you?
  • What derails you?
  • What is your communication style?
  • How do you manage conflict?
  • How do you respond to authority?
  • How do you deal with criticism?

How many of these questions do you know the answers to?

Why Self-Awareness is important to career success

To appreciate the role of self-awareness in career development, it is important to understand careers in the 21st century. The world of work is more dynamic and chaotic than ever. In our parents’ or grandparents’ generations, they would accept a job and hold onto it throughout the entire duration of their careers. But, those days are over and done with as I shared in my blog post, Career Development: What does the future of work look like? These days the trend is toward self-managed careers. In other words, its down to you to take ownership of your career development.

Furthermore, we have become more mindful of the impact of family and lifestyle issues on our careers. We want to have a more flexible approach to our career development and to design our own career development plans.

And that relies on a thorough awareness of our interests, values, talents, and lifestyle preferences. Then we can set appropriate career goals and develop appropriate career strategies.

Greater Self Awareness has many benefits

A higher level of self-awareness can help us achieve the following:

  • Increased contribution – When you know yourself, you know your strengths. This gives you a better understanding of the unique qualities you bring to your interactions with others and to your work. You can lean on your strengths during difficult times to help you, and others, get through. Understanding yourself is a vital part of learning to be  proactive, creative, and innovative. When you understand yourself, you can use your imagination and intuition to address challenges. Self-aware employees use their talents to start initiatives, rather than complain or criticise.
  • Professional growth – When you know yourself, you also know the areas you wish to develop. This is important to continue to grow professionally. Self-awareness is an important part of career development because it forces you to look at yourself objectively. Examining your strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures is enlightening. It can help you determine what works and what doesn’t. Then you can move forward with fresh perspective and ambitions.
  • Ability to influence your reputation – Self-awareness makes it easier to understand how others see you. This is key for success. It’s essential to be aware of the perceptions of your bosses, of course. But it’s also important to know how you come across when you’re working as a team member or leader.
  • Greater job satisfaction – By focusing on what makes you feel happy and valued, you can find roles that are most satisfying. Understanding your specific talents and areas of expertise can help you find the opportunities where you can shine.

In my next blog post I’ll share my thoughts on actions you can take to develop your self-awareness. In the meantime, I’d love your thoughts.  How have you developed your self-awareness? And how has that helped you develop your career?

If you are looking to think positively and proactively about your career development, or you want to support your team prepare effectively for career conversations with managers and mentors. Our Career Compass Workbook gives you all the tools and templates needed to reflect on the past and think about the future.

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