WHO ARE YOU? You may answer this seemingly simple question by giving your name, or describing yourself as a business studies student or a software programmer. But have you ever truly explored who you are in depth? Have you identified your talents, your transferable skills, the skills and knowledge you most enjoy using, the values you respect or the impact you wish to make on others? These are tough questions, but when it comes to the big decisions in life it pays to engage in a little introspection. Few people get married without first considering if their potential partner will be a good fit in terms of personality, goals and what they want from life. We should apply the same kind of attention to managing our careers. Unless we know ourselves inside out, we cannot make informed choices. And without passion, which comes from knowing ourselves and how we want to make a difference, we will not have the consistent drive to succeed. Self-awareness is a powerful career tool that can be applied throughout your career. We all change over time, so it pays to reconsider your motivations and passions whenever you change direction, assume new responsibilities or make decisions about training and education. Have you identified what makes you feel inspired, energetic and driven? For some, this self-knowledge comes easily. You probably know someone who always knew they wanted to be a doctor, an actor or an accountant. For the rest of us, it may be more difficult to define our dreams. In fact, even those who feel sure should explore the reasons behind their choices. When analysing your preferences, be specific about the type of information you are looking for. It can include your personality traits, fields of interest, innate talents, transferable skills, values and beliefs, motivations and financial aspirations. Write down some points for each category. Under fields of interest, you could list 'music, fashion, creative arts', but don't stop there. Ask yourself why these items are important. For example, if you think you want to work with people, thoroughly explore your reasons. Is it because you love helping people or that you just hate being alone? To understand your preferences more deeply, consider using some specific career planning books or tools. Useful books include What Color is your Parachute? by Richard Bolles, and Zen and the Art of Making a Living by Laurence Boldt, which both offer creative and detailed self-analysis exercises. Personality tests are another option. They provide fast and focused feedback, and will help you to understand the way you see yourself. There are many such tools available on the internet, some of which are free. However, the accuracy of some online tests is questionable, so balance the feedback from such tests with information from other sources. You should also enlist the help of friends and family. Ask them to summarise your strengths and weaknesses and to describe the jobs they imagine you would find rewarding. If you find it hard to work through exercises on your own, work with a friend and share your insights. While self-analysis can be fun, it is not easy. People commonly suppress their deepest desires and motivations, possibly in an effort to please parents or teachers, and it often takes some time to unearth authentic career preferences. You may also find that you have an internal critic trying to undermine your efforts. This voice inside your head may say your ideas are unrealistic or that you are not good enough to achieve your dreams. Don't listen - it is just fear talking. Remember that if you can imagine something, you can make it happen. That's the power of visualisation. Once you have a clear idea of your preferences in each of the categories, it is time to start getting creative and to picture your ideal career in detail. Reflect on your analysis and think hard about what you really want from your job. Try to build a comprehensive picture of all the possibilities. You might even consider writing a 'day in the life' story about how you see yourself in the future. Include as much detail as possible, such as the main tasks, the skills you would be using, the people you work with or the type of manager you report to. In this exercise, you could also describe the working environment, products you deal with, tangible results of your work, the rewards and your imagined feelings as you do that perfect job. Try not to worry yet about labelling this ideal career or identifying specific jobs that match your vision. This comes later. For now, simply focus on exploring possibilities and creating an image that feels good. Read the story back to yourself. If you feel energised and excited, it means you are getting close to identifying the factors that will sustain your career over the long term. You will need to keep your vision clearly in mind and it helps to keep a copy at hand for easy reference. After all, if career management is the journey, then passion and commitment give us the energy to get from A to B and beyond. You simply cannot afford to run out of fuel. The next step is to find real jobs which match your career preferences. Watch out for ideas on how to research and recognise potential opportunities in our next article. Survival Tip # 2 Know yourself: identify the factors that make you feel excited about work - it is this passion that will sustain you for a long-term career.