In her Shifting Careers blog this week, Marci Alboher shares an interesting self-assessment exercise. It is designed by career coach Michael Melcher (aka The Creative Lawyer) for people who are searching for passion in their careers.

According to Melcher, many of his clients don’t know what they want to do with their careers; they may have multiple interests and don’t know how to choose among them. They may have done so much self-analysis that they can “speak very fluently about the issues but find it difficult to make actual decisions.”

One way to get unstuck is to use a Zagat-style approach. Melcher suggests that you interview five to ten people who know you well, using a structured questionnaire. The questionnaire approach is important because it will probably yield more thoughtful responses, and thus useful data, than a casual conversation with the same people. Some recommended questions for your interviews:

  • What are three things I do really well?
  • What are three things I don’t do so well?
  • Based on what you know about me, what job or experience have I liked the best in the past?
  • Based on what you know about me, what job or experience have I liked the least?
  • What are three things you can imagine me doing?
  • What’s something you can’t really imagine me doing?
  • How do I get in my own way?

A Caveat

While this is a great way to solicit feedback from your circle (I am a big advocate of 360 assessments an other feedback mechanisms), I’d like to offer one caveat: Do not let feedback from your circle serve as a substitute for doing reasonable self-analysis. Self-analysis can be daunting and uncomfortable for some, while others tend to wallow in so much self-analysis that they can’t get unstuck. Despite its potential pitfalls, however, self-analysis is critical to discovering your passion.

Because people are often conditioned to behave contrary to their true nature, feedback from others may simply reinforce the negative conditioning if you haven’t first done the proper self-analysis.