“How well should I know what I want before starting a job or internship search?”


Author: Larry Medina (Head of Career Services, Alumni & Corporate Relations) at ESSEC Asia-Pacific


Most students and professionals do not spend enough time on self-reflection before looking for a new opportunity. Especially early in their careers.

There are several assessment tools to help with self-reflection. In my experience, the key domains to reflect on are skills, interests, and motivators.

 Of these three, skills are the most obvious focus for job seekers and recruiters.

What skill sets do you have?

Most students understand that they need hard and soft skills that match the companies’ requirements.

Students need hard skills such as programming, modeling, and data analysis, for example, to improve their chances of getting a job, especially now. 

Students are usually equipped with a set of soft skills when entering a business school. The programs at ESSEC enable students to improve and refine everything from communication to leadership and teamwork skills.

Today, companies demand that students have both hard and soft skills. What I shared barely scratches the surface. The topic of skill sets requires a more in-depth exploration — I will share more on this in a future post.

What interests you?

Job seekers can consider interests as “what types of activities do you enjoy doing” and “what subjects catch your attention.”

Here’s a simple litmus test: which section of the newspaper do you read first — fashion, sports, business, current affairs? Do you watch videos online about gaming, space, conservation? From an activity perspective, do you enjoy problem-solving, communicating, working in teams? 

By answering these questions, it will point you towards the right roles and industries for you.

What motivates you?

Motivators are the various aspects of your job that inspires you. Motivators could be pegged to prestige, security, financial benefits, variety, or altruism, to name a few.

It is essential to understand your motivators, especially as they can change over time.  For example, financial benefits could become less important, and altruism could be more critical. 

A person might need to forgo a good career match because the market is uncertain or personal commitments need to be met from a practical perspective. However, interests and motivators are essential for the longevity of your career.

Early in your career, almost any role can be engaging because working is new and exciting. As your career progresses, interests and motivators need to be aligned with the function to assure engagement over a sustained period. 


To recap, it is important to understand yourself as early as possible in your job search. Even if you need to compromise, you will know that you are consciously doing so for the short term. 

By understanding yourself, you will also be able to compare opportunities and have a structured way to prioritize them.

Next week, I will discuss strategies for understanding the job market. 

Larry Medina is the Head of Career Services, Alumni & Corporate Relations at ESSEC Asia-Pacific Business School. For more career tips, follow #careertipswithlarry.  Read previous tips from this series.

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