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Self-Assessment and Exploration

The process of self-assessment can help you to identify academic majors, graduate programs, and careers that suit your values, interests, personality traits, and skills (VIPS).

Start by clarifying your preferences that may affect your satisfaction with a potential academic program/career path. You may do this informally by talking with academic and career advisors, professors, family members, and friends. Here are some questions to help you focus on what will ultimately make you happy:

  • What courses and topics spark your interest?
  • What social causes and activities are you passionate about?
  • What talents and skills come naturally to you?
  • What three adjectives would your friends use to describe your personality?
  • What can you see yourself doing in five or ten years?

To gain a better self-awareness of your VIPS (values, interests, personality, and skills), use the self-assessment tools listed below.

What to expect from these instruments

First, any self-assessment instrument provides suggestions –- not definitive answers -- regarding your potential career paths. Second, your self-assessment results may help validate your major/career path ideas or generate new ideas. Finally, knowing your VIPS can help you figure out what questions to ask and what information to pay attention to when learning and evaluating different majors, fields, and careers.

  • It’s helpful to develop a habit of self-reflecting on your VIPS because they may change with your new experiences and encounters (e.g. coursework, internships, jobs, extra-curricular activities, professional interactions, etc.)

  • Meet with a career advisor to receive guidance about various self-assessments and how they can suit your individual needs. 


  • Work Values Matcher by CareerOneStop is a free service provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration.
  • Complete an online card-sort exercise that consists of ranking 20 value statements to identify your work values. It will take you 10-15 minutes to complete the assessment.


  • O*Net is a free, premier tool developed under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. 
  • The Profiler consists of 60 statements required to be rated. The results will help you clarify your interest pattern based on the RIASEC model (a popular career counseling model based on Dr. John Holland’s theory of vocational personalities and work environments) and connect with related careers.
  • The 20-minute Profiler Self-Assessment creates an interest profile. Use it to explore the trove of regularly updated information about 900+ careers on My Next Move
  • The HCC is free (fee for an in-depth interpretive report)
  • Identify your top interests, related job titles, and salary information by taking a short self-assessment that entails rating 48 statements.
  • The HCC, developed by Truity Psychometrics LLC, is based on Dr. John Holland’s vocational theory. 
  • SII is a free, formal career self-assessment instrument that requires pre-approval and interpretation by your SII-certified career advisor. The instrument consists of 291 items and takes 30-40 minutes to complete.
  • Identify your interest pattern, learn how your interests relate to 30 career fields and 190+ careers; receive suggestions regarding majors, internships, and extracurricular activities to further explore your interests.
  • SII was developed by Psychologist E.K Strong in early 20th century; the instrument has been continuously updated based on extensive research.
  • Schedule an appointment with your career advisor to discuss self-assessments and identify whether SII is a suitable instrument for your self-assessment needs.

Personality Traits

  • The Type Finder is free (fee for a more detailed report) tool based on Myers Briggs’s 16 personalities and consists of 130 items to be rated
  • Your basic report will assign an MBTI type and provide a short summary of related personality traits.
  • MBTI is a free, formal self-assessment instrument that requires interpretation by a MBTI-certified career advisor. The on-line instrument consists of 93 items and takes 20-30 minutes to complete.
  • Developed in early 20th century, the instrument has become the most popular personality assessment in the world.
  • Schedule an appointment with your career advisor to discuss self-assessments and identify whether MBTI is a suitable instrument for your self-assessment needs.


  • Skills Matcher by CareerOneStop is a free service provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. 
  • Rate your levels on 40 key workplace skills and explore careers that match your ratings

Career Exploration Process

In addition to completing a self-assessment, you can research your options and determine whether or not they match your values, interests, personality traits, and skills (VIPS).

  • Use the resources below to obtain information about industries, occupations, employers, salary ranges, employment trends, educational requirements, and related topics:
  • To further your career exploration, engage in experiential learning: pursue extracurricular activities and internships, which will help you learn more about yourself and about different work settings and organizational cultures.
  • Did you know that your hobbies and volunteering can evolve into a career path? Keep them up and reflect on the related skills that you’re building through these activities. 
  • Meet with a career advisor to discuss career exploration strategies and learn how to conduct informational interviews with faculty, alumni, and professionals in your fields of interest.

Explore Your Options

  • You’ve deepened your self-awareness of your values, interests, personality, and skills (VIPS) through reflection and self-assessments. You’ve also become more aware of what AU majors/programs and career paths entail by engaging in various career exploration activities. You may have validated or rejected some of your initial major/career ideas, and you may have come up with some new career ideas. Congratulate yourself on your efforts and the progress you’ve made so far!
  • Now, compare different major/career ideas and evaluate their pros and cons. Going through this step will make you confident in your decision.
  • Don’t rush the evaluation process. You may discover that you don’t have enough information to select the best option. That’s ok! Revisit the first two steps (assessing your own VIPS and exploring major/career VIPS). Selecting majors/career paths takes time. 
  • Meet with a career advisor to discuss your progress.

Putting Together an Action Plan 

  • When you're ready, put together an action plan. This may include declaring your major/minor, finding internships. or pursuing other skill-building projects and activities in your field of interest.
  • Meet with an academic advisor to declare your major/minor.
  • Meet with a career advisor for help finding major-related internships, learning how to build your professional network, etc. Schedule an appointment on Handshake. If you have questions or technical challenges, please email or call 202-885-1804.