Know thyself: how career-building starts with self-awareness

Zen and the art of coffee career maintentance. 

Zen and the art of coffee career maintentance. 

Thanks to those of you who took the time to complete my survey so far! I've learned that those of you taking the time to visit are most interested in one thing: Career development. So, that's where I am going to start.

I’ll create a series of posts related to how to build a career in coffee that might sound a little different than the usual stuff – instead of focusing on job hunting, I’ll be focusing on you-building: how to get yourself focusing on being the awesome coffee person you likely already are. After that, you’ll be ready to tackle anything.

These posts will likely be a little less about coffee and coffee work specifically, and more about life in general. I will also do my best to share everything through the lens of Anne: barista turned-coffee professional, semi-millennial, semi-old person, mistake-maker and wisdom-sharer. Sometimes annesplainer. Hopefully that will make this information more entertaining – as always, the bad jokes are free. Also as always, please comment, ask questions, and let me know if this is helpful!

For starters, let’s talk about personality assessment.

Oh man. If you know me, you know that I love personality assessments. In case you don't know what they are, they're simple tools to help you categorize your personality tendencies into certain "types", to increase your self awareness.

Name the assessment, and I’ve probably taken it. I’ve learned my strengths, I’ve taken my lumina sparks assessment, I’ve done the Disc assessment, and CVI assessment. I’ve also been known to take every facebook survey on which character I am from Disney princesses (Snow White) to Sex and the City Characters (Miranda).

What’s my favorite ASSESSMENT? Well, I’m glad you asked.

It’s a classic. The classic really. I’m a big big fan of the good old Myer’s-Briggs personality test (that's a link to the official site - you can also take a free version here). I think it captures my essence in a way that’s completely helpful for me to learn about myself and the people I work around and with.

Do I think that you need to take every personality assessment known to man? No, no I do not. But I do think you should take at least one or two, to discover yourself and to confirm your results. (Also, you should probably not start with the Disney one.) These tests help uncover your wants and needs as an individual, as well as your strengths and opportunities to improve. As you take your test, reflect on if your results influence the way you think about your work.


It helps because it lets you focus on what you do best, and find the type of work that will feel the best to you. When I worked my most recent previous job, with Starbucks, I had two primary types of work: classroom facilitation in small groups, which I loved, and retail sales floor management, which left me completely drained. The classroom work was quiet, controlled, and only required a little bit of interaction with other people, so I could devote my energy and excitement to them. The sales floor work, you can likely imagine, was overwhelmingly interactive, and I would feel so stressed from trying to make a plan, and so guilty not interacting well with the too many people on my team wanting my attention, that I would leave feeling completely hopeless and wiped out.

I’ve now worked 10 different jobs in the 16 years I’ve been working (I’m helping those millennial statistics!), and with each one I’ve learned a little more about myself and what I do or don’t like about my work. It’s added up to the work I do right now, and I couldn’t have figured it out, or possibly convinced myself to start, without my relentless self-analysis hobby. 

How learning about myself taught me to Stop Worrying and Love my job.  

For example, let’s talk about planning. Are you a planner? I am. To a fault! I love projections, maps, checklists – sometimes I write them real fast, but they’re almost always there. I went through life thinking everyone loved checklists and plans – until, as a retail manager, I tried to implement new ones. People were resistant to the change for a variety of reasons –disinterest, laziness, forgetfulness, spite – but those reasons were all due to the nature of their personalities. The more I learned that my style and way of life is unique, and that it’s important to share and acknowledge that with others, the more I grew as a professional. Now, I’m even trying to incorporate and improve my methods as I interact with other personalities, from knowing what I’ve learned about them.

Another incredibly important thing I learned about myself is how I gain the energy I need to produce my work. For the longest time, I attended every coffee event, hosted free tastings and workshops, and worked my full time jobs. I was exhausted, and cranky, and had no personal life. This… was not healthy.

It wasn’t until my first personality assessment that the light bulb went off – I’m an introvert! I need time alone to process my thoughts, feelings, and gather ideas to implement for the future. Turns out, I actually need a really good chunk of alone time, like at least one full day alone per week. And others? They read a sentence about spending a full day alone and the hairs on their neck stood up – that sounded awful.

Extroverts gain energy from people around them – as they interact, they become more inspired, have more ideas, generate feelings. The best example a friend once told me about being an extrovert was that he sometimes walked into completely random concerts from off the street, just to feel the pulse of the crowd around him. That, of course, made me a little nauseous.

In retrospect, it's so obvious. But I really had no idea until I took my first self-assessments. 

How about you? Where do you land on a self-awareness scale? If you  take your tests, me know how they go and what you learn about yourself. 

Anne NylanderComment