Undergraduate qualifications

Knowing yourself

It is important for us to have an understanding of ourselves, how we make decisions, and our skills, values and career influences. Knowledge of ourselves helps us to make effective career decisions. There may be times where we know things about ourselves, but we don't know how this relates to who we want to be, what we want to contribute and our career. The following activities will help you to relate what you know and don't know about yourself, and how this is important in terms of your career development.

As you complete the following activities, make notes of the aspects that stand out, so that you can keep track of what you are learning about yourself.

How you make decisions

You make hundreds, if not thousands of decisions, each day. These decisions range from what to eat for breakfast, to what to wear today. Other decisions require more thought, such as which school your child should attend or for which qualification you should apply. One important thing to keep in mind with making career choices (such as choosing a qualification) is that while you may ask others for information about your decision, in the end, it is your responsibility to evaluate the information you have and to make the final decision. It is, therefore, important for you to be able to distinguish between facts and opinion.

There is no right or wrong way to make a decision and each one of us makes decisions differently. Some prefer to gather a lot of information and then weigh all the options in terms of positives and negatives. Others solve problems by eliciting others' opinions.

Activity: How I make decisions

Think about the last time you made an important decision and make some notes about how you went about making your decision. Then think about what you could have done differently, for example: Did you make a hasty decision or did you not have enough information?

Your skills

Skills are abilities you've developed and can use effectively. You learn skills from your experiences (eg voluntary, paid or unpaid work, and family and community responsibilities). Basic skills that are important when working within a fast-changing society include

  • communication skills (reading, writing, creating online content, communicating visually and evaluating information)
  • social intelligence (connecting meaningfully with others and wanting to make a difference)
  • teamwork (negotiating, motivating and engaging with diverse groups, both online and offline)
  • problem solving and novel thinking (creating unique solutions to problems and applying new ways of thinking in your environment)
  • information management (filtering and making sense of information)

You will learn new skills in each module of your qualification. These can help you be employable and improve your contribution to your community. You need to connect what you learn at university with what you can contribute in the workplace and in your community. As you study and develop your skills, your frame of reference will expand and you will become aware of more opportunities.

Activity: My skills

Think about your life experiences (work, volunteering, school, studies and personal) and then answer the following questions:

  • What skills do I have?
  • What skills do I need to develop related to the kind of opportunities I am hoping for?
  • How will I develop these skills?

Further exploration: Use the O*Net website (http://www.onetonline.org/find/descriptor/browse/Skills/) to identify job titles related to specific skills.

Your values

Your values show what is important to you and can have a significant effect on your career choices. Values are shaped by your family, community, work environment and life experiences.

Examples of how values can influence career decisions

  • Matome is unhappy with his current administrative job and wants more challenges. He sees a job advert at his company for a sales representative training programme and is interested. If he takes the position, it will mean a lot of travelling. Is he willing to be away from his family for long periods of time? Is the excitement of travelling for a sales job more important?
  • Shamila is good at organising events such as weddings and birthday parties for her family and friends. Does she take the risk and resign from her secure job to make event planning a full-time business?

Activity: My values

Below are some common values (you can add your own if you prefer). Read through the list and take note of the five that are most important to you:

Adventure Authority Autonomy Beauty Belonging
Challenge Commitment Community Competition Cooperation
Creativity Curiosity Duty Effectiveness Excellence
Excitement Friendship Health Helping Honesty
Humour Independence Individuality Influence Knowledge
Money Power Public contact Quietness Recognition
Religion Spirituality Status  

How will your values influence your studies?

Can you link your values to specific occupations? How will your values be supported by the career choice you are making? How will your career choice support your values? To what extent do your personal values overlap with the values of your profession? For example: The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants expects chartered accountants to comply with principles such as integrity, objectivity and professional behaviour. If you want to qualify as a chartered accountant, how are you starting to "live" these values in your day-to-day life?

Complete the following sentences to understand how your values influence your studies:

  • My life is meaningful when…
  • I feel valued when...
  • My career is meaningful when…
  • My study time at Unisa is meaningful when…

Further exploration: Use the O*Net website (http://www.onetonline.org/find/descriptor/browse/Work_Values/) to identify job titles related to specific skills.

Your career influences

Where and who do your career influences come from?

Activity: My career influences

Think about how other people, events and things have influenced you.

  • Social influences (eg parents, grandparents, teachers, friends, cultural values and the media)
  • Environmental influences (eg where you live, where you work, employment market and socio-economic status)
  • Time (how your past, present and thinking about your future influence your career decisions)

Now think about the choice you are making now (what to study) and make some notes about the following: To what extent are you able to choose your qualification? Who else was involved in this process? Your family? Community needs? Other?

Also consider that chance events have a huge influence on careers. Think about the times when something happened that you did not plan for and could not control, but that impacted on your career direction, such as how you heard about Unisa or got your first job. Think about and make notes about a chance event that influenced your career decision.