Episode #109 – An Overlooked But Crucial Trait for Career Growth and Advancement

Samantha: Welcome to “The Animal Health Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, executive recruiter Stacy Pursell, founder and CEO of The VET Recruiter, provides insight and practical advice for both employers and job seekers in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary employers hire top talent, while helping animal health and veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that improve their quality of life.

In today’s podcast, we’ll be talking about a crucial but overlooked trait for career growth and advancement. Hello, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: Hello, Samantha. As always, I’m glad to be here.

Samantha: So Stacy, don’t keep us in suspense. What is this one crucial trait?

Stacy: The one crucial trait is self-awareness.

Samantha: Self-awareness? Is that basically the ability to know how you come across to other people?

Stacy: There’s more involved, but yes, you could sum it up that way. And to help with this discussion on today’s episode, I want to draw from both my personal life and my professional life. As you know, Samantha, I have five children and three of those children are boys. It seems as though they are constantly stepping on my feet, and it doesn’t matter if we’re standing still or walking. They’re just so full of energy and are constantly moving and jumping around. Because of this, I’m always telling them to be self-aware. In other words, I tell them to be mindful of what they’re doing and how what they’re doing is impacting the people around them.

In my professional life, I’ve worked as an Animal Health recruiter and Veterinary recruiter for more than 20 years. Because of that, I know first-hand the importance of self-awareness. For example, I was recently talking with a candidate on the phone and she continually interrupted me and talked during most of the conversation. She rarely let me talk, which was unfortunate for her because I was trying to give her advice and guidance about the interview process and her job search. Communication should be a two-way street with back and forth dialogue rather than only one person talking most of the time and not listening to the other person. I truly believe that God gave us two ears and one mouth because we should listen twice as much as we talk.

Samantha: Yes, that is a good point! Stacy, you said there was more to it, so what exactly is self-awareness?

Stacy: Self-awareness really is knowledge of one’s self, but it’s knowledge of a number of areas. It’s your feelings, your emotions, your thoughts, your desires, your motivations, the type of person that you are, the type of character you have, etc.

And there are two things that we’ve talked about before on this podcast that are related to being self-aware.

Samantha: What are those things?

Stacy: They are emotional intelligence and personal branding. In fact, there are some people who believe that self-awareness and emotional intelligence are the same thing. I would agree that self-awareness is one aspect of emotional intelligence. It’s one step in the process. However, just because you’re self-aware does not mean that you’re an expert in emotional intelligence or even that you could practice it well within the workplace.

Samantha: What about personal branding?

Stacy: It’s much the same with personal branding. Self-awareness is just one step in the personal branding process. Before you can brand yourself in the right way, you must know how you’re currently branding yourself. There’s almost always a difference between how you think you’re branding yourself and how you’re actually doing it.

Samantha: Is it true that some people are just born better at being self-aware than others?

Stacy: Yes, that is true. Self-awareness is like any other skill. Some people are just inherently better than other people, for whatever reason. But also like another other skill, you can learn to become better at it.

Samantha: What’s the starting point for becoming more self-aware? What are some things that people can do if they want to improve?

Stacy: Well, the first thing you should do is assess where you are right now. In other words, take an inventory of how aware you are of yourself. You could use a pad and a pen for this exercise. Simply write down all of the words that you believe describe you. You can even break it down into the personal and professional settings, realizing there will be some overlap, of course.

Samantha: I’m guessing that’s a good exercise because people usually think good things when they think about themselves.

Stacy: That’s right. And what they’re thinking doesn’t always line up 100% with reality. For instance, a person may believe that they’re extremely funny. However, that might not be what other people think, even the people who love the person. If the person is not self-aware, then that can lead to some awkward situations, which can hurt their personal branding efforts, not to mention quite possibly their relationships.

Samantha: I can understand that. I think we’ve all known someone who thought they were a little funnier than they actually were. So what’s the next step?

Stacy: The next step is to ask two sets of people to describe you and then record the information they provide.

Samantha: Who are those two sets of people?

Stacy: Your family and friends and your co-workers. Now, I understand there might be some overlap between these two groups, as well, but there shouldn’t be too much.

Samantha: But wouldn’t a person’s friends and family go easy on them?

Stacy: That’s a distinct possibility, but as part of this exercise, you have to stress to people that you want them to be honest. And yes, some of them will go easy on you, but you might be surprised by how many will not, especially if you say that you want them to be honest in their assessment.

This exercise also helps you to discover how you’re perceived both at work and at home. You’ll be able to see what similarities exist and what differences exist, if any. You might also see patterns start to emerge in the responses of the two groups. That’s why it’s important to record their responses.

There’s another reason why it’s important to record these responses, too.

Samantha: What reason is that?

Stacy: Because after you’re done, you’ll be able to compare and contrast how your family, friends, and co-workers describe you and how you described yourself during the first step of the process.

Samantha: I imagine that could be an eye-opener.

Stacy: Absolutely, especially for those people who are not self-aware at all. This is the important step in becoming more self-aware in which you look at yourself in an objective way. It’s important because it’s at the very heart of self-awareness: knowing how you impact those around you and knowing how they perceive you. Now, there may be some hard truths and realities that you’ll have to accept, but accepting them will help you in the long run.

Samantha: Because the goal is to improve yourself, right?

Stacy: That’s right. Self-improvement is ultimately the goal of self-awareness. What’s the point of being self-aware if you’re not able to take what you’ve learned and better yourself?

Samantha: What’s something else that people can do to help them become more self-aware?

Stacy: Another thing they can do is take a personality test. There are all sorts of personality tests out there, including many free ones on the Internet. One of the most popular and well-known is the Myer-Briggs test. I would suggest conducting some research and then taking two or three tests to get a composite of your personality. Once again, compare and contrast those results to the information you gathered from your friends, family, and coworkers. You might see patterns reinforced or new patterns forming. More information is always good, especially if that information is objective in nature.

And that brings us to the final step in the process.

Samantha: What is that?

Stacy: By now, a person should be much more self-aware than they were at the beginning of the process. They’ve accepted what may be unpleasant realities about the way they’re perceived by other people, including in the workplace. They should be ready to make adjustments to their behavior in order to change the way they’re perceived and brand themselves better in the process. This involves both personally and professionally.

Samantha: What does that involve, specifically? How can they make adjustments?

Stacy: It could involve a lot of things. It could mean simply being more mindful of the things you say and do. It could involve taking classes, either online or in person, or reading books about areas in which you want to improve. As we just discussed, self-awareness is all about self-improvement. You want to be aware of yourself so you can improve yourself, and not only do you want to improve yourself, but you also want to improve the experience that other people have when they’re around you.

Samantha: And that’s what personal branding is all about.

Stacy: That is exactly what personal branding is all about. So if you want to become better at personal branding and you want to become a practitioner of emotional intelligence, then you must take the first step and become more self-aware. There is no other way around it. There are no shortcuts. This is not something that you can fake. If you are not self-aware, people are going to see that.

And as an Animal Health recruiter and Veterinary recruiter for more than 20 years, I can say with confidence that people who are self-aware are more attractive to employers than those people who are not.

Samantha: Stacy, that’s a great note to end on, and a very impactful one. Thank you so much for joining us today and for providing all of this information!

Stacy: You’re very welcome, Samantha, and thank you. It’s been my pleasure, and I look forward to our next episode!