Personal Inventory

The ABCs of taking a personal inventory — from personality types to interest inventories

9 min read
Maxym Martineau

With New Year’s resolutions top of mind, it’s easy to get excited about setting goals — business or personal — and taking stock of your aspirations. But for some, the excitement of a new year comes to a screeching halt in the face of resolutions. What, exactly, do I want to accomplish this year? Am I in the right career? What kind of change would be best for me? These big-picture questions leave many fumbling for direction. And that’s where a personal inventory comes into play.

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What is a personal inventory?

Taking a personal inventory means reflecting inwardly and taking stock of what makes you, you. From personality types to morals and interests, these are the truths that define you as a person. And taking a moment to really assess your intrinsic makeup could make setting a new resolution that much easier (and more attainable).

There are a plethora of tools available, as well as some easy practices, you can use to take a comprehensive personal inventory. It might be a little nerve-wracking to sit and look inward, but the results are well worth it. Truly understanding how your personal interests play a major role in your development professionally and personally could set you up for long-term happiness and success.

Why would I want to take a personal inventory?

Personal Inventory Goals

Think about it like this — what happens if a big business forgets (or refuses) to take inventory of their items? They’ll likely crumble. They might be going through the motions, making sales and attending to their storefront, but if they aren’t periodically checking in on things behind the scenes, then, well, they’ll fall apart.

The same notion can be applied to taking a personal inventory.

If your daily grind has become familiar, if you’re feeling unrest but can’t put your finger on it, then it’s time to take a step back and look inward. Taking stock of your wants and goals is necessary. It’s even more important to be honest about whether or not your current daily actions are aligned with your aspirations.

Take a personal inventory in 3 steps

If you’re ready to grab your future by the horns, then it’s time to get serious about taking a personal inventory.

  1. Identify areas you’d like to work on.

  2. Take a personality test.

  3. Conduct an interest inventory.

Looking inward doesn’t have to be daunting. Follow these three steps for a comprehensive personal inventory, and start working toward your goals with a new spring in your step.

1. Identify areas you’d like to work on

First things first — you need to make a list. Grab some paper and a pen, find a quiet space, and categorize major components in your life. Some options might include:

  • Relationships
  • Career
  • Finances

You can do as little or as many as you’d like — whatever you need to do to accurately identify your goals (i.e., if “being healthy” is a goal for you, then you might consider adding a “Health” category). Then, list out what’s going right in your life (eating three meals a day, incorporating lots of veggies, etc.) and things you’d like to change (too much sugar, less soda, etc.).

Pro tip: Don’t list negatives, list deltas. It’s important to see things you’d like to change vs. things that you think are “wrong” or “bad.” The whole purpose of this exercise isn’t to bring you down, but to bring to light things that are potentially hindering you from reaching your highest potential.

When it comes to this portion of taking a personal inventory, there’s no right or wrong way to evaluate yourself. You simply need to be honest — no one else needs to see this list, so there’s no reason to fudge your answers. Having a concrete list of things you can easily refer to is a step in the right direction. Who knows, you might be crossing those deltas off one-by-one faster than you think.

Ask why

Now that you have the list out of the way, don’t forget to ask why. Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you want to shift your career and start a new business?

If you can’t identify your real reason for taking a personal inventory, finding success will be that much more difficult down the line.

Try narrowing your focus. Maybe you want to become an entrepreneur so you can set your own work schedule and spend more time traveling. Maybe you want to start your own business so you can donate a portion of the proceeds to a cause you’re passionate about. Keeping these motives front and center in your mind will help you when the going gets rough.

2. Take a personality test

Personal Inventory Test

Personality tests are a great way to flesh out your personal inventory. They often reveal strengths and weaknesses for each personality type, giving you insight as to why you act the way you do (which is a great thing to understand when it comes to setting and achieving goals). There are no wrong answers when it comes to taking a personality test. Just be honest so you can get an accurate measurement of your personality.

There are a plethora of online personality tests available, so don’t hesitate to test out more than one to truly get a comprehensive look at what makes you tick. Options like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or the Big Five Personality Test will provide an in-depth assessment of your inner workings, giving you the tools to make informed decisions about yourself.

Taking a personality test can you help you:

  • Make educated career decisions.
  • Provide insight about possible higher education/college paths.
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses, both personally and professionally.

When it comes to taking a personal inventory, taking a personality test (or two) is a natural next step. You’ve got your list of things you’d like to work on, and now you need a clearer picture for how you’re going to make those changes (or maybe a better understanding of why those things are even on your list to begin with).

Pro tip: Keep the results of your personality test with your list of areas you’d like to work on. It’s nice to have that information easily accessible so you can revisit it if you need clarification again.

Career aptitude assessments

Similar to a personality tests, aptitude assessments are a great way to see how you’re wired. Instead of focusing more on what makes you tick as an individual, aptitude tests are a great way to see where you stand professionally. So if you’ve identified one of your areas you’d like to work on as “Career,” then add an aptitude assessment to your personal inventory.

You can still take a personality test (and probably should — they’re fun and provide great insight) in addition to an aptitude assessment. Whether you’re looking to start something new or just want to make sure you’re in the right field to begin with, a career aptitude test can help you identify and flesh out your skills, as well as align them with your interests.

3. Conduct an interest inventory

Personal Inventory Interests

According to The Balance, interest inventories are used to measure “individuals' interests and compare them to those of people working in various occupations.” The first one was created in 1927 by psychologist E.K. Strong, and is now referred to as the Strong Interest Inventory.

Interest inventories are a great way to discover new and exciting careers.

A good interest inventory will help you gauge everything from your favorite recreational activities all the way down to work-related preferences and interests. And, just like with your personality test and identification of areas you’d like to change, be honest. There’s no benefit to fibbing on your answers — in fact, it might hinder you more in the long run!

There are a few online options for taking an interest inventory, including:

Prices vary depending on which one you elect to take, but in the end, the nominal fees are greatly worth the cost of finding a career that fits your interests.

Pro tip: Your results aren’t end-all-be-all. Just because they indicate you should be a heart surgeon, doesn’t mean you have to be. Maybe you’re queasy around blood (and that’s not something an assessment might pick up on). If this happens, maybe look at the reasons why heart surgeon was recommended. Do you like to help others? Get satisfaction out of working with people? What other careers align with those aspects?

You’re not limited to your results, so don’t feel downtrodden if they aren’t what you expected.

Once you’ve taken an interest inventory, add your results to your growing personal inventory packet. Between your list of things you’d like to work on, your personality tests, and now your completed interest inventory, you should have a wealth of knowledge at your disposal to guide you in the right direction.

In conclusion

At this point, you probably have a lot of information at your fingertips. It’s OK to let it sit before you jump head-first into the new year. Review your results, brainstorm options, and do your research. Now that you’ve got a grip on what makes you tick, you’re ready to turn your dreams into a reality.