What gift do you possess that helps you make sense out of life?

Gifts are to be discovered.

In over thirty years of career transition work, I’ve spoken the words “self-assessment” hundreds of times. It’s an important first phase in working through a job or career transition. Clarifying your goals based on substantive knowledge about personal qualities like interests, skills, values, and personality is an essential exercise.

One tool you might find useful when assessing your “motivations”, “strengths” and “personality” is A Personal Survey & Spiritual Inventory – a new digital project the Center for Life Transitions is undertaking. You can try the survey on for size and see if it fits the transition you’re in or contemplating when we get it on our website.

Perhaps the most poignant perspective on self-assessment is thinking of it as identifying our gifts. Arthur Miller, the author of Why You Can’t Be Anything You Want to Be, talks about it this way.

“Giftedness is the only means I know of for the ordinary person to make sense out of life. Each one is given a purpose and the drive and competitiveness to achieve that purpose. Meaning is thereby built into the adventure of living for everyone.”

Our giftedness is the place where everything intersects–our interests, skills, values, motivations, and strengths. It doesn’t really matter what you call these qualities. When in action, they take you to the “right places” and enable you to contribute meaningful work in ways which matter.

Gifts in others have been vividly evident to me to as I continue treatment at Froedtert Medical College of Wisconsin for my lymphoma. My strength throughout this journey is clearly founded in the combination of compassion and professionalism of the people there. From my oncologist Dr. F. to the receptionist Kristin who always remembers my name as we kid about the candy bowl not having my favorite bubble gum, their gifts are apparent in everything they do. (Journal entry–May 2, 2013)

Authentic work enriches us as well as those we serve. Thoughtful contemplation or guided self-assessment can lead you towards your truest self.


Reflect on the positive impact you have on people, programs and/or processes. How much of this impact is due to a combination of what you do well and that which brings you enjoyment? Label these gifts. And think hard on how they can be put to use in the work you’re doing or want to do.

Journal entry–May 2, 2013

“This place is about hope fostered by amazing people. Mary the volunteer receptionist gave me her always welcome smile. Veronica, my favorite Lab Tech, inserted my IV with grace and skill. Our chatter was sincere; I told her that may have been my best IV in 8 months of treatment and she deserved a tip. She smiled and said with a true heart that patients inspire excellence in her work. Nice.

Arielle stopped by with her survey where I get to defiantly check the zero in boxes on items of nerve tingles, fatigue, blurry vision, discouragement etc. Checking off that I’m doing well combined with Arielle’s care always lifts my spirits.

Dr. F’s PA Julie was late but I didn’t care. She showed warmth and smarts as she examined me announcing, “looks good.”

The Chemo Tech calls my name and says, “Hi, I’m Ann and I’m here to take care of you.” We walk like old friends to the treatment room as I verify the spelling of my name and date of birth. I get a room with a view of budding pear trees and a breeze blown pond. A turkey sandwich and Coke are requested and my 90 minute treatment begins. I shut my eyes and peacefulness seeps in. I’m here in the moment. Life is complicated–and good.”

*Tom was diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma in summer of 2012. Following 6 months of chemotherapy, the cancer went into remission and continues so as of this date. These writings are intended to draw connections between Tom’s experiences with this disease and challenges related to work/career transitions.

Thomas Bachhuber, Ed.D., President of the Board and Executive DirectorThomas Bachhuber, Ed.D.
President of the Board and Executive Director for The Center for Life Transitions. Tom is responsible for overall Center leadership and strategy. His individual coaching/counseling as well as workshops and retreats focus on integrating leading career development ideas with spiritual exploration. Read more.