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I have heard many client stories about taking assessments. Some clients mention taking a “test” in high school, which told them to become Forest Ranger, when they hate the outdoors. Many of these people start to reject assessments because results like this one seem ridiculous. Other people have taken personality assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, commonly referred to as the MBTI for short. I always inquire into these results, if a client has taken it prior to working with me. Many will vaguely recall some of the “letters” but are not able to tell me what the interpretation of the assessment means. All of these incidents beg the question, do career assessments have any value at all? There is certainly debate within the career field, with many professionals administering many batteries of assessments, whereas some will never use a single one. These counsellors believe assessments have no value at all, preferring to rely on their own counselling methods and approaches.
So, what’s the clearer picture, when it comes to using career assessments? The bottom-line is that career assessments are simply tools, and similar to most tools they are designed to be used in very specific situations and elicit very specific results. They are like a surgeon’s scalpel. In the right hands, they can be used in the most complex and delicate surgeries, producing valuable results. However, in the wrong hands, a scalpel can lead to catastrophic disaster and/or death. Fortunately, the use of most psychometric instruments (this is what psychologists call assessments) will not lead to disaster or death. However, there are many complex assessments where only highly trained and certified practitioners can administer them. These are usually advanced clinical diagnostic assessments. Unfortunately, with the internet, there has now been a proliferation of assessments, some very useful, while others not so much. Many of these poorer assessments are as useful as reading tea leaves. However, in the right hands and in the correct situation, career assessments can have very powerful benefits when using them to support a major career change or providing support to a career management program.
1. Drives Greater Self-Awareness and Self-Reflection
A career assessment is about the process of evaluating your personal attributes such as your skills, interests, motivations, values, personality and other traits, enabling you to more effectively explore, identify and find a suitable career path. Career assessments can support you in developing greater self-awareness, which is about knowing yourself better. Ultimately, it is about a deeper assessment and interpretation of your actions, thoughts and feelings.
There are people in jobs where there is a major mismatch. If you are in a mismatched job, you will never come to a full realization of your potential assets and strengths. Worse, it may cause you constant stress. Unfortunately, if you are not in touch with your true emotions and thoughts, you will be a permanent a prisoner to these situations. Being unaware of your higher skills, fulfilling interests or most authentic values will prevent you from exploring and finding better career possibilities. Ultimately, this will stop your growth.
When you have greater self-awareness and reflection, you will have a deeper understanding of the reasons for why you are in the wrong career. In general, people have differing levels of self-awareness. However, it is individuals that have a greater awareness of their authentic nature that have a greater capacity to realize when a job is a very poor fit. These individuals will be either able to adapt more effectively or leave to find a more suitable job to who they truly are.
2. Provides Useful and Precise Self-Descriptors
Career assessments can provide wording and phrases to accurately describe specific traits. They provide language and definitions. For example, let’s say that you describe yourself as someone who “loves being with people”. What precisely does this imply? The word “love” can mean very different things to different people. However, if you take an assessment and discover that you are “extroverted”, it can provide you with more information about why you are motivated to be around people. It may also reveal the degree to how often you enjoy being with others, and even provide ways to use your “extroversion” as a strength in your career. Assessments can turn very subjective terminology into more objective measures, which is extremely helpful to exploring and identifying suitable job roles.
3. Enhances Successful Decision-Making
You can only make a good decision, if you know what you really want. Making a “right” decision is based on your own criteria about what you need and desire for yourself. Unfortunately, if you are unaware of what your needs are, which are direct reflections of your most authentic skills, interests, personality and values then decision-making becomes increasingly difficult. It can be challenging to choose between two, three or even multiple career options, if you are unaware of how fulfilling each one will be.
One way that people will choose among different jobs is to use a trial and error approach. Many people will select a job based on what may initially appear to be very appealing, only to find out that the job was not what they were expecting. Many individuals are also tempted to focus on salary and benefits. Once again there can be many jobs that pay very well but are completely unfulfilling. This is where knowing your most authentic self becomes an essential consideration. When you know the most important factors about yourself, then choosing the right career path becomes much easier. Choosing the right career requires a careful analysis of yourself and your own unique personal development.
4. Helps You to Define Your Distinct Abilities and Refine Your Talents
Have you ever been asked in an interview, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” I have guided people through interview preparation, and this should be a relatively straightforward question to answer, but for many it’s not. Quite a few people get stumped on trying to come up with answers that are truly authentic to themselves. Many people typically resort to some very common answers such as being “organized”, “a problem solver” or “great in a team”. If you are a person that has difficulty in answering this type of interview question, then I would argue that finding your own unique and special career talents might also be very challenging.
Developing and refining your greatest talents is a vital part of achieving a successful and rewarding career. However, you must first get know your unique talents, interests, values and personality traits. This will allow you to later refine and enhance them. Within different professions, ranging from music to art, the highest performers in the world spend countless hours refining their top skills. They understand what their top skills and interests are. This allows them to be highly dedicated to their art. It’s been noted that professional guitar players can spend an average of four to eight hours of practice per day. Additional research suggests that it takes an average of four hours of practice per day over a period of ten years to achieve an expert level. So, to be able to excel in any role, you will need to have a deeper understanding of your top skills, which will enable you to further refine and develop them. Career assessments can serve as an initial point to discovering and exploring your natural talents, interests and personality traits. Getting to know exactly what traits will serve you the best in your career will not only help you to survive but thrive. This is the key to achieving a highly rewarding and successful career.