Category: Potential

Are Career Assessments Actually Useful?

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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.

Your Most Authentic Self

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You are not an empty shell. This is the key idea that Marcus Buckingham makes in his book, “Love and Work”. He argues that you are a highly unique individual; a distinct pattern of “loves and loathes”. This pattern comes from your genetic makeup, which has been formed by a vast network of approximately one hundred billion neurons in your brain. Each of these neurons reaches out and makes connections with at least one thousand other neurons. To put this in context, your brain has more connections than five thousand Milky Way galaxies has stars. There is no one else in the world who will ever have the same pattern of connections that you have. It is these connections that make you, you. You are built to love and loathe very specific things. This is part of your distinct authenticity. Yet, it’s always been perplexing to me the large number of people who feel the need to conform within their career!

I believe a large percentage of people choose jobs based of their urgent lifestyle needs. As a result, these individuals give little thought as to whether their work is truly authentic to them. Many feel that they need to lose the authentic parts of themselves when choosing a career. You might be one of these people. However, there are countless examples of people achieving greatness in their careers, by leaning into their most authentic selves. For instance, many musical artists have accomplished this. There have been countless singers who have had their voices criticized. Among these singers who have been mocked are Shakira, Billie Eilish, Jennifer Lopez and Miley Cyrus.  Even the “King of Rock and Roll”, Elvis Presley was once admonished by critics, saying that his voice was “lusty caterwauling”. As you know, many of these artists have gone on to sell records in the millions, along with receiving innumerable awards and recognition.

But what exactly do we mean by being “authentic”, as many people define the word differently? For this blog, I would like to use the humanistic psychological meaning of this word. Professionals in this field note that people who want to achieve greater authenticity share common characteristics. These characteristics allow a person to achieve greater personal growth and higher functioning. The very first characteristic is that they are accepting of themselves and of other people.

Accept Your True Nature

As mentioned, many top singing artists possess this key characteristic. To express who they truly are and develop their own authentic style, they must first have to accept their own natural voices. They must resist the urge to believe that their voice or singing style must be adapted or changed to fit audience expectations. Artists who want to triumph in their career must dismiss the opinions of critics around them, believing in their own unique singing voice, style and sound. This is a critical aspect to their success.

Express Your Own Thoughts, Emotions and Ideas Freely 

The second characteristic is that people who are authentic are able to express their emotions and ideas freely and clearly. Expressing your authentic and unique personality, values, opinions and beliefs need to be communicated to others. Anyone who wants to grow into who they truly are needs the ability to express themselves with confidence and honesty. They do not give in to being swayed and influenced by others around them. A person who is authentic, will never leave anyone guessing about who they are, because they are transparent. One well-known leader who exemplified this was Steve Jobs. Jobs was well known for his passion to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. He never shied away from telling his staff that their ideas were wrong and would refocus them on his vision for Apple. Jobs once stated “I don’t think I run roughshod over people, but if something sucks, I tell people to their face. It’s my job to be honest.” Although, it may be difficult to attain this level of honesty with people, it demonstrates a high level of authenticity. If you want to become more authentic to others, express what you truly believe, think and feel.

Develop Self-Knowledge

The third characteristic of authentic people is that they have a high level of self-knowledge. Being authentic means being true to unique aspects of yourself such as personality, strengths and values. There is an alignment between these key aspects and a person’s ideals and actions. However, for this alignment to happen you must understand your true traits, along with your motivations. It was Aristotle that once said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”. It is very difficult to disagree with this statement , as the relationship with yourself is the most important. If you expect others to understand and know you, then you must know what makes you distinct and exceptional. More importantly, when you know who you are, you can fully trust in yourself and realize your highest potential. Instead of letting others dictate what they think is best for you, you can take full control over your life and decisions.

Stop Depending on Others for Approval

Finally, authentic people have a sense of independence from others. Overall, they do not seek the approval of others to feel valued. Highly authentic people can demonstrate caring, concern, compassion and understanding towards people, but they do not strive to achieve others’ unfair expectations or try to please them. They have the confidence to continually live in who they are and what they do. They do not try to conform themselves to fit in and be accepted. The bottom line is that they do not seek or need validation from other people to be who they are. At the same time, they avoid comparisons to other people when assessing their own progress and life achievements. They do their best to strive for their own unique life, dreams and aspirations. These individuals fully understand that other people will define success very differently than they do.

When people are deeply authentic, and living out their personal values, ideals, perspectives and self, it can give them a greater sense of well-being. Unfortunately, according to studies there are a large percentage of employees in North America that feel pressure to suppress their personal values, attempting to go along with organizational standards. You might be one these individuals, and it’s understandable. There may be many reasons to conform such as the need to get ahead, future job promotion, conflict avoidance or supervisor influence. However, there is a real cost to losing your authenticity. There has been research suggesting that people expressing less authenticity have higher levels of depression, experience less life satisfaction and increased career disengagement. Instead of attempting to conform, it is vital that you seek higher authenticity. By being in greater alignment with your most authentic self, you will remain true to your own unique feelings, beliefs, ideals, dreams and aspirations. So, the main question is, if you choose not to be authentic to who you really are, will you be prepared to sacrifice these important aspects of your life?