How Valuable are Career Assessments?
By Patricia Soldati
About a year ago I met a gentleman at a local
networking event. Michael had spent his career
as a corporate attorney for a major industrial
company in Stratford, CT. At age 59, he was
downsized and decided to "make lemonade"
by relocating to the Berkshire Hills of Western
Massachusetts, and focusing his expertise
on the profusion of smaller businesses that
are located here.
As soon as Michael discovered that I was a
career coach, he popped this question: "What
do you think of career assessments?"
I smelled a set-up, but I answered as honestly
as I could. "Multiple assessments can
have great value - as long as you also apply
the filter of your own wisdom and experience."
It turned out that as part of his downsizing
package, Michael had been given outsource
assistance, including a battery of assessments
- the upshot of which was a strong recommendation
that he should become an architect.
"Can you imagine," he said, "that
I should toss out 32 years of legal experience
and start over as an architect? It may fit
technically - but it's just not realistic."
My point exactly. It's not that starting over
should always be ruled out, but when you're
hovering on retirement, it's not an ideal
time to make what would amount to a 6-year
investment in re-training - never mind the
time to build a sustainable practice.
The Benefits of Career Assessments
Still, career assessments are worth every
penny. With 15 or 20 years of work experience,
many career-changers feel that they already
know what they're good at, what they like
and what they don't like. And while it's true
that assessments may not reveal startling
secrets, they provide terrific reference points
Help you articulate a great number of
skills and preferences much more clearly,
and an expanded list of options lessens
your risk of a poor career choice
Validate what you already know - which
leads to greater trust in your new choice
and, quite possibly, the courage to make
Open up specific career choices that
are a good fit for you, and perhaps even
better, break down these careers into
"component pieces" which can
provide more possibilities to consider.
Pinpoint your aversions - so that you
can better manage them (i.e., do less
of them, do them with humor, or not do
them at all)
Research Findings about Career Assessments
Assessments come in a Baskin-Robbins assortment
of flavors. Some test for skills, others for
personality or motivations. After considerable
research and multiple conversations with industry
experts, here's what I've found:
There is no single gold standard despite
the fact that every company touts their
assessment as such.
It takes considerable time and a sizable
investment to create an assessment that
is credible, predictive and clear in interpretation.
Most of the Internet freebies lack, or
at least, don't publish such credentials;
the old saying 'you get what you pay for'
probably applies. The upshot: online freebies
are more fun than fact; many are simply
a teaser with limited reporting - as enticement
to pony up for a more complete assessment.
Higher priced assessments don't necessarily
mean better or more valid; they may be
more proprietary and therefore, require
a greater level of interpretation and
Career experts unanimously recommend
taking several tests for a well-rounded,
vocational picture. You end up with expanded
self-awareness, more options and less
risk than by taking a single assessment.
Professional interpretation of results
is one of the best investments you can
make in your career-change process.
Richard Bolles, author of the classic
What Color Is Your Parachute?, says that
all assessments should be handled with care.
"Never let an assessment tell you what
to do," he warns. "Its purpose is
only to give you some clues about your skills
and interests. You've got to decide whether
the clues are useful. No single test is totally
take two or three to get a good,
composite picture of yourself."
Which Career Assessments are Most Beneficial?
I investigated over 30 career resources
- with the exception of the test developers
themselves. I wanted to be able to provide
you with the experience of users - not the
promotional material of the developers. I
was interested in finding one or more instruments
that could uncover that 'big picture' AND
which met these criteria:
a) validly constructed; b) widely used and
easily administered; c) reasonably priced.
My favorites: for personality assessment,
the classic Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI);
for interests and preferences, the Strong
Interest Inventory, and if you think you want
to run a business, add Strong's Entrepreneur
Assessment. I also like the Motivational Appraisal
of Personal Potential (MAPP).
Patricia Soldati is a former President
& COO of a national finance organization
who re-invented her working life in 1999.
As a career fulfillment specialist, she helps
corporate professionals enhance their working
lives - both by staying within the organization
- and by leaving it behind. She is a certified
coach (International Association of Coaches)
and was recently selected to be a thought
leader for a major workplace-related website.
To receive her 5-lesson complimentary eCourse
on career change, visit http://www.purposefulwork.com/articlelandpage.html