With our personal biases and mental filters, it can be quite difficult to see ourselves clearly. Who am I? What are my greatest strengths? What are my blind spots? What motivates and fuels me?
Self-awareness is a critical element to interpersonal success and leadership. It can improve our judgment, help us make better professional decisions and be a catalyst for professional development and personal growth. If you are exploring new career options or trying to accelerate your success, you’ve probably taken some form of assessment.
Assessments like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® or the Strong Interest Inventory® are tried and true classic instruments that introduce important frames around natural preferences and interests that help you assess potential career fit. However, there are dozens of other vocational assessments available in print or online. The Counselor’s Guide to Career Assessment Instruments provides a listing of some of the most recognized and respected career instruments.
Here are few things to think about to help you reflect on how to get the most out of assessments.
Managing expectations. While career assessments can help you get a better sense of who you are, they don’t provide the magic answer to what you need to be doing with your life. Simply put, no matter which career assessment you take, it cannot give you a concrete answer. The equation is a more complex recipe and can involve multiple factors – values, skills, abilities, interests, personality preferences, and biases shaped by life experience. No one instrument is that powerful.
Be honest! While instruments can provide insight to a variety of areas, they will only do so if you are being honest with yourself. The response is only as good as the information you provide. Respond as you naturally are – not based on who you (or your parents, spouse, significant other, etc.) think you should be. To get clarity about yourself and make powerful career choices that fit, you need to start at your personal bedrock.
Be open to more than what the job is – be open to what jobs symbolize. Being a counselor, clergy or rabbi might seem far removed from your desired career choice, but it may represent that being a go-to advisor and exercising deep listening and helping skills may be just what you need to be fulfilled in your work. Go deeper into the nature of what jobs mean – not just what they are on the surface.
Reflect on Assessment Results with Your Life Narrative
If you had told me when I left Emory over 25 years ago that I would be a career counselor, I would have laughed. Yet, when I replayed my life story, after my first company went out of business, I was the go-to to assist everyone with their resume. When I was looking for another job in marketing, I took a temp job in a university career center. When I was in Silicon Valley during the technology downturn, I spent my networking time counseling professionals about rebuilding and retrenching for their next career. The signs are often there – there’s usually white noise, biases and other distractions that keep us from seeing them. Assessments bring our themes to the forefront.
Be Smart. There are many career "tests" available online and you can now find career apps and other tools promising to help you figure it all out. Many of these tools are reliable and valid, but there are a lot of tools that aren’t. Do your homework. Before you pay good money for an assessment, make sure the assessment is well researched and valid. The National Career Development Association (ncda.org) provides a wealth of resources to help you explore credible sources.
In Search Of... While assessments are extremely valuable in help you gain deeper insight and self-awareness, it’s easy to get trapped into thinking there’s a magic assessment that will help you figure out all the answers. More is not always the answer. Assessments provide valuable frameworks but ultimately, like any data resource, it must be interpreted to your unique experiences. Use the data to help you clarify and to guide you for deeper exploration. Assessments have indeed helped thousands of professionals gain insight into natural preferences and potential fit – but it’s just one channel of learning.
To quote famed psychologist and psychiatrist, Carl Jung, “your visions will only become clear when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” Use assessments to help you start a deeper conversation with yourself.
Take advantage of a complimentary career coaching session with Jodie Charlop 82Ox 85C.
Jodie, founder and chief coaching officer for Potential Matters, specializes in working with individuals and organizations that want to achieve higher levels of personal and professional results in their business, careers, or lives.