by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
As part of the celebration of Quintessential Careers’s 15th anniversary, we’re presenting lists of 15 tips on some of the most essential topics in college, job search, and career.
Here’s our list about getting to know yourself better through assessment and self-reflection.
- Many individuals agonize needlessly over what their career — or next career — should be. You don’t need to be one of them because many assessments are available to help guide you toward the right career for you.
- The ideal scenario is to take assessments administered and interpreted by a qualified career counselor or coach. You may find inexpensive options through government-funded career centers and public community colleges and universities, or the institution of higher education from which you graduated.
- Not everyone has easy access to career counselors/coaches or can afford their services. Even those who use the services of these practitioners may want to supplement and enhance their self-knowledge by trying out free and inexpensive career assessments available on the Internet. Though some experts question their reliability, we’ve found the results of many of these assessments to be consistent with those of their more mainstream, counselor-administered counterparts. See our detailed assessment comparison chart, which shows a variety of assessments that are either free or in expensive ($40 or less).
- Be aware that assessments typically measure one or more of the following: personality, interests, skills, strengths, weaknesses, abilities, learning style, temperament, and values, especially workplace values. Check out our Career Assessment Tools & Tests to get an overview.
- As the “Assessment Goddess,” Susan Guarneri points out, assessments can offer IN-sight or OUT-sight. “IN-sight, “Guarneri writes, “means understanding yourself and your personal assets so that you can clearly communicate your uniqueness and potential value to an employer or to your customers, if you chose to be an entrepreneur and start your own small business.” In contrast, she writes, “OUT-sight has to do with what others think of you, your personal brand, and your perceived value.” Read her full article, Take Charge of Your Career Direction: Career Assessments Can Point the Way!.
- Keep your expectations in check when you take free or inexpensive online assessments. You may attain some direction and guidance from these tests, but don’t be overly reliant on them for magic answers.
- Be aware of some of the criticisms and limitations of online assessments. Read our article, Online Career Assessments: Helpful Tools of Self-Discovery, as well as The Fairy Godmother Report On Test & Advice Sites, by Richard Bolles, author of the perennially best-selling What Color Is Your Parachute?.
- Be open to career directions you hadn’t considered. Don’t discount the possibility that these free online assessments might suggest to you some career ideas and directions you had never thought of and that are worth further exploration.
- Take several different assessments to help you learn more about yourself, help you determine which tests provide the most reliable results for you, and give you a well-rounded picture of yourself and your potential. You could, for example, take an assessment in each of several categories, such as strengths, skills, interests, personality, and workplace values.
- Consider collecting your sets of results — both those obtained while working with a counselor/coach and those from online assessments. Print out the results of the assessments you take online and place them in a folder or binder. That way, you can compare results, see if you can see patterns, and get a better idea of which results seem off the mark. You can also repeat the assessments and see if the results change over time.
- Trust your gut. If an online assessment tells you something about yourself that doesn’t ring true, disregard that information. One very reputable test, for example, gave “ski instructor” as a suggested career for a surprising number of our students. There just aren’t that many people who should be ski instructors.
- Consider some of the online assessments we’ve tried and consider to be the best and most reliable: Dependable Strengths for the Internet, CareerMaze, the Jackson Vocational Interest Survey (JVIS) (especially good for younger job-seekers and those deciding on a college major), and the Campbell Interest and Skill Survey.
- Use career assessments with a variety of other self-discovery activities… such as examining your strengths and weaknesses (see Using a SWOT Analysis as a Key Career-Planning Tool), developing a mission statement (see Creating a Personal Mission Statement) and listing the activities you most enjoy and least enjoy. Some of the same activities that are helpful for choosing a college major can also apply to career self-assessments. See, for example, our Choosing a College Major Worksheet.
- Consider storytelling as an assessment technique to get to know yourself better and plot your career. See our article Plotting the Story of Your Ideal Career.
- Self-assessment need not be an angst-filled process. Have fun taking career assessments. Self-discovery is almost always an enlightening and often entertaining process.
Finally, don’t forget to check out all our Career Assessment and Self-Reflection Articles.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms. Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.