by Patti Wilson
Sep 22 2016
Ask many people in corporate America their Myers Briggs type and most likely they will be able to tell you their four-letter code, along with their astrological sign. Thanks to team building, and management skills training, we can describe ourselves with personality test terms such as Driver or Amiable as well.
Some of us came into contact with career assessment tools during college if we were undecided and needed help in determining our major or career path. Again, during our MBA classes, we used personality assessments to learn how to hire, manage and motivate our future employees. That was pretty much the extent of our brush with self-assessment until middle age or mid-career transitions happened upon us.
Fast forward 20 years, more or less, in a time of economic tumult, when unexpected business and global social change has unseated our best laid plans. Once again we are faced with those questions of our youth:
- What should I do now?
- What are my options?
- What path is right for me?
- Is this a good fit for me?
Career Assessments can play a crucial role in helping identify new options, road test possibilities, and basically get us unstuck from running up the same dead end tunnel. Career Assessments are based on the theories and body of knowledge of Career Development, which is a psychological subcategory of Adult Development in Adult Psychology.
Actually, like most useful ideas and processes, it is basic common sense. As we age, we evolve through normal stages/transitions of adult psychological development every ten years or so. The stages are book matched by career development stages/transitions and they even have nicknames. For example the transition that happens around age 18-22 years of age is called “Breaking the Apron Strings” and is a time when we leave home and go out on our own for the first time to school or to work.
Career Assessments can be used at any stage to help guide us through the transition, address the challenges we face in our professional growth, and give us answers that we may have been too blind to see. If you envision yourself a precious cut gemstone, using assessments gives you views of yourself, each through a different facet.
There are four core kinds of assessments that are used in career development and management, both personally and in organizations. They are called “assessments” rather than “tests” because there are no right or wrong answers, pass or fail scores, good or bad results. Like the facets of a gem, they merely reflect of parts of your current internal situation that can be helpful or useful in managing your career.
Personality Assessments can point us to the best environments and people to work with.
Not everyone can be easily and completely compatible with everyone else or fit into any kind of business environment. Certain companies have a culture and a style of doing business that fits some people better than others. People who thrive on chaos, ambiguity and crazy creativity would do well in a Google but not so well at Mercy General Hospital’s intensive care unit. Our personalities may not determine our actual job but they do give us a propensity for how and where we do it.
Several smart, ambitious personality types can go to law school, achieve top grades and graduate with distinction. But they likely will end up practicing different kinds of law. The extraverted, dominant type might make a great criminal lawyer, while the introverted, analytical type might do very well in working on legal research in the federal court.
It is our personality differences that make workplaces interesting, stressful and keep organizational development consultants and career coaches gainfully employed. The more adept you are at understanding your own behavior and personality style, the better your emotional intelligence.
Personality assessments seem to be more popular and proliferate within organizations compared to skills, values and interests assessment because it is the clash of our personalities that can derail productivity, performance and business success, not to mention our careers.
Skills Assessments help us identify the top skills we want to use in any role.
These are best known for the well-used term “transferable skills” which imply that you can move from job to job if they require the same or similar skill sets. The skills we are talking about are action verbs and most people have competent access to use 1000’s of them.
However we tend to favor a certain set of skills that boils down to a special few. Those skills, the ones we do really well and love to use, are the skills that we are motivated to use in any job. It is a really good idea to not look at what skills transfer from a prior position you held but rather find new opportunities that will let you use fully, completely and exclusively your motivated skills. An example would be someone having great financial and corporate strategy skills but their prior roles put them into demanding audit and accounting tasks.
We will end up using our motivated skills in any position, so why not find the job that actually let’s us do so in the first place. Our likelihood for success in the role will increase tenfold as will our job satisfaction.
Values Assessments help us to determine how satisfied and happy we will be in an organization and make better job choices.
Using the skills we love is not enough to make a fulfilling career. Where we work, the level, environment, team, and product/service are crucial ingredients. Deciding on the right company, group, sector and/or industry starts with clearly knowing what we value or want in our careers at any given time. To the extent that a company satisfies our top career values or criteria will determine our happiness and fulfillment in a position.
Think about a time when you loved your job and then reorganization had you driving to a new site, with a new non-collaborative work group and a micromanaging boss. Suddenly, your top values of autonomy and independence, a short commute, and teamwork were no longer satisfied.
Studies have shown that people do not leave positions because of pay or salary, but because of a lack of value satisfaction. Values Assessments enable us to walk into interviews armed with self-knowledge tools that can be used to benchmark, evaluate, and negotiate a more fulfilling opportunity.
Interests Assessments can point us to career paths or industries that will keep us engaged and contributing.
Interests can be tied to skills in that we apply our skills to what interests us. However, many fields in business or non-profit such as finance, human resources, sales, marketing and executive management cross many product and service sectors. For example, everything needs to be sold, accounted, managed or developed from a toothbrush to a telescope.
What interests us is where we will tend to put our attention and gravitate towards. At mid-career when our previous industry has been moved off-shore, products have become obsolete or positions commoditized, out interests can point us to new sectors, products, and avenues of career exploration.
Working with career assessments can provide valuable insights, life changing epiphanies or simply shed light on underlying motivations and needs that have gone too long unrecognized. Mid-career can often offer up the perfect time to take stock and assessment of ourselves.