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Career assessments are tools that are designed to help individuals understand how a variety of personal attributes (i.e., interests, values, preferences, motivations, aptitudes and skills), impact their potential success and satisfaction with different career options and work environments. Career assessments have played a critical role in career development and the economy in the last century (Whiston and Rahardja, 2005). Assessments of some or all of these attributes are often used by individuals or organizations, such as university career service centers, career counselors, outplacement companies, corporate human resources staff, executive coaches, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and guidance counselors to help individuals make more informed career decisions.
In part, the popularity for this tool is due to the National Defense Education Act of 1958, which funded career guidance in schools. Focus was put onto tools that would help high school students determine which subjects they may want to focus on to reach a chosen career path. Since 1958, career assessment tool options have exploded.
Types of career assessments
Career assessments come in many forms and vary along several dimensions. The assessments selected by individuals or administrators vary depending on their personal beliefs regarding the most important criteria when considering career choices, as well as the unique needs of the individual considering a career decision. Some common points of variance are:
- Methodology - Some assessments are quantitative in nature and precisely measure key attributes believed to influence an individuals potential success and satisfaction with a career. Others are qualitative exercises designed to help individuals clarify their goals and preferences, which can then be used to make more informed career decisions.
- Measured attributes - Assessments vary with regard to the specific personality attributes measured. Some assessments focus on an individual's interests, and perhaps aptitude, while others focus on skills or values.
- Validity - Many assessments, particularly those offered on the internet, lack evidence for "validity," which is the degree to which interpretation of the results of the assessment or decisions made from the results are useful. Typical evidence of validity is verified empirically. Users should evaluate any tests psychometric properties when assessing whether to use it for a particular purpose, and how much weight to give to the results. When the validity of the assessment for its intended purpose cannot be evaluated, results should be interpreted with appropriate caution.
- Target customer profile - Some assessments, such as the Strong Interest Inventory, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, and Careerscope are designed to serve broad markets (i.e., virtually any individual choosing a vocational program or Career Clusters, starting their career or considering a career change.
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Career assessments are designed to discover the skills, aptitude and talents of candidates. A self-assessment can be helpful in assessing the areas in which a candidate has strengths and where they are weak. The results can be useful in helping candidates to choose a career that is in tune with their goals and talents. While the validation of each instrument may vary from test to test, overall these types of assessments have been proven to introduce more career options, increase satisfaction in one’s career plan and increase the understanding of oneself (Prince et al., 2003).
Data as to how often people change careers are unavailable while there's a considerable mythology about it, though no systematic studies have been undertaken. However, many people change careers more than once. Some make changes because the career path they chose is no longer viable (to wit, buggy whip makers are no longer in high demand). Or because as they mature throughout the lifespan their interests evolve. The biggest benefit of career assessment, therefore, is that it enables candidates to make the best career decision to grow both personally and professionally.
To make an assessment of their skills, candidates can pursue many avenues, the can take career interest tests such as the Strong Vocational Aptitude test, they can conduct a self-assessment, they can use the plethora of career books designed to help with this task. In fact, there are a myriad of helpful books, the most famous of which is, Richard Bolles, What Color is Your Parachute. In addition, they can seek expert help from career counselors, or when warranted, psychologists or other mental health professionals. These professionals use a variety of techniques to determine the talents of candidates. Also, career counselors can guide candidates on how to go about planning their career to achieve professional success.
Many people who are unhappy in their work find themselves uncertain as to where to turn for help. They may have seen career counselors or career coaches or read self-help books or even obtained psychotherapy to address their career concerns—and, still found that their difficulties did not yield to these interventions. In response to this uncertainty in 2000, Dr. Lynn Friedman, a clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst who has devoted her career to work-life concerns pioneered an exciting new approach to career assessment; psychoanalytically-informed, career assessment. As a clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst working with people around work-life concerns, Friedman, a Washington DC Psychologist found that many people devoted considerable time, energy and money to unhelpful services because their difficulties were not properly assessed at the outset.
Friedman found that a careful psychological assessment aimed at asking the question, "what prompts these career difficulties" allowed the underlying nature of the difficulties to be clarified and understood. With this understanding a helpful intervention could be planned. For example, Friedman found that many people who sought psychotherapy when career coaching might have been the optimal intervention and conversely, many sought career coaching or career counseling when psychotherapy or even psychoanalysis would be more effective at resolving their difficulties. Unfortunately, most career coaches and counselors are not trained to assess whether psychotherapy or psychoanalysis would be the appropriate intervention.
Career assessment, in the form of tests and other structured and unstructured tools, can be very useful for those who are uncertain about the array of career possibilities. However, there are some drawbacks to each. At best, the results of individual career assessments provide targeted information that may not address a particular individual's needs. In addition, some of the best individual assessment tools require the help of a qualified professional to ensure the results are interpreted correctly and usefully.
Also, many of the tests are based on the person’s view of himself or herself. If someone is not self-aware, the results may not be accurate. Many times they do not take into account that people have natural blind spots. The test is only as good as its user and individuals are often not clearly aware of their own strengths and weaknesses.
- Career development
- Holland Codes
- Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
- Occupational Outlook Handbook
- Personality psychology
- Standard Occupational Classification System
- Enneagram of Personality
- Kapes,J.T.,Mastie,M.M,&Whitfield,E.A. (1994). A Counselor’s Guide to Career Assessment Instruments. Alexandria,VA: National Career Development Association.
- McCarthy.A.M.; Garavan,T.N. (1999). "Developing self-awareness in the managerial career development process: the value of 360-degree feedback and the MBTI". Journal of European Industrial Training 23 (9): 437–445. doi:10.1108/03090599910302613. Check date values in: