crystal-ball.jpgReaders often ask me to help them figure out what type of job or profession they should pursue. Lately, this question has come up even more frequently as people lose their jobs, or feel the ax is near, and figure this is a good time to go into a career they can really love.

I wish I had a career crystal ball so I could tell all of you what path you should follow when you’re ready to change careers, or just out of school wondering what to do with the rest of your life.

I don’t.

While individuals have to do this career homework themselves, there are tools out there to help you narrow your search.

I’m not adverse to personality and career tests. There are pitfalls, and I’ve written about those in the past. But overall, they can give you a good starting off point.

Today, I decided to take a couple of tests myself to see what type of job may suit my personality. Don’t worry, I’m not giving up my day job. I was just curious and figured it might help all of you to see if my results are on target or not. I’ve also asked my intern, Katherine, to take both tests. This will give us a good gauge of what these tests come up with for two people at very different points in their careers, one established, the other trying to figure out what the heck she should do.

I decided to Google “career test”.

The first site I came up with was something called SimilarMinds.

The test was short and sweet and here’s what it came up with for me:

You are an Inspirer, possible professions include - conference planner, speech pathologist, HR development trainer, ombudsman, clergy, journalist, newscaster, career counselor, housing director, character actor, marketing consultant, musician/composer, artist, information-graphics designer, human resource manager, merchandise planner, advertising account manager, dietitian/nutritionist, speech pathologist, massage therapist, editor/art director.

You all probably noticed that “journalist” is included it the types of jobs that would work for my personality. But so are “speech pathologist” and “clergy.”

Here’s Katherine’s results:

Guardian, possible professions include - counseling, ministry, library work, nursing , secretarial, curators, bookkeepers, dental hygienists, computer operator, personnel administrator, paralegal, real estate agent, artist, interior decorator, retail owner, musician, elementary school teacher, physical therapist, nurse, social worker, personnel counselor, alcohol/drug counselor.

This tests seems to me to be a bit like what you’d get from a fortune teller at a carnival. They usually tell you things that a broad and far reaching, and hope you jump on one something they say that applies to your life.

I’m not sure what you really get out of something like this.

I decided to do another test that had a bit more meat behind it, so I asked Juliet Wehr Jones of career counseling website CareerKey what she suggested, and she sent me The Career Key test.

This test costs about $10 to take and it’s much more elaborate and includes many more questions.

I scored highest on in the “Artistic” category with “Social” right behind. And I was able to be a bit more proactive with this test picking the types of jobs I would like so “poet,” “editorial writer,” and “bartender” were all on my list. That works for me.

Katherine scored highest in the “Social” category and these are the jobs that were most suited for her, according to the test:

Clinical or Counseling Psychologist
Counselor
Social Worker
Licensed Practical Nurse
College Teacher
Fitness Worker

So, what did we get out of these tests. I pretty much figured out I’m doing what I should be doing. But if I ever decide to make a change, I may open up a bar.

Katherine says she got more out of the Career Key test. “That technically I should be some kind of counselor. I think there’s a little bit to it.”

But, she adds, “real estate agent. Never. Just no.”

And, “if I was a nurse I’d probably kill somebody or something. Like ‘oops, wrong medicine. Sorry.’”

The one thing I would caution is that a bad test could actually do more harm than good at a time when you might be vulnerable and trying to figure out what your next step should be.

Lawrence K. Jones and Juliet Wehr Jones, both of Career Key, offered these tips for people wondering how to choose the right test:

* Consider taking a high quality career interest inventory. The best valid interest inventory will do four things: help you understand yourself better, match you with careers that are likely to lead to satisfaction and success, suggest careers you had not thought of, and give you comprehensive information about each one. Through this process, you learn about yourself, the pros and cons of each job option, which helps you make a successful career decision.

* For a serious career decision, choose a serious, valid test. Quizzes, games, sorters, profilers, and finders that assess and match you with jobs are all career tests. To be helpful, they must be valid measures. But few of them are. For a test to be “valid,” there must be published, scientific evidence that it measures, in fact, what the author claims it measures. If you want accurate information about yourself and job options that fit you, take a valid test.

* Make sure the test website contains information about the test’s validity. It should mention specific studies or offer a professional manual you can see. A manual will describe validity studies. If no such information is available, avoid using it.

* Look beyond credentials, links, and endorsements. A Ph.D.’s endorsement or authorship does not make a test valid; anyone, with or without a Ph.D. can create an invalid career test. Links from schools, government and professional organizations are well-intentioned, but often unreliable.

* Seek the help of a professionally trained career counselor who recognizes the importance of test validity. They can help you choose the right test and help you interpret your results. The National Career Development Association, www.ncda.org, provides helpful consumer guidelines on selecting a counselor and CounselorFind of the National Board of Certified Counselors, www.nbcc.org, can help you find a certified counselor near you.

But the bottom line is, no test will ever tell you what you should be doing with your life.

If you rely on any one test, or any one person to make such decisions you might as well just invest in a crystal ball.

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