Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Career Change: What about Assessments?

I'm frequently asked, "What assessments would be helpful in guiding me in my career decisions?"

It sometimes seems like there are an infinite variety of career assessments available, and they all promise to give you some insight into what career would be right for you. And in truth, most assessments do provide information that can be useful. I have taken many of them myself over the years, and I've yet to find one that doesn't give me what I think is reliable information about myself. Actually, assessment is a big business. There are entire businesses built on providing assessments, and if you want, you can spend a lot of money in this way to learn more about yourself.

The problem that I continue to observe, however, is that few people who take these assessments learn enough from them to be able to do anything different -- or to make decisions about what careers they would do best in and be happiest in. The problem is not the assessments themselves. They are scientifically valid (at least most of them), and they are providing correct results.

The first problem is that taking a multiple choice test and then looking at printed results does not make you process the information and learn from it. They provide fast results with little effort. Unfortunately, like most endeavors, quick and dirty doesn't get the job done very well.

The second major problem is that most instruments provide a piece of the puzzle in clarifying what your ideal job would be. Because you only get a piece here and a piece there, it is often difficult to put all of that together into a coherent picture.

Because of these results, I have chosen not to offer assesments as part of my coaching practice. No doubt, doing so would be a good source of income. And I would probably even get more clients that way. I do use assessment results that clients already have, and occasionally I'll ask a client to take a Self-Directed Search.

What I have found works, if a client is willing to do the work, is the Flower Exercise from What Color is Your Parachute (see link below). Richard Bolles, who wrote the book, developed the exercise to help you define your ideal job. The exercise entails writing some short stories, doing some analysis, and doing some prioritizing. It takes more effort and time than doing some assessments, BUT THAT'S WHERE THE VALUE COMES FROM. Going through the process produces real learning, and the exercise touches on each facet that goes into making up the ideal job, so when you get through, you have a clear, definitive description of your ideal job.

You can do the exercise on your own. You just have to set aside some time and do it. Many people, however, find it easier to work through the exercise with the support and assistance of a coach. If you'd like to investigate that option, email me and we'll set up a time to talk about it.

Jim Hughes is a Christian Life Coach helping people make successful career changes. For more information about coaching, or to contact Jim directly, visit Mapmaker Coaching.