According to careerbuilder.com, one in five workers have utilized career assessment tests, ranking them among the most popular methods for researching a new job.
But are the tests that effective? They probably give you some insight into what you should be doing with your career. They may be able to splash the cold water of reality in your face when you need it. If your dream job is one that requires a great deal of organization, but your test results indicate that organization is not your strong suit, it could keep you from making a leap into a job that you shouldn't make.
Having said that, I wouldn't rely solely on test results for career guidance. I can remember taking tests like that in high school that would return a career suggestion that would just turn my stomach, so they're not always accurate.
Also, don't confuse passion for a career with an ability to do well at it. For example, it could be your lifelong passion to be a world-renowned opera singer, but if you physical limitations prevent it (e.g., you're tone deaf) then it's not a career choice for you.
It's a good idea to talk to co-workers, friends, and former bosses, etc., for some suggestions on what, in their opinions, you're good at. You may think you're a terrible public speaker but people who have heard you speak may feel differently.
The careerbuilder.com article quotes Steve Boller, the director and head career coach of the career guidance program The Oxford Program, which offers these tips for using career assessment tests.
- Don't expect a career assessment to point you to your dream job. Most career tests measure one aspect of a person, such as interests, personality or aptitude, and the results are merely suggestions based on that one area of assessment. Just because a person has an interest in marine biology doesn't mean he or she has the natural abilities for the work.
- Do make sure the test meets the two primary criteria: valid and reliable. Validity indicates how well the test measures what it says it measures, and if a test is reliable, the results of the test will be consistent if taken multiple times.
- Do give honest answers. If an individual consciously or subconsciously answers questions to fit an outcome he or she has in mind, the results will not be very useful.
Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.