What A Career Assessment Can’t Tell You

I love personality tests.

From “Which Famous Author Are You Most Like?”, to “Which Sci-Fi hero is Your Sidekick?”, I take them all. So when it came to career assessments I was ready to dive in the deep end, but those tests do not produce a career off the assembly line, ready for use. But what I found was that these tests did not give me the results I expected. They gave me some useful insights into my personality, but the careers they connected me with were not my idea of a good fit.

I should say there are real insights in these test results. Career assessments have come a long way in recent years and there are some very useful ones. I personally like StrengthQuest and Myers Briggs, but the real gold is not found in a quick agree/disagree format. You have to really know yourself and what you enjoy to turn those results into applicable tools. The tests will not do the work for you. They are another tool to use toward your career ideas, but there is no quick way to a ‘perfect’ career.

Success is not a straight line
The truth about success

Career paths are not linear,as we have been conditioned to think, so how can we expect these assessments to give us insightful, intricate results? It may have something to do with the way society views majors and careers. When we are asked what we are going to do with our liberal arts degree, we feel like people expect one clear answer. But what if you don’t know or have several ideas fighting for first place? These encounters create some real problems for students who haven’t decided, or like several things. The risk of assuming a linear path leads to:

  • Fear of missing your number one career
  • Doubt that the correct answer will ever come
  • Indecision if you love several things
  • Worry that your choice won’t be accepted
  • Frustration when your dreams are not supported

Anyone of these can derail a student searching for their next step. So how do we change things? It isn’t likely to be done through changing your friends, neighbors, or aunts, so we have to gain a new way of approaching the subject ourselves.

Enter – Wandering Maps, Key Mindsets, and Personal Reflections.

These tools, from Katharine Brooks’ “You Majored In What?”, work as a jump point for career/life explorations. These exercises have totally shifted my perspective on career development. As an English major, I have had nothing but polite concern from people when I tell them that, “No, I am not going to teach.” I don’t even mention my love for writing that I hope can see some success. These passions are ‘risky’ so our loved ones show their concern in the only way they know how. The pattern of linear career paths is so embedded in the general population mindset that it feels like we will never escape it.

Wandering Map Example

One of the best things about the exercises in this book is the marriage of direction and open response. The instructions create a great space to start looking at your whole life as factors in the choices we make in the future. As we move through life we don’t have time to make note of every meaningful event or emerging passion. It’s when we reflect that we see the trends that can lead to career path options.

These exercises generate a lot of content, so don’t be surprised if you are staring at a web of confusion like I was. This is a lifelong journey and you want to look at your life so far to see where to begin this new path. Finding a passion or a calling is crucial to a happy career path. Those are the things that will keep you going when a boss is less than lovely.

Sharing The New Model

The beauty of this way of approaching career development is the unlimited number of ways each person can use their maps. So spread the word and encourage your neighbors and aunts to try it out too. Are they where they want to be? Are they working their passions? This journey is lifelong and everyone can benefit from looking at their life reflectively.


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