Use Career Assessments to Actually Assess Your Career
Career assessment tests, such as StrengthsQuest, can help those young professionals who are working to discover what they want out of a career. After completing the StrengthsQuest test, I discovered that my top five strengths are Harmony, Learner, Discipline, Intellection, and Context… but what does that mean? I was skeptical of these tests at first, but as I was taking the test, I found the questions to be personal and thought-provoking. When the results were delivered, and I read through the descriptions of each trait, I was able to find myself in aspects in each one. Surprisingly, these results brought up particular parts of my personality and lifestyle that I knew about on some level, but was previously unable to put into words. I had no idea how to discuss those traits in a way that made me look or sound more professional. Now that I have taken the tests and had time to interact with my results, I know that the StrengthsQuest test will absolutely help me in my job search in the future, because it allows me to better understand how I view the world, what jobs fit me well, and how to describe those traits in a ways that will make me more marketable to employers (http://www.strengthsquest.com/content/141353/Career.aspx).
Looking back at my academic career, I can see that these traits are part of what allowed me succeed, and how they will be helpful to me in my career search. Being organized and disciplined helped me stay on top of my busy school and extracurricular schedule, being a learner helped me stay interested in class and not get discouraged by long study hours, and having a strong sense of harmony helped me in both my personal relationships and to work as part of a team on multiple occasions. These traits are all things that I was aware of at some level, but seeing them put into words will really help me harness them and sell them in the future, especially in interviews.
Taking the tests and getting your results, however, is only step one. Young professionals need to spend time with these results, and find ways to make them marketable. I believe that the information gained from the results of the StrengthsQuest test is going to be invaluable moving into my career, especially in interview situations. These tests will undoubtedly prove valuable to any person looking to gain new employment. It is vital for professionals to know who they are on a basic level, because that will help them know what they need form a position (https://www.seattleu.edu/careerservices/services/career-discernment-and-self-assessment/self-assessment-tools/) Career assessment tests have allowed me to see different aspects of who I am as a person, and who I can be as a professional. The results can also help you rule out careers that do not seem to fit your specific personality.
Put Those Strengths (and Yourself) to Work
The type of personal reflection that comes from working through the results of a career assessment test like StrengthsQuest will pay off in the long run, especially in interview settings where candidates are asked to describe themselves. In interviews, candidates are often at a loss when they are asked questions like “Tell me about yourself,” , “What are your strengths?” and “What are some of your weaknesses?” If you do not have a ready answer, then answering these prompts on the spot can be intimidating or impossible. These kind of self-assessments require a certain level of self evaluation, which cannot easily, wholly, or honestly done on the spot. That is where the self -assessments come in- they provide a window into those answers, and provide you with some personal and constructive responses. However, they should be used as a tool to answer these common interview questions, not as answers themselves. If an interviewer asks me, “What are some of your strengths?” answering with a list of “Harmony, Learner, Intellection, Disciple and Context.” is not going to convince an employer to hire me. Understanding the traits given in these assessments and being able to communicate them, and give real life examples, is the key. For example, instead of answering “One of my strengths is Context,” which will most likely confuse the interviewer and not give them the answer they were looking for, I could answer, “One of my strengths is seeing the big picture. When I am working on a project, I can see where it will end up. I understand what came before this project, and I am able to evaluate those events to determine whether they worked and will be fitting to use again in the current situation. For example…” This answer again explains my strength of context, but shows the employer you can (and have) apply it to work and make yourself more successful. For this reason, not only is taking the tests and viewing your results important, it is vital to understand them and evaluate how they apply to your life and career.
Many results from these self assessments could be written off by some as not applicable in the professional world. The people who would dismiss them are probably the same people who would believe that a liberal arts degree has inherently less value than a more specific career track degree, like business or engineering. However, liberal arts students can use both their degree and the knowledge gained from these tests to prove those people wrong, and prove themselves as professionals in the process. By understanding the personal traits that make you tick and the practical ways in which a liberal arts degree can be applied, liberal arts students hold the power to change minds and reverse the stigma that a liberal arts degree is useless in a professional setting. In all three books for our course, the problematic “track” thinking is addressed. While some majors clearly have a track (accounting majors will be accountants, engineering majors will work as an engineer), liberal arts degrees often get tied to teaching, which many students do not want to pursue. The course books all give example after example of a graduate with a specific degree, which often call to mind a certain profession, that has turned it into a career that no one expected. This is powerful, because knowledge that other have done diverse things with their degree will empower other people who feel stuck on a teaching track to explore more diverse careers. For example, I have felt discouraged about possibly pursuing Higher Education as a graduate field and as a career because it does not fit perfectly within the Political Science track, which is usually either law or Public Policy. However, I understand now that my undergraduate experience in evaluating policy and conducting research would be very useful in the field of Higher Education in an administrative sense.
Career assessments have to be used as a tool. Alone, they cannot land you your dream job or tell your employer why you would fit best with a certain company. But by working with the results, young professionals can greatly enhance their understanding of their career goals, and increase their chances of reaching their goals.