Dissatisfied with Your Career, But Not Sure What to Do Next?

Many of us have vague ideas about changing careers but aren’t exactly sure what it is we want to do. If you are in a quandary about what to next, you may want to consider taking a career assessment.

Career assessments are tools that are designed to help individuals understand how a variety of personal attributes (i.e., values, interests, motivations, behavioral styles, aptitudes, and skills) impact their potential success and satisfaction with different career options and work environments. Assessments of some (or all) of these attributes are often used by individuals or organizations — such as university career services centers, career counselors, outplacement firms, HR staff, executive coaches, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and guidance counselors — to help individuals make more informed career decisions.

These decisions may be on the front-end — as in, “What are some suitable career options I should pursue?” — but they are also beneficial for helping experienced professionals assess why they are feeling unfulfilled in their current occupations or worse yet, totally “burned out.” Additionally, some individuals are “thrust” into exploring careers because the career path they were on is no longer viable, either because of industry, economic, or life changes.

Career assessments can help you learn about occupations that are a good match for you, identify skills you bring to a job and/or decide where you need training, consider careers you may not have thought about before, and even help you write a more personal, focused résumé.

In short, a career assessment can help you make the best career decisions to grow both personally and professionally.

However, there are some drawbacks. Although the results of an assessment may provide some enlightenment and options, it may not address your particular issues and needs. Additionally, some of the best assessment tools require the help of a qualified professional to ensure you interpret and apply the results correctly (lest you find yourself on a path to working in another occupation you don’t like). Also, keep in mind that many of the assessments are based on your view of yourself and we are often unaware of our own strengths, weaknesses, and ingrained misperceptions.

Whether completed online or in print (paper and pencil), the majority of assessments are administered in the form of a questionnaire. You may be asked to choose from a group of options, select from terms that are most like you or least like you, or rate activities as those you most enjoy/least enjoy.

Each assessment is scored against characteristics of various occupations — the skills/abilities, interests, values, and motivations required to effectively perform and enjoy the occupation.

Assessment results are not randomly matched to occupations. The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System, a United States government system of classifying occupations, is used by U.S. federal government agencies collecting occupational data. This system enables comparison of occupations across data sets. The SOC covers all occupations in which work is performed for pay or profit and reflects the current occupational structure in the United States.

On the other side of the equation are the tools themselves, which are drawn from research studies, collected data, and theories developed by psychologists. Several well-known and popular assessments are modifications based on these studies. Our next several articles will explore these tools in more depth.

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