Perhaps more than ever before, young people today are taking great time and care in deciding what career paths to pursue. Many are not going straight to College or University right after high school, preferring instead to take a year or two off to travel, work, or volunteer. For the most part, they are in no hurry to decide. Maybe it’s because they have observed their baby-boomer and gen-x parents work so hard and complain so much; trade fulfillment at work for financial security, and they are unwilling to make the same compromise. Perhaps this is why career assessments are on the rise.
When conducted properly and professionally, career assessments go far beyond identifying ‘suitable’ careers. There’s nothing inspiring in ‘suitable’. Career assessments should provide students with inspiration; they should stretch the boundaries, explore the possibilities. They should open students’ minds to careers that had never been considered, or even thought of; ones that are new and emerging. Career assessments are a process of introspection and discovery, not cookie-cutter, made-to-order lists of jobs that you can live with if you had to. Put simply, beyond suitable, career assessments should discover possibilities. Notice how everything changes when we go from using the word ‘suitable’ to ‘possible’. The first sounds very strict, inflexible, non-negotiable, while the second sounds exciting and limitless.
The difference between a computer-generated list of ‘suitable’ jobs and an insightful exploration of opportunities and possibilities, lies, firstly, in the time and care taken by the career professional. Often the assessment tools used are the same from one professional to another, but the results can be vastly different. A properly conducted career assessment is one where a thorough intake is completed. To do this, one needs to go beyond the prescribed questions about education and employment history, and hobbies and interests, and venture into understanding the hows and whys that make up an individual’s reported interests and aptitudes. This is because the underlying reasons that drive one’s choices and decisions are what really need to be understood, if one is to venture beyond what is visible or apparent, and explore the opportunities and possibilities that lie deep beneath the surface. So much more insight exists in understanding why people like some things and not others, and what motivates their decisions.
Second, the results produced by assessment tools should not be viewed as an end-point, but as a starting point, and the subject of in-depth discussion and exploration. Assessment results must be properly interpreted, and their results should direct further research. It is here, especially, where expertise is required to explore and identify opportunities that lie beyond the surface, relying greatly on a thorough understanding of the individual for whom the assessment is being conducted.
The result of a career assessment that is delivered by a qualified professional who takes great pride and care in their work, is a set of well-researched possibilities and opportunities that are firmly grounded within a clinically-standardized framework. Where this outcome is achieved, clients not only enjoy the benefit of having one or more exciting new career paths to explore, but can recognize new opportunities as they encounter them, through an enriched self-awareness acquired from the experience.