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Career Testing Can Help Direct the Directionless

Career Testing Can Help Direct the Directionless

You feel so lost that you can't imagine how you're going to be able to choose a major. Or you feel so clueless that determining a career path seems next to impossible. Or you feel so iffy about the major or career path you have chosen that the thought of actually pursuing it gives you the willies.

In a nutshell, you just don't know what you'd be good at or what would make you happy when it comes to a major or -- more importantly -- a future career.

Sound familiar? If so, then you're a good candidate for career testing.

You've probably heard of career tests, and maybe you even took one in high school. Used wisely, though, career tests -- usually called inventories since they generally aren't tests with right or wrong answers -- can help you get a better sense of who you are and where you might best fit in the world of work.

Wisely is the key word, however. It's important to understand that no career test can pinpoint precisely what you should be. Rather, career test results merely give you some idea of careers you might want to explore, given your interests, your skills and abilities and your personality. That's all -- no more, no less.

Testing Options

But that alone is a pretty good benefit. So take a trip to your campus career center and see if the counselors there offer any of the following career tests:

  • Strong Interest Inventory (SII): The SII is all about your interests, or what you like to do. You answer questions about various activities, and then the test results suggest some general-interest areas and specific occupations you may want to consider. You also wind up with a sense of where your interests lie in six broad areas: social (helping, instructing), investigative (researching, analyzing), conventional (accounting, processing data), artistic (creating or enjoying art), enterprising (selling, managing) and realistic (building, repairing).

  • Self-Directed Search (SDS): Similar in scope to the SII but shorter and quicker, the SDS is another popular tool that measures your interests and points you toward -- or away from -- the six areas listed above.

  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): The MBTI measures your personality -- in essence, what makes you tick. The first of its four scales tells you how you prefer to focus your attention -- whether you're extroverted or introverted. The other scales measure how you look at things (sensing versus intuitive), how you generally make decisions (thinking versus feeling) and how you deal with the world around you (judging versus perceiving). Combined, this information can help you understand what type of work you'd like to do, with whom, how, why and even where.

  • Career Ability Placement Survey (CAPS): The CAPS is one of the few career tests that does have right and wrong answers, and it is also timed. Essentially, you attempt to answer questions in eight different areas -- ranging from mechanical reasoning and spatial relations to verbal reasoning and language usage -- all in a predetermined amount of time. When you're done, you have a wonderful idea of where your natural abilities lie. You haven't just guessed about them -- you've actually demonstrated them, if only on a test.

Remember the admonition you often hear on TV, "This is a test. This is only a test," applies here as well. Your career test results aren't going to tell you anything. But they will point you in some specific and potentially fruitful directions, one of which may well be the major or career you confidently decide to pursue.

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