The ABC’s of Career Testing for Recent Grads

For recent grads confused or unhappy with their first career moves, career testing may seem like a quick fix. Spend and hour or so checking off a few boxes and the universe will reveal just what career field will make you happy and successful, right?

Probably not. Although valid career and personality tests can have tens of years of research and evaluation compiled together to help you find your career fit, it is still important to proceed armed with knowledge and caution.

I spoke with Shirin Khamisa, the founder of Careers by Design, a career counselling and coaching company that works with people to create more happy Mondays, to discover why Generation Y is stuck in a post-grad rut and how career testing can help or hinder the post-grad dilemma.


The Post-Grad Problem

If your post-grad experience has been anything like mine, the words ‘I don’t
know,’ have probably run through your head more than once (or twice, or 100
times!). According to Shirin, the ‘I don’t know’ attitude characteristic of so many
twentysomethings is the downfall of the post-grad job search.

“People are often afraid to say ‘this is what I want’ because they feel it will make their
search too narrow. When you don’t have focus you’re just seeing what you can get…the
solution is to try to get focus and figure what two or three really good options would work
for you,” explained Shirin.

Are career tests a good place to discover your career niche? I spoke with Shirin to find out.

One Piece of the Post-Grad Puzzle

“Career tests can help you learn about your strengths and provide you with suggestions
for further research, but it is important to remember that career testing is just one part of
the puzzle,” said Shirin.

Although a potentially valuable part of the career search process, career tests are
most valuable when used in collaboration with career counselling or debriefing sessions.
In her career counselling services, career testing accounts for only about 10% of the work
that Shirin does with her clients.

“Making a career decision involves a whole host of factors…tests can help you learn
about your strengths and provide you with suggestions for further research. Tests can
help you to spark ideas. I like to think that tests point you in the right direction, but they
always require further investigation,” explained Shirin.

Test Troubles

Without the appropriate guidance and an opportunity to talk about career or personality test results, career testing can be more harmful than good.

“Being in a career counselling session where you are asked questions about different
things provides you the place and the space to talk about your life and work; that is
empowering. Tests can be the opposite,” Shirin stated.

For someone without any career education and little career knowledge, a career test
is a great way to enter into a dialogue with themselves about who they are and what
they want. At the same time, someone with little career knowledge is more likely to be
confused by unexpected or unclear results, leaving them in a worse position than before they sought guidance through career testing.

In addition, there are new careers and new industries being created everyday. As a result, there are sure to be many career possibilities that won’t be represented on a career test. A career counsellor can help you fill these voids and offer advice on new and upcoming careers that could be a fit for you.

Where To Find Career Tests

While a quick Google search will return many pages of free career and personality tests,
Shirin warns that, “online tests are often very diluted versions of actual tests…I have had
people come into my practice feeling confused and uncertain about taking these types of
tests.”

In addition to finding a less thorough and less valid test online, taking an online test
likely means that there is no test interpretation.

To find valid career tests in combination with debriefing services, look to you school’s career
services centre, a life coach, career counsellors and psychologists that offer career testing services. Shirin
offers career coaching services based in Toronto, but is able to work with clients outside
the city by having them complete a career test online, then debriefing the results over the
phone or via Skype.

To find out how you can have More Happy Mondays, visit www.careersbydesign.ca.

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