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When people think about career counseling inevitably they think about assessments. There are hundreds of assessments out there promising to tell you your perfect career. Career counselors advertise them, website promise them–just take the perfect assessment and you will find the perfect career. But career counseling is so much more than taking an assessment. Don’t get me wrong–I think assessments are a good tool. Something that can aid in the finding of the work that makes your heart sing. But definitely not the answer. I have a policy in my office, if you agree to take an assessment then you have to promise to have an open mind, do some homework and see it as the beginning of the journey rather then the end.
Assessments promise an answer from something outside of ourselves. I believe the answer to the “what do I want to do with my life?” comes from within. As a client of mine said last week, “If I can just get out of my own way, it will show up”. So true!!! Assessments, promise an easier answer, all we have to do is answer a few multiple choice questions and then abracadabra our dream job will appear. Assessments don’t take into account, how we feel, what makes our heart sing, or what gets us really jazzed. They also don’t take into account our current lifestyle, education or fears. They take a snapshot of our world and get somethings right and somethings wrong. The trick is being able to take what’s helpful and run with it while simultaneously throwing away the rest. Too often, we get stuck on the what was wrong in the assessment and throw it all away before we use it for what it’s worth.
I have been to career counselors in my past who promise me the answer. First appointment, they gave me an assessment, second appointment they gave me the results and the third appointment they tried to convince me how the assessment had it right even though I had some serious issues with it. I remember leaving session one excited, “there was a ANSWER out there” I could pay this person for their time and assessment and get my perfect career. But by the end of the third session I was disappointed and confused. For example the assessment told me I shouldn’t work with people. Well, yes I am an introvert (according to different assessment) but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t work with people. But this coach spent much of the third session proving to me that because the assessment said so–it WAS so. The one thing I knew I wanted to do was to work with people what I didn’t know was how. So not only had this assessment pigeon holed me into a certain career it was against what my heart was telling me. In reality, I love working with people, and I also need time when I am not working with people. I need to balance my love of helping people with my love of writing, reading and being alone.
That is my problem with assessments, they are a tool meant to be used to expand our options, not force us into a career. Too often assessments limit our thinking, and limit our options. When thinking about careers and working happier we need to be thinking about possibilities not limits. Assessments when used at the right time, with the right client and in conjunction with insightful homework and conversation can be a wonderful tool. Assessments alone, don’t work. We need to be thinking about what makes your heart sing, what goals you want to reach and how to face the negative self talk and fear mongers that get in they way!!!