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Thursday, 26 June 2014 12:18

Personality tests can help with career decisions: a personal account

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In this day of employment fluctuations, there’s a lot of angst amongst not only high-school or college students in what career path to take and hence what courses are needed to accomplish those goals, but for those who have already established themselves in one career, but are looking to do something else.

Those established in careers may wonder what they could do if their time with their current profession has become unfulfilling, stressful, considered a dead-end or there’s just a desire for change.
The question is what to do:“what am I even good at?”
In order to get a better understanding of what such clients go through in getting some career counselling, Medicine Hat College student recruiter Andrea Aarden allowed me to take a couple of these tests just to see what it would be like.
 Aarden’s personality makes it easy to feel comfortable and there shouldn’t be any nervousness or concern when a client comes in to figure out what they would be good at.
The first is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality inventory. This older test follows famous psychologist Dr. Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types. Basically it measures how people behave due to what their perception and judgment of life is like.
“If people differ systematically in what they perceive and in how they reach conclusions, then it is only reasonable for them to differ correspondingly in their interests, reactions, values, motivations, and skills,” states the Myers-Briggs Foundation website.
The Myers-Briggs test is more about personality and how important it is to feel comfortable in doing something. Aarden uses an example of asking to write my name with my dominant hand and the other which never gets used for writing.
While I’m able to write effortlessly my southpaw scrawl, with more laborious effort I manage to write with my right hand.
“See, you can do it (with your off-hand), but it takes a lot more effort. Jung said your personality is innate. It’s not necessarily whatever is learned, it’s whatever is in you. Does it come naturally to you?”
In other words, we may be good at something, but does it necessarily come naturally to us? This is the issue for those students trying to determine what path to take. Some students either feel they are good at everything or nothing and thus have no idea how to best utilize the skills they possess. Or, in cases of mature adults, they have been in a profession at which they may have a lot of experience or success at, but there’s no satisfaction or there’s a lot of angst been built because the job isn’t second-nature to them.
For example, from the list under “social,” there are 16 words which best describe my personality, but under “conventional” there are 11.
From those lists, they are further rated and then organized into what the client has as his or her distinctive personality type as determined by the preference and importance of those personality traits.
There are 16 different possibilities in  personality groups. It turns out I’m an ISFJ (introvert, sensing, feeling, judging).
From there, the test compares  personality type with what other people in different fields. The results will list what a client needs in a career to be satisfied, careers to consider and recommendations when searching for employment or a profession.
Aarden gives me a sheet and it has a picture of a Hexagon called the RIASEC Hexagon and another sheet which has different headings, each with different personality descriptions.
These headings include: realistic, conventional, investigative, enterprising, social and artistic. Each one of those has about 20 different personality adjectives. Aarden asks me what I think describes me. She emphasizes there’s no right or wrong answer. Just be true and honest and this will help provide an honest and realistic assessment.
The Strong Inventory Profile which measures interests and not abilities.
It’s more straightforward.
Questions are answered on how someone would act in certain scenarios. For example, (although simplified) there are scenarios determining whether one likes working alone or in groups; how one copes with stress; does the person need to be moving around outside or stationed in an office; does the person like working with children/animals/intellectuals, etc.
The way these questions are answered are compiled and then categorized into the different RIASEC “occupational themes.”
These describe work activities, interests, potential skills and personal values and is then further broken down into basic interest scales; occupational scales; personal style scales; a profile summary and response summary.
The occupational scales are particularly interesting because each category has20-25 different occupations listed.
For example: under “investigative” there are 20 different professions listed. Those professions are there because people who have taken the test rated highly in “investigative” traits.
It’s an extremely detailed 10-page report and many of the results are quite eye-opening. While some aspects ofone’s interests and personality may be confirmed, more often than not, there’s some thought-provoking options the client may garner.
The question: “I have an aptitude for what?!” or “I could be a ...?” crop up into one’s mind quite often. It’s fascinating to find out what you should not be doing. For example, a rating of just below 30 means you should consider something else. An thoughts of being a physicist for me is over with a score of minus 29.
Aarden says a session with her will last an hour generally. In the most rare, extreme cases, three, but that’s only under special circumstances.
The results are determined and follow up appointment is made at which time the results are examined. Aarden says she likes for the client to pick three to five career possibilities and from that point she can steer them in the quickest and best directions in follow up appointments.
Aarden says she’s had clients that have followed up their testing and analysis and been able to follow through with new employment. That is gratifying for her and undoubtedly for those looking to figure out what they want to do.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor