Don’t Guess. Assess. OR Putting Assessments Under the Magnifying Glass

Before moving on to Step 2 of the Illinois Career Development Association’s Five Steps of Proactive Career Development, I’d like to devote a bit of space to addressing the actual process of taking the interest and personality assessments I referenced in Step 1. And yes, I see the taking of these assessments to be a process as opposed to an isolated task of answering questions with the first thought that pops into your head.

Why is that, you might be wondering, as the latter is the way you’ve always thought of personality ‘tests’ and/or the way you’ve been coached to take them, either online, in a self-help book, or by someone administering them at work. Well, the “first thing that pops into your mind” approach might work if you’ve already maximized the self-actualization stage of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; meaning that you’re doing work that exactly matches who you are all the hours of your work day and you don’t have any fears, conscious or unconscious, that could possibly get in the way of your acting consistently with your true and authentic self, twenty-four hours of every day. And yet, in truth, how often is it that any of us are fortunate enough to say these scenarios are consistently our experience?

If you do not feel fully self-actualized, then isn’t it possible the answers that “pop” into your head when taking these assessments may not represent your best self and the personality traits on which you want to base future actions and decisions? Instead, they will likely end up representing results that simply mirror or duplicate the not-so-well-suited job description you’re trying to put behind you. They may even reflect some other scenario in which you behaved so as to avoid someone becoming upset with you, rocking the “we’ve always done it that way” boat, or, worse yet, losing your job (a job to which you might not be particularly well suited or even want to do any more). In other words, your results might duplicate a “bad” situation you are trying to escape as opposed to providing you with a true vision of your best self and preventing you from making choices to allow for and promote your growth.

So, if any of the latter scenarios resonate with you, would you want to trust just any old thought that pops into your head to be used as a frame of reference the next time you take a personality or interest assessment? I’m hoping you wouldn’t. Instead, please consider placing at the forefront of your mind scenarios from your life that represent situations where you were operating as your best self in circumstances to which you were optimally well-suited and in a mode to THRIVE, rather than simply SURVIVE the situation at hand. If you can maintain that mindset, you will be much more likely to achieve a result that will come much closer to representing your true, natural, and innate self, providing you with information which is far more likely to be accurate on which to base future decisions.

And even then, please be aware that in spite of your best efforts to keep those best-fit scenarios in your test-taking mind, an assessment CAN still end up reflecting more what you have done than who you are and that this can happen to anyone at any time they are trying to answer these types of questions. This is why, in my use of assessments in my work as a career counselor, it is not the paper and pencil result of the assessments that I rely on so much as the time spent working with my client to settle on a “best fit” interest or personality type. I routinely share the basics of the theories and models on which the assessments I use are based in hopes that my clients will be able to recognize for themselves the possible negative influences past experiences and/or fears can have on their results and adjust their perception of what the assessments are telling them about who they are.

It is my hope that you will never be too quick to accept the result of those assessments you take online, or as a requirement of your employment, at face value. Please resist the temptation to jump to premature conclusions and/or label yourself, or anyone else with whom you’re sharing the ‘let’s take this online personality test’ experience, and proceed to treat yourself or others based on potentially erroneous results. Do consider seeking the help of someone trained in interpretation and validation of the assessments you’ve taken before you settle on a result, especially if you plan to base future life-impacting decisions on those results. And lastly, it is ultimately up to you alone to determine what is true about and for you. With these things in mind, I wish you happy and rewarding assessing.