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Why Career Tests Don't Work

By Kelly C. Wells


As a career coach and someone who has taken dozens of career and personality tests, I’d like to shed some light on the value of career testing.  For as long as I can remember, I struggled to find my “job charming” and no matter how many career tests I took, none of them gave me the revelation I was looking for.  I often felt discouraged and dejected, wondering why I did not fit neatly into any particular category. 


Also, whatever career I was “supposed” to fit into seemed to contain a deal breaker.  For instance, I loved training and development, but I never enjoyed traveling on a regular basis. Many trainer positions require extensive travel.  OK, so forget that one!



On and off there may have been insights from these tests that resonated with me, but I was no closer to finding that perfect career choice. Something was still missing.  If you have had this experience, you know how disheartening it can be.  Most likely you are not lacking a strong work ethic or ambition.  In fact you are likely a high achiever and excel at whatever you put your mind to.  Right?  So, why can’t you figure out what to do with your life?


Career tests work well for certain kinds of people.  People who will become specialists tend to fall into traditional job categories more easily.  However, if you have a growing list of interests, or get bored easily and enjoy using a myriad of talents and skills, you will never fall neatly into a pre-determined category.


You are not alone! Many people that I coach are what author Margaret Lobenstine calls “Renaissance Souls,” people who derive satisfaction from learning new things and sampling life’s knowledge like a bee buzzing from flower to flower.  It doesn’t mean you cannot stick to something; you were designed to be a life-long explorer.  Your ideal career will most likely contain the key elements of continual study and growth. 


I am scratching the surface here, but I do want you to know that it is possible to be prosperous without being a specialist.  You may need a more creative work or life design than individuals who have only one focus.  Developing such a plan is the core of what I do as a career coach. 


For those of you who are explorers at heart, go ahead and take a career test.  Take as many as you’d like!  Each of these tests should be used as tools for self-awareness, but not as an end-all-be-all determination.  Focus on the key elements each possibility contains.  For instance, the elements of a career in marine biology may be “loves working with animals,” “research and traveling,” or “preventing dangers to the ecosystem.”  Examine which elements apply to you and which ones do not.  Each piece is part of your career puzzle and eventually it will take shape as a picture unique to you. 


Remember, you are as unique as your own fingerprint.  No one in the world will contribute just as you can.  If you are wandering in the desert of career possibilities, consider hiring a coach who will guide you to an oasis of better understanding. 


The journey of career-discovery need not be long and tedious.  Understanding your nature is the first step to opening doors you have yet to imagine and to pathways and adventures well off the page of your career test.  The true test is within your heart and how the rhythm of your soul will manifest as your song to the world.

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