Perhaps you’re going to graduate soon. Or maybe you’re unhappy in your current career. Odds are someone will tell you that you absolute need to take a career aptitude test. But how useful are career aptitude tests really?
When I was studying for my career counselor certificate, one of the topics we covered was aptitude testing. And it was presented as if this was something that would help open doors to a client’s happy career future. But, I knew from my own experience that this was not always the case.
What things career aptitude tests can tell you
First, let’s look at what aptitude testing might be able to do for you:
- It can help you narrow down the field of things you might be good at — and hopefully enjoy.
- You might discover careers you never heard of or considered. (It’s not always the #1 or #2 result that would work well for you.)
- Some of the skills the test helps you identify may never have seemed useful, but now point you in an interesting direction.
- If you’re really lost, it can help point you in a direction — at least to start.
- Testing, and the way it asks questions, can also provide a framework for you to explore your own ideas.
- For some people, aptitude testing can actually identify an ideal career.
- The test may simply give you “formal permission” to go pursue something you heart desires.
Where career aptitude tests can miss the mark
Not to take away from the potential benefits of aptitude testing, but there are some limits to its magical ability to discover the right career for you.
- However good the test is, it still is standardized — and therefore based on a formula that may not be completely attuned to your specific blend of personality and characteristics.
- The career it chooses for you simply may be wrong. I once rated highest as a tattoo artist, something I would never want to do.
- Your result may fit well with everything you answered, but it still may not be right for you as a career. I once was told that I would make a great talent agent. But when I tried working in the field, I realized I hated all the schmoozing.
- You may be having a bad day, and so your answers are slanted enough in one direction to taint the results. (Worth retaking at some point before letting it influence your future too much.)
- Some people try to outguess the test, aiming it in a direction that winds up not offering anything new or useful.
- And, even though the test identifies a great career choice, it may miss that inner voice that even you are not letting come out in the answers.
So how seriously should you take career aptitude tests?
For me, the tests were fun and offered interesting ideas fro me to think about. And, in some cases, they helped me focus in on skills and aptitudes I hadn’t really thought much about.
Unless you have lots of money to spare, I wouldn’t go overboard in what you spend. But I would take the tests — with a grain of career salt. They can be a wonderful PART of your exploration.
That exploration also includes things like: online research, informational interviews, working with a good career coach, and actually trying things on for size if possible. Just know that career aptitude tests aren’t the absolute science some of them claim to be.
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