Friday, February 17, 2012

But...the career assessment said I should be a farmer...

Just over twenty-six years ago, I was born on a farm. Nineteen years after that, I left that family farm for a thing called college. Many things took place between those two events, but suffice it to say that I didn’t pursue college because I didn’t enjoy the proverbial “country life”.

Truth be told, I didn’t actually even know what I was leaving it behind to go pursue. I had taken a couple of assessments in high school, which suggested that careers in architecture, journalism, and especially farming (no surprise) might be compatible with my interests, values, and abilities. At the time though, I was unprepared to commit to any one of them. So, I set off for enlightenment.

As a result of my indecision, I was an “open option” student for my first two years. I ultimately settled on Psychology, and opportunities within that department fueled my interest in education and led me to my current position. Yet, even today when I take assessments, careers in agriculture are usually listed toward the top of the list in terms of compatibility.

I believe my story (or at least the theme) is much like many students’ today. In a challenging economy, we all face the pressure to get a return (decent salary) on our investment (education). The key is to not completely abandon our strengths and interests in search for the pot o’ gold.

What I have failed to mention is that in many of the assessments I have taken, education related careers were suggested just a little bit farther down that list.

It is important to see career assessments as starting points, not end solutions. You should never resign yourself to the first suggestion, especially not without doing ample research about the career first. Many assessments (like the PinPoint, which is available on the CAVE computers) allow you to manipulate the list of compatible careers, re-ranking them in terms of matches to personality type, occupational code, interests, character traits, activities, and work context. So depending on which area you may value more, you may get a completely different list.

This is not to say that if you don’t pursue a career at the top of the list, you have to disregard it. It appeared there for a reason. In my case, I still satisfy my interests in farming by regularly contributing to the family farm, journalism by writing a monthly newsletter, and architecture through my former life as a framing laborer.

It may very well be that you have certain skill sets that are transferable to a number of fields. Identifying these skill sets and brainstorming how you can apply and market them should be your first step.

Are you interested in identifying your interests, values, and abilities?

Take an assessment today, for FREE! The CAVE computers are home to a program called PinPoint (discussed earlier), which I can help set you up on any time. You can also check out other assessments online via the STARS Career Advising Center at:

You’ve taken an assessment, now what?

1. Make a list. Start by going through the list of compatible careers and highlighting those that sound interesting that you would like to learn more about. Try to keep your list to about 5-10 careers.

2. Research, research, research! Use the career exploration links on the STARS Career Advising Center blog to learn more about the fields you are interested in.

3. Job shadow or interview a professional. Identify individuals who work in the fields you are interested in, and set up a time to shadow or interview them to get a realistic view of a typical days work. There are also “Career Spotlights” available on the STARS Career Advising Center blog which highlight individuals from a number of careers/majors. Check them out!

4. Get involved. Seek out opportunities to take part in clubs and organizations that are related to your field. This will allow you to network with others who share similar interests, and develop references that can be helpful in future application processes.

5. Narrow your list, but keep your options open. The more information you gather the more clear it will become which options are more congruent with your interests. That said, always keep alert and open to new opportunities. Circumstances are always changing, and career interests will likely need to adapt.

6. Do what you enjoy. Simply put, enjoy your choice. If you truly find a career option that keeps you curious and eager to learn, motivates you, and fits your interests and abilities, it will be hard to not enjoy it.

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