Career Assessments – Magic Bean or Waste of Time?

type-awayThere are all kinds of career and personality assessments out there, and with any luck you will find the right one that will finally unlock the mystery of your life purpose, your key to self-actualization, “the thing” that has eluded you for your entire life up to this point. And then you can finally stop the endless loop of ideas in your mind and FOCUS, for crying out loud, on what it is you were always meant to do!

Or so we wish. You’re probably not that naïve and you may even be at the opposite end, believing all assessments are useless drivel and sorry for those who place such high hopes in them.

I fall somewhere in the middle. When I reached a bit of a burnout stage in my career, I hoped that a career assessment would magically reveal “the thing,” the one thing that I was meant to do but just hadn’t yet figured out. Instead, the report pointed to some general categories of work, assigning a scale of 1 to 5 (or something like that) of fit vs. not fit to each. I felt no more insight into what to do next than I did before I took the test. The only thing that it turned out to be dead-on about was what I should NOT do. The problem is, I didn’t pay attention and decided to experiment in retail, dreaming of opening my own chic antiques and furnishings store. A few months into it I knew I was miserable and this would not be my continued dream. It was only then that I looked back at that career assessment report and noticed that it specifically said, “Retail is NOT a fit for you.”

Lesson learned? While these assessments can be useful in guiding you in a new direction, they leave a lot open to interpretation, and are often fairly general in pointing to things like your preferences for skills you like to use, what kind of environment you thrive in, and so on. They are also useful, as I found, for eliminating choices that are clearly not right for you.

My assessment of assessments?  I sometimes recommend them for clients and sometimes don’t.  They are:

• Kind of fun. Who doesn’t enjoy taking a test and generating a report that tells you how great you are in some areas and gives you permission to not be great in others?

• Educational. I once worked with a coach who liked to say “It’s almost impossible to read your own message from inside the bottle.” Well-crafted assessments can reveal personal qualities to you that are hard for you to see and recognize. You can learn what skills or positive traits tend to come naturally for you and further develop them, and also see where you might be giving off negativity without realizing it.

• Not always profound as a standalone tool, but a few carefully selected ones taken over time can combine to suggest patterns for you. In other words, it is pretty rare that one test will be the magic revealer of your purpose in life, but a combination of, say, a couple of career assessments and personality inventories may reinforce that certain skills and characteristics are always present in you, and this may help you to consciously look for opportunities to express those productively.

• Useful as “a” tool not “the” tool. I think you can gain some insight from any reputable assessment, and used in combination with other tools like coaching, career counseling or other education and training they can have a healthy influence on your perspective.

As I said, there are hundreds of assessments out there and I encourage you to explore them if you are in a career and feeling stuck. I have even written one of my own to help you gauge how satisfied you really are in your career right now.  My “Career Satisfaction Assessment” is included in the complimentary Career Breakthrough Kit which you can download immediately by filling in the form in the column on the right.

If you are exploring assessments, here are some pretty good ones I have used personally and with clients:

  • Strengthsfinder 2.0 ( *A favorite
  • MAPP (
  • Meyers-Briggs (of course) (various sites and administrators)
  • How to Fascinate (

…and a couple of others I have not used personally, but have heard about:

  • Wealth Dynamics (
  • The Kolbe Index (

Do you have others that you have found useful and are willing to tell us about? Leave a comment and share your experience!

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