Have you ever looked at your results from a career assessment and thought, “I don’t WANT to be a mortician or a claims adjustor, so NOW WHAT?” These tests are supposed to give you the answer, but your results may have you wondering, “Do career tests actually work?”

What Are Career Tests?

So, let’s talk assessments. I’m referring to any kind of multiple choice test, whether it’s gauging your strengths, personality, interests, behavior, motivations, star chart, and my favorite: “An assessment of personal potential.”

It’s very common for high schools and colleges to use these kinds of tests to try to point students in the right direction or to gauge aptitude. There are some that are popular in the personal development world. Some are given at work, and even churches will hold workshops around some of these assessments.

Do Career Tests and Assessments Work?

I’ll tell you, personally: I find them fascinating. I enjoy taking them. l love it when they can reflect something back to me that is so personal and accurate that I think, “GASP! How did you know?!”

But do career tests work?

Here’s my stance as a career coach: These tests can be fun, and they can fill in some gaps of self-awareness, but I would NEVER rely on them to predict or suggest the right meaningful career for someone.

Now, it’s a celebration anytime anyone finds meaningful work by any means possible. If an assessment helped you confidently choose a career that is working for you, you have my sincere joy.

They did not work for me. They did not work for my clients. And if they have not worked for you, I’m about to tell you why.

Because I’ve talked with a lot of people who do not like the career options the test suggests and then they think they’re a lost cause, or there’s nothing else out there for them. And that could not be further from the truth.

The Problem With Career Assessments

The problem does not lie in you; the problem lies in the test.

For as much as they can give creepy levels of insight into an aspect of you, there is no test that can fully evaluate you in all your humanity. All of these tests have limitations and parameters.

Think of the IQ test. It’s a measure of a particular kind of intelligence. It doesn’t measure creativity, curiosity, or emotional intelligence. It’s measuring a sliver of someone, and it’s measuring how that person showed up on that particular day.

There is so much more to YOU and so much more that goes into choosing the right meaningful career than can be measured by these tests.

Notice the word CHOOSE. I know that when you have drive but no direction sometimes you wish someone could just tell you what to do. But deep down, you know that’s not right. The decision has to come from YOU.

So that’s what has to happen. You have to learn how to choose.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Meaningful Career

Let’s review SOME of the things you’ll need to consider when choosing meaningful work:

  • Who do you want your work to benefit?
  • What kind of legacy do you want to leave through your work?
  • How do you want to contribute?
  • What will make the world and your life better at the same time?
  • What will challenge you without burning you out?
  • What will feel new but not like you’re starting from scratch?
  • How can you use the skills you’re most excited about?
  • What will give you the money and security you need?
  • What will make you excited to get out of bed on Monday morning?
  • Where do you want to live?
  • How much time and energy do you want for your life outside of work?
  • What will feel like a natural extension of who you are?

No test is figuring that out for you. You have decisions to make about who you want to be and how you want to live.

What to Do If Career Tests Didn’t Help You

If you tried a career test and learned some cool stuff about yourself, but you didn’t get the clarity and direction you need to choose a meaningful career, THAT IS NORMAL.

Now it’s time to learn how to choose.

Laura Simms is an expert in meaningful work who challenges conventional wisdom by asking people to ditch their passions and start with purpose.

If you have too many passions, zero passions, or can't seem to combine your passions, try her purpose-first approach to find a career you love.  


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