Continuously hone skills, assess career path

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Technology is making career assessment fun.

Personality quizzes are popping up every day on the Internet. These are the five- or 10-minute online “gamified” questionnaires that provide instant results.

Within minutes, you can know if you are destined to be a leader, innovator or anchor. Other assessments suggest you might be a brick mason, OB-GYN or president of the United States.

You will get little argument that the results are fast, easy and fun. They typically demonstrate high face validity (meaning the test-taker agrees with the result). The information even may be helpful in understanding and modifying behavior or narrowing a career choice to a handful of occupations.

But it’s a risky and foolish decision to make a career decisions based on these quizzes.

These quizzes, however, shouldn’t stop people from recognizing the value of career assessments. These assessments are essential for making the right choices, regardless if the decision is to confirm a personal strength, identify potential challenges or pursue a particular occupation or career path.

To ensure success in our new world of work, self-assessment applies to young and old, the student and the polished executive. All workers at all levels must be continuously adapting and honing their skills and abilities and acquiring new knowledge.

“Know thyself” has been quoted or paraphrased by many greats such as Socrates and Shakespeare. More recently, it has been applied by Stephen Covey in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” where he notes that self-awareness is the starting point for personal and professional success. Even Yogi Berra once quipped, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

Assessments can act as a career GPS. The first step in knowing where you are going is plugging in the place where you are starting. Unlike the smart device, many human beings don’t have a very effective career auto-detection system.

Career choices often are based on gut instinct and the pursuit of economic rewards without regard to personal attitudes, values, motivation, personality and abilities of the individual.

Once a self-assessment is completed, a career path can be mapped, identifying sources of natural talent and potentially self-sabotaging obstacles. With that knowledge, an individual can design a professional development blueprint that reinforces strengths, converts weaknesses into strengths and/or minimizes challenges.

Whereas the quiz type of assessment is fun and a good read, it is hardly reliable enough to bet your future on it.

For most professional, leadership and executive development, these are recommended types of assessments:

(1) Competency: Research has aligned combinations of specific personality traits, using the 5-factor personality model, with competencies of top performers. Competencies may range from leadership to problem solving to project management to continuous learning.

Results indicate which individuals might have smooth sailing vs. those who might have to make a conscious effort into developing alternative approaches and skills.

A poor fit should not dissuade an individual from pursuing a particular career path. It just serves as a wakeup call.

(2) Multi-rater feedback: Of all the career assessments, the multi-rater or 360-degree assessment is likely the most valuable. It is also the most troublesome.

Based on a chosen set of criteria, an individual requests his boss, peers, direct reports, co-workers and even vendors and customers to rate his performance. The ratings are best offered anonymously.

Raters should be candid and honest but, as a result, the responses might catch the participant off-guard. To be effective, the subject of the ratings must be open-minded, objective and willing to accept criticism in addition to confirmation of his performance.

For people committed to excellence, multi-rater feedback alone can differentiate them from a crowded field of high potentials.

(3) Quality of motivation: Assessing the quality of motivation is a relatively new entry into career development. Until recently, the formula for career success has been associated with commitment, resilience and hard work.

The formula still works but it falls short. As many people have learned, running harder and faster is not always the right way or the smart way. It’s often a recipe for disappointment and burnout.

By assessing quantity and quality of motivation, an individual can assess both his effectiveness and efficiency – his skill at achieving and sustaining success with the least amount of resources, effort, stress and pain. In other words, working hard is still critical, but long-term success comes by working smarter, too.

The topic of career development wouldn’t be complete without including behavioral based assessments such as DISC and Myer-Briggs.

But like all assessments, these have limitations. Simply put, tools such as these help people identify preferences toward solving problems, interacting with others, pacing work and complying with rules and procedures.

But preferences don’t predict skill or competence. DISC and Myer-Briggs are helpful as long as they are used in personal development and not selecting a career.

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