Although many students assume the most stressful part of getting their education is figuring out how to afford school or paying back those student loans, in actuality, choosing a career is often the most difficult part. For example, even if it makes sense for someone who is strong in finance to major in accounting, there are actually many career paths a trained accountant can take. For some students, pressure from family, peers or even from financial circumstances can cloud the waters when it comes to selecting a satisfying career. This is where a skills assessment can bring clarity and focus to your career selection. A skills assessment provides a format in which you can learn more about you — from your interests and values to your personality and aptitudes.

How a Skills Assessment Helps

You may come from a long line of engineers, but this does not automatically mean you will be good at engineering or that you will enjoy the work. In the same way, you might be pursuing a masters in engineering management and your family full of teachers is giving you a hard time about your plans. When you bring a skills assessment into the picture, it is like inviting an objective third party to advocate on your behalf. Since you are the one who is answering the questions in each of the categories, your skills assessment will be as honest as you are. Although many institutions and employers offer these tests, you can also find them online and take them for free at home. You might learn surprising truths about yourself that can be useful in choosing a rewarding career.

The Parts of a Skills Assessment

Although there are different skills assessment tools available, and certainly not all of them are alike, there is a general four-part approach that most skills assessment tools follow. A skills assessment is more than just an assessment of your skills; it looks at your value system or your vision for how you want to live your life. The four parts of the typical skills assessment include the value inventory, the interest inventory, the personality inventory and the aptitude assessment. Often four different tests are used for each of these categories, such as the Minnesota Importance Questionnaire (MIQ) for values and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) for personality.

How to Use a Skills Assessment to Pick a Career

It can be useful to work with a career counselor or the career center at your university to interpret the results of a skills assessment. For instance, perhaps you are currently a year away from graduating with your masters in business administration. You are enjoying your business classes but feel unsure about what aspect of business management to pursue. Because business managers are needed in nearly every field, it would be your personality type, your morals and your aptitudes that will help direct your career choice. If you are introverted, you would tend to seek a different type of work environment than what an extrovert would. If you value helping people over the amount of your paycheck, you may want to go into a nonprofit career. As an example, you could manage the administration that supports global relief efforts. If you have an aptitude for training others, you might enjoy a career in human resources management. If you understand what type of information your skills assessment gives you and how to use it, you’ll be well on your way to finding a truly rewarding career.
Image provided by Richard Stephenson from Flickr’s Creative Commons

About the Author:  Renee Patterson is an MBA graduate student. She originally wanted to pursue a career in human resources, but thanks to a skills assessment test, she discovered that business was the ideal fit.

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