By Judy Panagakos, Early Stage Careers Senior Career Coach
At Early Stage Careers our mission is to help young careerists launch their careers – and the first step of this process oftentimes involves strategically identifying a career direction that is ideally suited to their unique abilities, natural strengths and interests. This is exciting but hard work, even for very focused students with clear career intentions. No path yet? Wrong path? We provide a professionally administered assessment that helps students or grads shape a vision for an early career path or identify a suitable fresh direction.
Choosing a career path is incorporates many factors including personal values and motivators, technical skills, fit with an organization’s culture, and work-life balance choices. Finding the intersection where natural strengths and talents, behavioral and work style attributes, and interests overlap is where an assessment makes the difference.
What if I think I know the right career path?
We are often asked to think about our future from a very young age – even in elementary school students are posed with the questions “what do you want to BE? What do you want to DO?” – and some students develop a clear vision early on of what type of work they want to pursue when they are older. If the path seems clear, going through an assessment process can validate that the chosen path matches the student’s unique natural abilities, interests and style of the student or job-seeker. In other situations, the assessment might determine that the fit is not ideal, and an individual can weigh this outcome before investing valuable time pursuing a career that may not make sense for them.
Another common scenario involves motivated students who find themselves in a position where they have several paths that seem like a good fit. They have had rigorous academic training in numerous disciplines and the options can be overwhelming. When studying individual thinking styles, behaviors and interests, we provide a layer of depth that allows us to target a specific career direction in a sea of many viable options. Additionally, it is common that well-intentioned parents, friends and teachers have their own biases and may influence a student’s life choices and decisions. While outside influences are a part of career exploration and can be helpful, the assessment will clarify and validate what the student is best suited for.
While it is never too late to take a career assessment, the most fruitful time is early in a student’s college career. Decisions about academic coursework, major selection, extra curricular activities and internships will all be made more thoughtfully and intentionally thanks to the self-knowledge obtained during the assessment process. The onset of college is an intimidating time with many choices to make, and this can be even harder when surrounded by peers who seem to have a crystal-clear vision of what they will do with their lives. Having the foundation of a career assessment in hand is both comforting and confidence building. The student will begin to have a plan in place for their future and will know more about what makes them unique in the marketplace as they begin the internship and job search process.
Do you need an expert?
Yes. While it is possible to find assorted assessment tools online with marketing buzz: “quick, short, free”, it is important that assessments are comprehensive, statistically reliable and valid (i.e. used by blue chip companies in the workplace), outcome based; and administered and interpreted by a licensed expert. We recommend Investing focused time to complete the assessment, as well as additional time to review and analyze your results. This may take you out of your comfort zone, as the assessment explores and reveals how your skills and interests mix, so having a certified professional to help you navigate and interpret the results is essential. An objective assessment professional will look holistically at the person and their assessment results and help map possible career outcomes across roles in various industries.
Early Stage Careers’ Assessment Specialist, Sarah Birdsong, has extensive experience in guiding both individuals and organizations through the use of assessments; she is a licensed professional with an established reputation. Throughout her career, she has always enjoyed finding mutually beneficial matches in placements and hiring decisions from the college to corporate level. Assessments are used throughout people’s careers, by companies and executive search firms, who need to ensure that they are selecting talent for crucial roles, succession planning, and rounding out leadership teams; they need to avoid costly mistakes. As a lifelong believer in the value of assessment tools, Sarah has now directed her focus to helping early careerists discover best-fit career paths. As Sarah notes, “The assessment process is not just the results, but the time spent discussing the results with the person. So much insight is gathered, because we rarely spend this kind of time and attention talking about and understanding ourselves, and then applying this knowledge to our career path. Through this process there is much to be gained.”
Took the Assessment – Now What?
As mentioned above, assessments can help people make more informed academic decisions, shape extracurricular and internship and job choices, and pinpoint opportunities for targeted skill building. If for example, a current English major discovers that analytical work would fit his/her skills and interests, supplemental courses can be arranged to obtain financial modeling and analytics background, which is essential to pursuing finance related roles. We routinely assist clients in obtaining such specific skill training.
Assessments can be tremendously valuable at any stage in life. Life is more than your work. Sarah notes, “The knowledge gained will help as much with personal relationships as with longer term career development and career opportunities. It is an excellent investment in your future.”