If you've hit a rut or a roadblock in your career, now may be the time to break out some self-assessments and find out where the problem lies. Assessments like these can help you understand why you've had trouble fitting in at certain jobs, what kinds of skills it'd bring you greater enjoyment to use in your work, and which kinds of work environments would make you feel more at home.
In other words, self-assessment is a process by which you learn more about yourself – what you like, what you don't like, and how you tend to react to certain situations. Knowing these things can help you determine which occupations and work situations could be a better fit for you. Read on to find out what kinds of self-assessment tools are available online, and how to take advantage of them to plan a better career.
There are many varieties of assessment tools, each designed to measure a particular facet of you, such as your interests, your skills, your personality and/or your values. Each of these self-assessment tools falls into one of two major categories: Self-Directed or Requiring Interpretive Assistance.
- Self-Directed means the tool is designed so you can use it and review your results without a licensed or trained professional interpreting the data for you. Even though these tools don't require intervention in order to read the results, you may still find that you have questions. If that's the case, the service offering the tool may offer a way for you to follow-up – or you can turn to The Riley Guide's list of counseling associations for help in finding a counselor.
- Tools Requiring Interpretive Assistance mean your results will have to be discussed with a person licensed or trained in this particular tool, so you can understand what the data is saying. The cost of the tool will include this interpretive assistance in some form.
Sometimes the problem is finding the right tool to help you in a particular situation – for example, if you were just promoted and want to learn how to be a more effective manager. An interest inventory would not be your best option here, but what would be? Career-Intelligence.com has put together a nice table for identifying which assessment tools are best for which learning situations.
Several sites offer a variety of assessments – skills inventories, interest inventories, etc. – from a single entry point. Most of these sites offer some quizzes and articles for free, but there's usually a fee for the more advanced and in-depth assessments.
The Career Direct Complete Guidance System at CareerDirect.com analyzes four critical areas – personality, interests, skills and values – for a small fee. The University of Waterloo Career Services Department, on the other hand, provides a fee-based Career Development eManual – a collection of six modules designed to help you define your skills, values, and personal characteristics; target opportunities that match your talents and interests; set your career goals and create action plans; develop the tools to market yourself to potential employers; navigate and negotiate employment contracts; and evaluate your career aspirations on an ongoing basis.
Free online self-assessments tend to be less in-depth than the fee-based ones listed above, but they can still be handy for finding out more about your skills and goals. Queendom.com offers a variety of free personality tests and quizzes – although some of the site's content is fee-based. Quintcareers.com also offers a nice collection of tools for you to review and try, along with some articles on the role of assessments. And TestingRoom.com provides a collection of free assessments designed by Psychometrics Canada Ltd., a developer of assessments for career counselors.
Many people talk about their "type" or how they have taken personality tests, but not all of these people understand the information they've been given, or how it applies to their careers. What exactly is a personality "type," and what does it have to do with your job search?
According to the Myers & Briggs Foundation, the psychological types measured by their tests can describe the following:
- The ways in which a person prefers to take in information
- The ways in which he or she prefers to make decisions
- Whether a person derives energy from the outside world or the inner world
- Whether he or she prefers to keep things open or to move towards closure.
In the Myers & Briggs Foundation's form of testing, these four preferences are used to assemble a person's psychological "type," sometimes called his or her "personality type" – although different personality tests measure different aspects of a person's personality, and classify people into different categories based on these differences. In general, though, any theory of psychological type claims that people with different preferences naturally have different interests, perspectives, behaviors and motivations – and that awareness of these preferences helps people better understand themselves and others; in terms of career goals and various other aspects of life.
Quite a few websites provide online personality type assessments. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) at MyersBriggs.org requires a fee, but you can easily find free Myers-Briggs assessments simply by Googling that phrase. The Keirsey Temperament Sorter at Kiersey.com, meanwhile, offers a fee-based assessment that results in a four-letter personality indicator, along with a short explanatory document. And iMapMyLife.com provides an integrated inventory that measures your interests, strengths, support needs and so on.
These assessments help you to measure those things that most interest you – and to find a match between your interests and possible career paths. Most interest inventories include skill surveys, as the two are closely interrelated. Many of these inventories are based on Dr. John Holland's popular RIASEC personality model, which sorts people into Realistic (Doers), Investigative (Thinkers), Artistic (Creators), Social (Helpers), Enterprising (Persuaders) and Conventional (Organizers). As with the other assessments listed in this article, some interest inventories require a fee, while others are free to try.
CareerKey.org's fee-based RIASEC interest inventory tool is designed to help match your interests and skills with similar careers. CareerPlanner.com offers an inventory they call a "career test," which is also based on the RIASEC model. FocusCareer.com's package includes an interest inventory, a skills survey, a personality assessment, and even a values inventory. Assessment.com offers a Career Analysis designed to help you identify your preferences for people, things, and job content, and suggesting some jobs that match these preferences. And the tool at Self-Directed-Search.com, which was developed by Dr. Holland himself, can help you find careers or educational programs that match your own skills and interests.
The web contains hundreds of skills surveys for specific job areas. This section includes info on surveys designed to help you define your abilities and qualifications, and then compare those results to numerous job areas – including some you may not have previously considered.
Career-Intelligence.com provides a helpful article and worksheet designed to help you list your skills (scroll down the page to the section titled "skills") – and although you'll have to register in order to access that stuff, registration is free. iSeek.org offers a self-assessment that asks you to rate yourself on 35 different skills, then gives you info on which occupations match the skills you've identified as being most important to you. The entire tool takes just 5 to 10 minutes to complete. LifeWorkTransitions.com, meanwhile, offers a variety of career assessment exercises, including several different skill surveys for you to complete and review.
These are personal examinations of what motivates you and is important to you. They're not as precise as the Interest Inventories listed above, since they're more personal to you – but they can come in very handy for making career choices. Some career coaches suggest that since it's hard for many people to say what they want, making a list of specific things you didn't like about your previous jobs is a good place to start defining your values.
Career-Intelligence.com offers a nice article and accompanying exercise to help you decide what is important to you in a career or an employer (free registration is required). And the University of Minnesota at Morris Career Center offers a free value questionnaire, which provides an easy way to think about what is most important to you, and what you might do to change things about your career that you don't like.
Quite a few other assessments don't fall neatly into any of the categories above – but they can still provide valuable insight into your personality and career options. So this section includes a grab bag of self-assessment tools, each covering its own range of aspects of career decision-making.
The Career Decision-making Difficulties Questionnaire (CDDQ) can help you figure out why you're having problems making a decision regarding a career, and suggest a course of action to follow – including which of the site's other tools to use, and the reason to use each of them. The CDDQ will also note if you need the assistance of a licensed career counselor to help you in your personal exploration process. ManifestYourPotential.com is filled with guidebooks, quizzes, and articles designed to help you find your potential and put it to good use doing work you love. And 3SmartCubes.com provides a collection of personality, IQ, and other online tests you can take.
Queendom.com — Scientifically based personality tests covering a wide variety of life areas.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) — A very popular tool for assessing your personality and classifying it into one of 16 types.
CareerKey.org — A tool designed to help you match your interests with your ideal career.