Do you know anyone who is unhappy with his or her career? Perhaps they are in an industry that is changing in ways they don’t like. Or there has been a reorganization that has changed the corporate culture where they work. Maybe they have been doing the same thing for a long time and are ready to try something new. It could be that they never have been able to figure out “what they want to be when they grow up,” and their career has been a series of one frustrating experience after another.

You might also know a student who is at the point where they need to decide what direction to take. They may be trying to decide on a college major or vocational direction. Is there anything that can reduce the chances of them starting a cycle of frustration?

One of my favorite career books is called “If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, You’ll Probably End Up Somewhere Else” by Dr. David Campbell. This title tells it all. Some people are fortunate enough to know what they want to do. But for many of us, our destinations are unclear. Some of us embark on careers using the “trial and error” method, randomly trying different options based on intuition or advice from a friend or relative. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could be equipped with information to help them with their career choices? Something that would increase their chances of choosing a career direction that will lead to personal fulfillment?

Career assessment, performed by trained professionals including career consultants and counselors, provides this information. Qualified individuals will typically have education in human resources or counseling and will be certified to administer and interpret a variety of appropriate instruments that provide information regarding personality, interests, skills and/or values. In conjunction with an in-depth review of personal and professional background, these test results can be invaluable in the establishment of appropriate career goals.

At Colorado Career Consultants, we use two well-respected and useful instruments to assist with assessment, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) T and the Strong Interest Inventory (SII) T. The MBTI provides information on “type,” which can be thought of as “personality habits.” Understanding, accepting and applying this information allows individuals to make choices that “honor who they are,” increasing the potential for fit and minimizing the potential for stress. The SII solicits information on what an individual finds interesting and compares it against the interests of individuals in over one hundred different occupations. The degree of similarity in interest patterns provides an excellent starting point for examining career options. In some situations, we also use the MBTI Step II, which provides additional useful information about sub-categories or “facets” of the four components of type. These test results are used in conjunction with information about the individual’s experience, passions, values and skills gathered through other exercises.

The culmination of the assessment process is our Focus Session (formerly known as the Occupational Prioritization Exercise) that involves discussion around a variety of options that have been identified and leads to identification of a few career options that are both interesting and actionable. What emerges from this process can lead to anything from minor to dramatic change in the client’s career direction. One example of a more dramatic change involved an individual with years of executive experience in the financial industry. She was burnt out and wanted to make a change, but she had no idea what she wanted to do next. The process led her to decide to become a commercial helicopter pilot. She is now well on her way to achieving that goal.

Assessment provides the focus for career exploration. Once you know your destination and are confident that your goals are both appropriate and achievable, developing a plan to achieve your goals becomes a whole lot easier. Best of all, the enthusiasm associated with the pursuit of goals that are a good fit significantly increases your chances of success.