Tests Than Can Help You Reinvent Your Career

If you wake up most mornings thinking that you would rather be doing anything other than your current job, then it may be time to do something about it.

Your skills and expertise as a chemical engineer are applicable to numerous engineering and STEM-related careers. For example, you could put your analytical and problem-solving skills to work in systems engineering or research and development. Alternatively, your engineering and scientific knowledge might be useful in consulting, academia, or patent law. You might also consider technical writing, government or defense contracting, or sales engineering.

A career test can point you in the right direction

With so many choices, you may find it difficult to clarify which direction to pursue. Consider taking a career test, which can help you evaluate different work environments and find a position where you can be happy and successful.

“Career tests are a good way to uncover strengths or skills you didn’t know you had,” says Sandra Marshall, business psychologist and partner at Henson Consulting International (Somerset, NJ). “These assessments can help you get to know yourself better and figure out what other careers, maybe ones you were not aware of, would be good matches for you.”

Determine which one is right for you

Which assessment you should take — and there are many available — depends on what you are seeking to change in your career. Each uses a different methodology to assess your skills, aptitude, and personality. For instance, the Hogan Motives, Values, and Preferences Inventory (MVPI) helps you understand what motivates you and in which position, job, and environment you will be the most productive.

Marshall, for example, worked with an engineer who had been promoted away from technical roles into positions with increasing managerial responsibility. “He was difficult to work with and senior leadership had received many complaints. On the Hogan MVPI, he scored high on the science scale but low on management-related scales,” says Marshall, who is certified to administer Hogan assessments. “After we discussed his results, he realized why he was unhappy in management. He moved to a position where he could return to the analytical work he loved.”

Meryl Kanner, director of career counseling and placement for Jewish Vocational Service (Livingston, NJ), has used the Strong Interest Inventory (SII) with clients. SII uses six interest scales (artistic, conventional, enterprising, investigative, realistic, and social) as benchmarks, and compares your interests to those of others who are happy with their career choices. “We use SII and other assessment tools to support the career exploration process,” says Kanner. “Let’s say you score high on the realistic scale and SII says a job in mechanics or construction matches your interests. We talk about why you think this came out at the top of your list.” Such a discussion could lead your career in a new direction, perhaps to a more hands-on role in plant operations.

While SII can help you determine which careers fit your interests, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can help you determine if your personality is a good fit for a particular career. MBTI helps you identify where your strengths are, how you interact socially, and how you think and make decisions. For example, if the MBTI shows that you are an extremely extroverted person, then a career that involves interacting with people, such as sales engineering or technical marketing, is likely a good choice for you. “MBTI is one of the most widely used career assessment tools and it’s very helpful at every stage of your career,” notes Kanner.

Pointers to make the most of any career test

Keep these tips in mind to get the most out of career testing:

Work with a certified career counselor. These professionals are trained to select the appropriate career assessment tool and help you understand the results. They can also help you create an action plan for your career path. Your company may offer access to counselors through its talent development department. If you choose to hire someone directly, you can search for a reputable counselor through the National Career Development Association (www.ncda.org).

Reach out to your alma mater. Alumni might be eligible to take career assessment tests and work with a counselor through the school’s career placement office. Check the alumni section of the school’s website to learn which services are available to you.

Approach career change with an open mind. “After they get their assessment results, some professionals tell me that they can’t change who they are,” says Marshall. “What they really need to do is be open to changing their behavior and actions — not their personality — so that they can apply their skills to other careers.”

Take a validated test. Free online assessments are not necessarily accurate predictors of which jobs will be a good match for you. Scientifically validated tests such as the Hogan, Myers-Briggs, and Strong Interest Inventory have been shown to provide accurate predictions. Websites for the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (www.siop.org) and the American Psychological Association (www.apa.org) offer information about test validation.

Remember that there are no right or wrong answers. “Go with your gut and answer the questions honestly so that assessment results give the best picture of you,” says Marshall.

This article originally appeared in the "Career Corner" column in the April 2017 issue of CEP magazine. Members have access online to complete issues, including a vast, searchable archive of back-issues found at aiche.org/cep.