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Make Career Decisions You Won't Regret Later

Make Career Decisions You Won't Regret Later

Peter Vogt MC Career Coach

August 10, 2009

You can’t make good decisions without good information. Yet college students often attempt this feat when choosing majors and career paths.

It’s tempting to make decisions based on little or no data to get rid of feeling like you’re in limbo. But you won’t find out what is right for you without doing some work. How can you identify the most appropriate career or major if you don’t know yourself? This is where self-assessment comes in.

Self-Assessment Can Help You Decide

Self-assessment means learning about yourself –- what you like, what you’re good at and what matters to you. It requires time, energy and sometimes money and the assistance of a skilled career counselor. You may be tempted to avoid all this, but the information self-assessment provides is an essential part of your career-development process.

Here are four key self-assessment areas to consider.

Identify Your Interests

You want to find a career you enjoy, right? Then it’s essential to understand what you like and dislike.

Assessments like the Strong Interest Inventory and the Campbell Interest and Skill Survey can help you figure it out. They’re usually available from your campus career center at little or no cost. You can also try Tickle’s “Career Interest Inventory” (login required).

Keep in mind:

  • Any test you take will only give you ideas about careers you might enjoy –- i.e., paths you may want to explore. No test can definitively tell you which career you should pursue.
  • Interest tests measure your current likes and dislikes. They can’t measure things you don’t know about or might enjoy if you tried them.

Identify Your Abilities

We’re all born with natural talents, or things we do well without much training or guidance. These are abilities. While you might have a sense of what you’re good at already, abilities tests like the Career Ability Placement Survey and the ASVAB can help confirm which abilities you possess and perhaps uncover abilities you didn’t know you had. But remember: Being good at something doesn’t mean you enjoy doing it.

Identify Your Skills

Unlike abilities, which we’re born with, skills are things we’ve learned to do well over time, such as writing essays or creating PowerPoint presentations.

Your career center may offer computer programs like ACT Discover or SIGI PLUS that will help you identify your key skills. Or you can try a tool like the Knowdell Motivated Skills Card Sort.

Once again, keep in mind that what you’re good at and what you like aren’t always the same thing.

Identify Your Work-Related Values

What matters to you in your work? What you do, where you do it, how you do it and why, and who you do it with are all work-related values. Values such as “I want to make a difference in the world” or “It’s important for me to earn at least $75,000 a year” may be deciding factors for you as you choose a major or career. See if your career center has tools like the Work Values Inventory or the Career Values Card Sort so you can identify and prioritize which career-related values are most important to you.

Additional self-assessment activities could include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment to get a better sense of your personality (e.g., how you make decisions, how you tend to live your life). Monster’s “Discover Your Perfect Career Quiz” is based on this assessment.

If you gravitate toward the spiritual, you could use a tool like the Inventure Group’s “Calling Cards” to discover your personal calling in life.

The tools may vary, but the important thing is to assess yourself. Everything you learn will help you choose the major or career that will be the best fit for you.