It was in the 11th and 12th standard, that Soham realised he was in love with languages. He looked back at his school years and found out he always relished learning about grammar, sentence construction patterns, storytelling and writing his essays. Unfortunately, he had now opted for Science as a stream. This was mostly because he scored good marks in his 10th standard. His parents and relatives found it natural for him to opt for the Science stream. ‘That is what scholar students do,’ they said.
How many such stories have we heard? How many times do we hear that someone completed his/her Engineering and then shifted to journalism or photography or public service exams? Is it because of the generalised notion that young people are lost? Or because we give more importance to a supposedly lucrative career than something we actually like? Or more profoundly, have we ever considered it important to analyse our likings, our capabilities and our inclinations before planning our career?
Grim questions, aren’t they? But the simple fact is, you are unique and you need to discover that uniqueness. Like the great Albert Einstein said, ‘Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.’ There are many of us who know from the very beginning what we want to do in our life. There are many children whose parents have understood them, shaped and built them to fit into a certain career that suits them. But there are many who are in between; who need to find a direction and utilise their abilities in the best way.
Hence, career assessment tests. It is quite wonderful that with changing times, many parents are taking their children to such tests and participating in career counselling. It is also an advantage that diverse professions are now being accepted and being opted. It is worthwhile to know what these tests exactly are and how can they help.
Likings and Abilities
Making such a big decision is definitely not easy. The simple solution to this is to start early, so that you get enough time to ruminate over the various factors. Most career assessment test centres suggest that the ideal age to take these tests is 13 or 14. This is roughly 7th or 8th standard. This is when the child starts gaining a perspective. Parents can also be sure of what the child likes, based on his/her consistency in liking, say, drawing or writing or science or history.
However, there must be clear distinction between three factors – likings, abilities and choices. Most career assessment centres perform tests and consultations subject to these three areas.Accordingly, there are various tests that analyse all these three factors.
Aptitude tests, by definition, are the evaluation of your abilities in a specific area. For school or college students, this means a set of tests that analyse the student’s ability in diverse areas – from verbal skills to numerical to abstract to reasoning. This usually presents an overall skill map of a student in terms of existing or natural abilities. That is why, you are not usually asked to prepare anything before an aptitude test. The result of the test is your present Intelligence Quotient (IQ). But this is only the present status. No one said it cannot be improved.
Personality Test generally assesses how is one’s nature and accordingly, what one likes. There are chances that you might feel a bit straightjacketed being classified into personality types – extrovert/introvert or rational/ideal or emotional/practical. But this is a generalised direction for further assessment and good centres imply proper psychological methods to draw inferences. It can give you a fair idea of yourself – what are your strengths, how can you utilise them and importantly, how can you work upon your flaws. As said above, taking the test in a young age, gives you time to work upon your personality.
Psychometric test is a larger umbrella which covers many tests including personality tests, ability tests, introspection etc. Many people confuse it with personality test, but psychometric test is not just about analysing your personality. It considers various factors like how you perform under stress, your interactive abilities, leadership skills, your thinking patterns and your responses to various situations. The general tendency of psychometric tests is to analyse your Emotional Quotient (EQ) along with your IQ. It is largely the better option since it evidently presents the bigger picture.
Nothing can be ideal if your abilities are in tandem with your inclinations. (It should be logically so). But sometimes your abilities might be in a slightly or completely different direction. There is absolutely no reason to get discouraged if the results are not what you expected. Remember, this is not a final judgement about your career. In fact, this can guide you in terms of what you need to do to build certain abilities.
Making a Choice
Choice is then a conclusion, a decision drawn on the basis of the above two (liking and abilities). Again, this is not a mathematical equation. Good career assessment centres will definitely have counsellors who conduct Counselling Sessionswith parents and the pupil before reaching any conclusion. (If a centre doesn’t have counsellors, you need to strike it off your list). This exercise gives the whole process a necessary individualised treatment. The career options given at the end are also not just 1 or 2. They are usually either a few vast areas or a long list of specific career streams.
Most importantly, it is you, the students and the parents, who will make the final decision. No one can take that right away. But as said earlier, remember to start early. It gives you enough time to discuss, consider and then arrive at a proper decision.
It’s Never Too Late
Contrary to this, it should also be mentioned that it’s never too late to make a career change or choice. While starting early with career assessment is ideal, it happens with many of us that we get stuck in careers we don’t want. And the agony only increases when we still don’t know what to do about it.
There are many career tests online that can give at least some sense of direction. Online tests in today’s times are quite efficient. Many credible centres conduct well-defined, goal-oriented tests. The only precaution you need to take it not be very fussy about it. Just do it as a trial and to get some food for thought. Though free tests are more tempting, the paid ones can be more reliable. If you opt for a free one, do verify its credibility.
It is even better if you go through a proper process offline, at a career assessment centre. Shifting a career may seem slightly outrageous, but if you plan well, study your inclinations and build the necessary abilities, you can achieve a smooth transition.
To complete the story we began with, Soham also achieved such a transition. He scored well in his 12th standard. But then decided to take career assessment tests. He verified that his inclinations were truly towards language, he checked he had the aptitude for it and finally, after a lot of deliberation, decided to opt for literature studies. When are you taking the tests?