If you’re trying to determine what career is right for you or have no idea what job you should have, you likely thought about taking career aptitude tests.
If you’ve actually taken career tests, you likely found a number of different careers that seemed interesting, but didn’t decide on a career because you were still confused.
At the end of the day, these tests didn’t push you to find a new job or start a new career.
And the reason is... career tests don’t work!
A quick Google search will tell you two things (of course, feel free to skip this section if you know it already):
One, career tests have a fixed number of results (and can be static and outdated) which basically means the best job for you might not be in a career test database,
And two, career tests lack a 360 view, which means that these tests ask questions about our interests and activities that we like to do, but loving our work isn’t just about our interests and preferred activities. Personality, needs, who we like to work with, what environment we want to be in, what we’re good at, what we care about, what makes us happy, etc. also come into play.
But what else makes career tests ineffective?
Here are 3 less obvious (and actual) reasons why career aptitude tests don’t work.
1. They tell you what to do, but you don’t believe it
Career tests may give you answers you’re looking for, but you don’t 100% believe in the answers.
Think about it. When was the last time someone told you that you needed to make a change in your life and you immediately acted on that change without any objections?
Probably never, right?
Now think about a time when you finally decided to make a change and you heard the “I told you so” but simply explained that you needed to learn/understand/believe in it yourself.
That’s a more likely scenario to have occurred, right?
Most people are not going to make changes in their lives without believing it first. And that’s how it works with finding a new career too.
Career tests use data to tell you what types of jobs are a fit for you, but it doesn’t bring you along the journey of learning about who you are and why the job options from their results would bring you fulfillment.
2. They don’t conquer fear
One of the things humans fear most is change. Change is uncomfortable simply because we don’t know. We don’t know if our decision is right, we don’t know if we can do it, we don’t know if we’ll be happier.
A career change at any point in your life is going to bring up feelings of fear.
You might think:
“I’m too old to change careers”
“I don’t know if I’m good enough to be in this career”
“I’m scared of taking a step back in my career”
“I don’t know if I can financially support myself in this career”
“I don’t know if this is the right decision”
The list of fears can go on and on.
A career test doesn’t tackle the fears that come with a career change. The test may help you decide which career to choose, but if you see a list of answers and still have some sort of fear about making a change, you aren’t going to make that change.
3. They can’t predict human feelings
Our work satisfaction and career fulfillment rely entirely on our own feelings. When we’re unhappy in our jobs, we feel unhappy. We feel confused, unmotivated, and unfulfilled.
When we are happy in our jobs, we feel fulfilled, excited, and useful. We feel like there’s meaning in our lives.
Ultimately, career fulfillment is based on how we feel about what we’re doing, and a huge part of finding the right career for you is to feel if it’s the right one for you.
A career test will list potential jobs for you, but it can’t predict the feelings we’ll have in a particular job.
We can only rely on ourselves to predict how we will feel in a new career (and that’s through informational interviews).
OK, got it. Then should I even take a career test?
Despite many reasons why they don’t work, career aptitude tests do give you a good starting point for exploration.
These tests ask a lot of questions and may help you identify traits you weren’t aware of, so career tests can help you understand a bit more about who you are and what types of careers would be a good fit.
But just remember that taking a career test isn’t the silver bullet answer. It will give you ideas about what potential careers would be possible for you, but you’ll need to do further exploration and research.
Here’s what you should do instead
We aren’t taught how to find our career paths as children or adults. The way we decide on our careers is mostly through what we hear from family, friends, guidance counselors, or other influential people in our lives. We learn about careers that are secure, prestigious, and make good money, and then we try to pursue those types of jobs. But this doesn’t mean we end up in a career that makes us happy.
In fact, the way we’re taught to choose a career is backwards. We look at what jobs are available out there and then we decide which one we'd like.
Your career is a projection of exactly who you are, so find a career that projects you.
This means instead, we should be looking within to understand who we are, what we care about, what we’re good at, and what we define as success and happiness before we decide on a career.
So if you’re looking to find the right career for you or wondering what job you should have, look inside first. Understand yourself and then look for careers that would fit the person you are :-)