Anne O’Connell, journalist extraordinaire, recently interviewed me on background for an article she was writing about using personality tests for career planning. Obviously the entire interview could not be used for the article, so I thought I’d share with you the transcript of that interview instead.
Anne: How effective are personality tests in providing guidance on career options?
Rebecca: Certain careers lend themselves to certain personality types better than others. Therefore, personality tests and college advising can be an important tool in providing career guidance by pointing out one’s innate strengths. People are happier in their careers when they feel fulfilled, and that often means they know how to make their personality work for them.
A: What tools have you used and why?
R: When I work with adolescents, I use a personality test based on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) that has been developed for use with teens exploring their futures. After the personality test segment, it then asks students questions about possible career interests, then provides suggestions for the students about what career paths they might want to pursue that would be take advantage of their personality strengths. The theory behind it is that our basic personalities do not change over time, even though our interests and skills might. I also use variations of personality tests based on the the work of John Holland which also illuminate one’s innate personality traits. When I have the time to work with a student in more depth, I like to administer several tests so that we can compare the results. And of course, at every stage, I always ask the student to comment on the accuracy of the profiles. They love learning more about themselves, and they almost always say the tests are very accurate!
A: What are the best circumstances in which to administer personality tests?
R: I like to work with a student in a relaxed setting so that they are not stressed or rushed. Ideally, they should be administered between the ages of 15 and 17 when we begin to start talking about plans after secondary school. Young people need to know what’s out there so that they have time to lay the foundation while they are still in school. Together we identify the careers that interest them the most, and what will they have to do to prepare for those careers. This also serves as a motivational tool so that they understand the relationship between today’s choices and tomorrow’s opportunities.
A: How do you interpret results of personality tests and apply them to realistic career goals and strategies?
R: Let me give you an example. I have many students tell me they want to study “business”. Then I ask them, what angle of business interests you the most, i.e. finance, accounting, marketing, logistical planning, management, etc? I usually get a surprised look from the student, for they have never thought about the different opportunities within business before. That’s when we take a closer look at their innate personality and how they can use it to their advantage.
A: Can you give an example of a personality type and the career best suited to that person?
R: There are thousands of examples I could give! However, let’s take one that is very easy to understand. If I were working with a young person who wanted to be a television host, I would encourage someone to do that if they had great interpersonal and communications skills that made it easy for them to meet new people. But if their personality was such that meeting new people was painful, I might suggest that they pursue a different angle, such as working on the writing or production side of the show. There they might use their personality strengths to better advantage.
A: In all your years working with students are there any other insights you’d like to share?
R: When doing career exploration, it’s also important to also assess a person’s interests, abilities, skills, and work/life values. Personality assessment is just one part of the equation! But I think that the world would be a happier and more productive place if we could better guide students towards careers that took advantage of their passions AND personalities! Then work ceases to be work, and people engage in “work” activity for the sheer joy and satisfaction that comes from doing something that one loves.
Click here to read the final article that Anne O’Connell wrote about “Using Personality Tests to Ensure Career Success and Happiness” for Suite101.com. If you know a young person who would like to have more career guidance as part of the college planning process, wherever they may be in the world, please contact me or see the RNG International Educational Consultants, LLC, website for more information.