Tales of a Disgruntled Graduate: A View from the Front Lines of the Post-College Job Hunt

The Career Test: Part II

Despite my skepticism of career assessments, with the uninspiring thought that I may truly be destined for meter-reading, I registered myself at www.livecareer.com, hoping to get a more promising outlook for my professional life.

One hundred questions make up the Career Directions Inventory (CDI), which supposedly measures your career interests and reveals personality, workplace fit, values, and what you’re good at.  The CDI instructs you to choose what you would most and least like to do out of three activities.  Easy enough, right?

Sometimes.  Other times it gets tricky, like when none of the activities are appealing.  Take this one, for example:

a) Altering garments in a clothing store

b) Raising dairy cows

c) Laying floor tiles

I can barely manage to sew on a button, and I don’t want to shovel manure (not literally, anyway).  But crawling around on my arthritic knee to lay tiles is definitely a bad idea.  So even though I am a completely incompetent seamstress, I chose altering as my most favorite activity, and, for health reasons, laying floor tiles as least.  But the ambiguity bothered me: Was raising dairy cows my second favorite activity—only slightly less enjoyable than altering garments—or was it only slightly more bearable than laying tiles?  Does the test even take this into account?

Now the test-taker is in quite a pickle.  Do you attempt to manipulate the test, answering according to the career you think the questions imply?  Or do you answer honestly, knowing you risk a “workplace fit” that doesn’t reflect your true interests?  I mean, I’ve never been sky diving before, so how do I know if I’d rather do that than, say, open a hatchery to raise fish?  If I pick sky diving, will the test assume I’ve done it before?  Will it think I’m good at it?—because that’s one of the things the CDI claims to assess.

I was so deep in my pickle I had to log off for the day.  I still had 66 questions left, and things were getting confusing.

When I logged back on, the situation did not improve.  Some of the questions are either too vague or so specific you start second-guessing your answers, like this series:

a) Taming wild animals for a circus.  (Are they grown lions with big teeth and a taste for flesh, or are these good-humored monkeys with a penchant for little hats?)

b) Setting up a salad bar in a family restaurant.  (Why is it a “family” restaurant?  Should my answer be different than if it were a fast-food joint or an up-scale chain?)

c) Studying electronics.  (“Electronics” is pretty vague, but so is the end goal: Am I studying for a test?  Am I just reading out of a textbook, or are there hands-on opportunities?)

In the end, I chose to make salads with family, but my heart wasn’t in it.  How can you be expected to choose if you don’t have all the information, or if the information obscures the point of the question?

After all the effort I put into analyzing the questions, the way I approached them revealed more to me than my actual answers: My mind is on the details.  There’s no escaping that fact, whether or not some test thinks I like to sew or sky dive or tame wild animals.

And there I’ll be at the end of each month with my clipboard and pencil, doing my rounds to all the meters at work, feeling organized and official.  I’m no ambassador to Ecuador, but my workplace…fits.  Reading meters is only one of many things my job calls for, but I can’t say I mind.  Besides, my results from this test were more favorable than I’d hoped: I scored high points for the writing, clerical, art, and teaching categories, and my “Workplace Fit Graph” showed I had the highest interest in artistic thinking.

That’s a far cry from the ol’ meter-reader prognosis—maybe there’s hope for my career after all.

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