“Just Tell Me What I Should Do”

Oh, if it only were that easy. I cannot tell you how many times over the years I have heard that phrase from clients. If only I could just wave a magic wand or look into my crystal ball and tell you what role/job you will find engaging, fulfilling, and will have you jump out of bed anxiously anticipating the day ahead.

I typically hear the above quote from clients who are really lost. The ones who before graduating from college visited the university career center once or twice to get help writing their resume or LinkedIn profile, never to return again. I have also heard it from people midway through their careers who started on the circuitous path of life and now find themselves in a job they cannot stand for one reason or another, or worse unemployed.

Many times these are people who have taken some assessments in the distant or recent past and appreciated the knowledge they provided but then never looked deeper than that. Here is the thing – there isn’t a single assessment out there that can magically tell you what you should do. Why? Because you are a human being and as such you are a complicated animal. You have the capacity to think for yourself!

As I explain to my clients, assessments provide information and insight that will help you learn more about yourself and, if used correctly, narrow down job possibilities. But they don’t define you! Just because you take the MBTI and find your specific type, doesn’t mean you should definitely rule out opportunities based solely on that classification. It is just a heads up that people who share that type report back they are happy in certain fields/role so statistically speaking, you have a better chance of feeling similar satisfaction should you choose to pursue that path. But do you have any interest in that field? Do you have the skills necessary to be successful? Do your strengths play to what is needed in that role or does it play to areas you need to develop? What about does the work align with the values that are important to you? All those other factors (or variables) come into play when figuring out what you will find satisfying and whether or not you can be successful.

You can take assessment upon assessment to capture whatever data you are looking for. If you cross-reference two or three different indicators and they point to the same career path or role then statistically you have a much greater chance of it being something you might want to pursue.

But, here is the key, no matter what the results are, you need to do some serious soul-searching and research before you start to either blindly pursue or categorically dismiss whatever job these assessments indicate are a good or poor fit. For some people, that research is too much work. They take the “tests”, read the results and/or superficially listen to the administrator as they explain the results then mentally file the information under “good to know.” They never think of it again unless: A) It adds to casual conversation. “I am an introvert too.” B) It can be conveniently used as a reason not to apply for a job. “That is something only extroverts would like.” C) After being continually unhappy with a career path, the need to figure out something new bubbles up again. Maybe something new can be learned.

If you don’t understand what these inventories measure and how the results should be applied then your are wasting your time and money. I must admit, when I was a newly minted graduate of a liberal arts college, I was guilty of not wanting to put in the time and effort needed to complete the exercises in “What Color Is Your Parachute” by Richard Bolles, PhD. And I understand life is crazy especially with a family and a full time job – finding the time is a challenge – there is no doubt about that.

But ultimately, you need to commit to the process and decide that you are worth the effort. As a counselor/coach, I can help you with the process by giving you resources, activities, and support – similar to what a coach does for an athlete. But you need to do the actual work because only you know what resonates with you. You will need to invest some time and effort in order to secure your future happiness in a fulfilling career.

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Leslie Smith is a career counselor and executive coach with an M.Ed in Counseling Psychology and over 15 years of experience consulting with an outplacement firm in Boston. Approximately five years ago she opened Career Strategies, LLC which provides individual career counseling and coaching for people at any stage of their career. Leslie helps individuals look closely at their values, interests, skills and passions to help them discern what really matters. She then assists clients in taking the next steps in their career journey.