This week I have been helping Sadie start to look at colleges. She is lucky: she comes from a family that will be able to afford college for her, but we can’t afford to waste money in the process either. So how do we help her make smart choices about her future? I am not convinced lots of AP classes, triple sports, tons of clubs and volunteer service trips are the way to go. Of course, partying, flunking classes and watching reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer isn’t either.
I decided to look into exactly what would help make these decisions over the next few years. I began with a career test. Not for Sadie, for me. I know what I’m good at. I’m winding down a career, not looking to start one. I thought it might be fun to see what the “experts’ had to say. If you look online there are lots of career aptitude tests. I know they are not perfect, but I figured I could at least get an idea of what type of questions would determine my “future.”
The questions were tricky: “do you like people?” How do you really answer that? You can’t very well say no. What kind of job would that lead to? So after the first test I paid my $5.95 and got my score. My results determined I was an entrepreneur at heart and my people group are children. OK, I can agree with that, but for $5.95 I got multiple test opportunities so I decided to switch things up a little.
On the next test, the only thing I purposely switched was my salary aspirations. My results— still an entrepreneur but the children part disappeared. Fact: you don’t make a lot of money working with children.
On my third test I let my creative side shine through and proclaimed an interest in tech. Still an entrepreneur (must be the desire not to sit at a desk or in an office all day) but now the children part was back as an educational app developer.
And so it went. By the tenth test I could pretty much determine my “suggested” path based on salary choice and work environment. The jobs got more interesting if I chose a low salary and more stressful when I went for the big bucks.
Would this test be useful for Sadie? Not really. The first test did skew toward my interests, but no one sets out to make less than a living wage. Should interest or aptitude determine a career choice? This test did not seriously look at aptitude (I’m sure there are better tests). So while I could make the test say I wanted to be a research scientist, I’ve been around long enough to know that is not my skill set. On the other hand, should a nightmare experience with chemistry in high school convince me I could not go into hard sciences? It did but it shouldn’t.
My lesson from the career test experience is that what Sadie and all high school students need is balance: rigorous academics without overshadowing work, sports, family and life. The more varied the experiences the better. How else could I play the career test game and come out a winner every time? In life, you have to kiss a lot of frogs!