Dr. JoAnn Harris-Bowlsbey explains the important role that assessment plays in career planning.  

What is an assessment?

Assessment, defined as the use of any formal or informal technique or instrument to collect information about a student or client, is a tool used by counselors or by clients themselves to gather self-information to be used in the career planning process.

The most important use of assessment results is to assist individuals at a given point in time to identify their interests, skills and/or work values in order to identify the next educational or vocational choice in the sequence that makes up career development.

There is a danger, however. Assessments may lead clients to believe that the process of career planning is simplistic or that assessments can tell them definitively what to do.

The hallmark of formal assessments is that they have been subjected to scientific rigor; that is, authors, researchers and publishers have invested professional expertise, time and money to develop a quality product. They have performed research on the assessment instruments to assure quality and to be able to know the properties (such as reliability and validity) that each instrument possesses.

Self-knowledge has been hailed as an absolute prerequisite to informed career exploration.

Since the initial theory of Frank Parsons, supported by eminent theorists such as Donald E. Super and John L. Holland, self-knowledge has been hailed as an absolute prerequisite to informed exploration and choice of occupations, majors and jobs.

The self-characteristics most often proposed by theorists for assessments are interests, skills, and values. Knowledge of these characteristics can be helpful both to a student, a client and to a counselor in putting together a self-image that can be matched to a particular environment (using Holland’s terminology) or implemented in a particular occupation (using Super’s terminology).

The web-based Kuder Navigator® and Kuder Journey® systems offer online, research-based assessments of these three personal attributes, whose results are combined to provide a summary of personality traits.

Interests are the single most important self-characteristics relevant to career choice.

Of the several self-characteristics that are relevant to career choice, the single most important one is interests. Interests can be used to identify occupations, postsecondary majors, and even leisure activities as individuals engage in career planning.

Research indicates that individuals persist in school courses, majors, occupations and jobs at a higher rate if their measured interests guide their selection of these.

The formation of interests begins in the elementary and middle school years and increasingly solidifies during the secondary and postsecondary years. Career interests remain quite stable across one’s life span and continues to be important predictors of job satisfaction and stability.

Though the assessment of skills is also important, those needed to support measured interests can be developed through course work and work experience. The assessment of work values is also very helpful in career decision making. Perhaps the most important use of having the knowledge of one’s work values is to be able to filter the long list of occupations that may be suggested based on interests.

Assessments are critical and essential to assisting individuals with their exploration of occupations.

In summary, the use of research-based assessments is critical and central to assisting individuals of all ages with their exploration of occupations and postsecondary majors. Delivering these assessments and their reports via the web is a cost-effective way for individuals to gain access to such assessments and their results.