Alex Jelonek Turk, at one time a trained music teacher, has dedicated herself wholeheartedly to a new cause — helping young people in Bahrain follow their dreams.
Alex’s new company, Affinity Consultancy, is based on the principles of psychometric testing. This is a practise through which a trained interpreter can gain an understanding of a person’s individual skill sets, abilities, personality and interests.
The usefulness of these sorts of tests is threefold. Alex’s company is able to test for learning difficulties in children of a variety of ages. She is also able to assess the results carefully enough to advise career paths or useful study directions among adolescents. Thirdly, she has a selection of tests which can prove useful in a business environment — helping employers select the most appropriate candidate from a group of potential employees.
Most interesting to us, though, is capacity in which she is able to help young people in Bahrain make important life decisions. As we are beginning to understand, job satisfaction is an incredibly important part of life. We spend years and years of our lives at work, so it makes no sense to be stuck doing something we don’t enjoy. “I have had two careers myself,” says Alex, “I trained as a music teacher, but I wasn’t sure it was quite the thing, so I had to look into something else.”
“I want to help children to avoid making choices without any guidance,” she explains, “because it is true that we don’t have careers for life so much any more, but stopping something and starting all over again from the beginning, with the need for new education, can be a very expensive process. If you find a good path early on, you won’t have to.”
The quality which sets Affinity Consultancy apart from many other companies using psychometrics testing is Alex’s very personal touch. “There are many schools who think they have appropriate guidance counselling and there are many companies who use psychometrics tests, but the schools often look at too many people at once and I am not convinced that many of these companies really take into consideration the particular environment they are testing in. The educational tests that I use are compared to norm groups in the USA and Europe, for example, as most will be, because it is very difficult to find tests that have been normed in the Middle East. So then it becomes really important to take this into consideration when you are assessing the results of the test.”
“Within my practice I try to take all the environmental factors, such as the specific job market in Bahrain, and a person’s educational, family and medical history into consideration. I am trying to keep the business relatively small so that I can really concentrate on the individual and use my psychology background to develop a careful, personal assessment,” continues Alex.
One of the most interesting things about Alex’s study of the Bahrain job market and the results of her psychometric testing so far, is that she is able to assess differences in gender. “Based on the cases I have worked on so far,” she says, “I believe there is a big change happening and that girls as well as boys are being well educated and are now able to have a wider choice of careers. A certain percentage of society here will always adhere to very traditional roles, but there is a cultural shift happening.”
It is also part of Alex’s personal touch that she is able to take gender into consideration when offering her assessment. She talks to the parents and to young women about their expectations. It is certainly not a case of narrowing the spectrum of options from which girls can choose a career, but more about preparing women for the challenges they might face on their chosen path — a wise and useful part of Alex’s services, if you ask us.