Each year thousands of students drop out of 6th Form and university, or transfer to a different course, due to lack of quality, professional career advice as well as self-awareness. Similarly, many adults are in jobs that they are unhappy with, where their potential is not fully utilised. Equally, women are often unclear about themselves in terms of who they really are, what they want and how they are going to live their life.
Many women want more from their career or need a clear ‘life purpose’ as their children get older. These are the same emotions that teenagers feel when they are embarking upon course and career decisions.
What can you do? How can you help your child choose the career and life they want? How can transition be eased? Effective solutions include working with objective, qualified and experienced career guidance professionals, as well as using psychometric profiling appropriately. Knowledge of strengths, personality traits, abilities and learning styles means informed decisions about career and course selection. Sound advice and accurate evidence goes further by ensuring best culture-environment fit, as well as taking into consideration family, financial and other important factors in these all important decisions.
Students’ career choices are sometimes squashed inadvertently by parents due to lack of motive (motivation) and talent (ability) alignment. What this means is, even if your child is able to become a Doctor, Banker or Lawyer, if this is not the field that they really want to study, they may be good at it, but will they really be happy? No. This demonstrates how important it is to look at all the variables when making course and career choices.
What are psychometric tests?
Psychometrics is concerned with the measurement of various human abilities and attributes using various instruments, particularly questionnaires and tests. The use of psychometric tools is very popular in areas such as selection and recruitment, professional, team and personal development, guidance and leadership.
Each year many students could avoid dropping out of their undergraduate courses or changing their A level and IB options if they took a psychometric test that ensures informed, impartial advice. It’s uncomfortable catching-up to others who have already started or staying behind until the next year has started.
And this means that many parents could also save a lot of money by ensuring they invest in a test for their children too! Tests can highlight careers that have not been considered, therefore, opening possibilities.
Ultimately, a career choice that links abilities and personality traits is a career that you will be happy in and also suitably challenged! It also opens up communication between you and your child, which is very helpful as some children do not feel confident raising a different career, that does not fit with parental expectations.
In the recruitment process there are a number of ways to distinguish between applicants, however, most have problems attached to them. Interviews can be governed by bias and prejudice of the interviewer, references can be vague and application forms may not be filled in objectively by the applicant and so on.
Psychometric tests are designed to be fair and objective and free from personal bias and prejudice. The tools used give comfort to the users as there is no right or wrong answer. They allow different people to be assessed under the same conditions so comparisons can be made. You can’t compare the interview of two different people, for example, if they were not asked the same questions under the same conditions.
Some people use zodiac signs, others use feng shui or gut reaction and others hire family or friends because they should and/or because they have trust in their performance. Some students choose a course because of the weather in that location or its prestige.
Decision-making is very subjective and although powerful, psychometric tools should not be used in isolation as they are one measure. They are more effective when used alongside other measurement tools, such as interviews and can help minimise the costly mistakes of hiring the wrong person, or otherwise making a poor decision. Likewise, 360 degree ‘feed forward’, a term coined my Marshall Goldsmith, voted Number One Business Thinker this year, is important too. So feed forward, as opposed to feedback, where feed forward looks at what someone wants more of, is positive and highlights the future as opposed to the past.
In short, the views of parents, teachers, colleagues and friends as well as professionals in the field in relation to where markets are going and employability in a particular field, should also be involved in decision-making.
There are a number of uses for psychometric testing; perhaps the most common is in recruitment and selection of staff. They are also used within organisations to identify training needs, team building and talent among other things.
They are also being used heavily in graduate selection for training programmes and more and more for course and career selection from the age of around 14 and for personal development.
Many organisations, such as Sony, have designed programmes and trained staff internally then weaved psychometrics and coaching through their organisation, making them a company of choice. The Royal Air Force (RAF) in the UK use psychometrics during their fighter pilot training to determine how each recruit would react under different conditions. This is not designed to exclude, but offers trainers a better understanding of how best to focus on each person’s needs. It has been calculated that this saves the RAF thousands of pounds by identifying development areas that can be worked upon.
Basically, psychometrics can be used in any situation where accurate measurements of skills, abilities, personality or where other human factors are important before making a decision.
Can tests be faked?
It is very difficult to fake an ability test without knowing the correct answers; personality tests are a little less robust but most have built-in mechanisms to detect when someone is trying to distort the results.
The Morrisby Profile, one of the two best test batteries on the market for course and career selection, is a very hard to fake, due to the nature of the items contained within the test.
The personality aspects of the test have little face validity; therefore, it is very difficult to guess what the question might be measuring and to consequently give the answer you think the test giver wants to hear. This face-to-face test, which takes around three hours, produces a profile of abilities, personality types, interests, preferred work styles and learning styles. Subsequent discussion of the results help students and adults make informed choices, realise aspirations, achieve success and satisfaction in their careers, and increases motivation.
This particular test has been used by Xerox, Bank Of Ireland, University of Bath and other prestigious universities, as well as many international schools and the Crowne Prince’s International Scholarship Programme (CPISP) in Bahrain.
The other leader in the field is Saville Consulting’s MY Self, which provides an insight into behavioural effectiveness at work and the career areas that your particular strengths are likely to fit. It identifies strengths and challenge areas while using both normative and ipsative (rating and ranking), which increases reliability and validity.
This option is completed in 30 minutes on-line and usually has a two to six day turnaround time, followed by feedback by a Level A and Level B (ability and personality) psychometrist registered with, for example, the British Psychological Society.
Whereas, in recruitment it may be particularly important to get as ‘high’ a score as possible in certain areas to distinguish yourself from the other candidates, in career guidance the more ‘honest’ you are the more accurate and valid the results will be for you. Of course, these tests can pick up when candidates are being overly confident.
An added bonus of taking a test is that as many organisations and graduate training programmes use them for recruitment and selection and so you will be ahead of the game in terms of knowing the type of questions that will be asked.
Sometimes people take tests and hear the results. This is an informative, reflective and ‘nice’ experience. However, the most important part is using the data and discussions to move forward, identify development areas and act upon the results accordingly. This part seems to be the missing link on many occasions, especially in this region.
Furthermore, talent management and retaining the best staff and students are areas that need addressing not only from within organisations and institutions but also by individuals. Career choice and development can only happen effectively from within, by you and your child being clear about what you both want, as well as the steps and deadlines to ensure you get it.
Psychometrics testing is recommended for children only after the age of 14.
What about career coaching?
Coaching is a relatively new profession. The great benefits of coaching and psychometric instruments are not fully appreciated by all HRM professionals, managers and students alike. Few people really understand what a coach can help them achieve and how valuable the experience will be as it impacts on so many parts of life.
Many clients come with specific problems they have that they want to ‘fix’. However, coaching enables clients to understand their bigger concerns whilst getting in touch with their values. Career coaching sessions are loosely structured and flexible, usually ending with some sort of enquiry, challenge or action.
Coaches demonstrate empathy, don’t make assumptions and are non-judgmental as they enable and facilitate action. By combining coaching with psychometric profiling, the results are a great starting point for discussions while both you and the coach discover an accurate picture of what you really want.
Using psychometric tools can reduce the time spent with an employee when coaching as the first few discovery sessions are reduced as both the coach and has the client have an overview of where that person actually is and a clearer focus.
In short, psychometric tests and career coaching, with qualified and experienced professionals, are cost effective in relation to career choices! Just like having a coach in the gym, you work harder, achieve results quicker, are more committed to action and are accountable.