Why is a Career Assessment Important?

While the Labor Department's U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't collect data on career changes due to the fact that the term "career" hasn't been defined (Is a promotion within a company that has new responsibilities a new job, OR, is it a new career?), the BLS does collect data on job changes. The agency defines a job change as the switch from one employer to another or a switch from one occupation to another while working for the same employer.

So, what's the number of job changes a person will have during his or her lifetime?

The last time the data was collected was more than 30 years ago (National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979) and it concluded that—between the ages of 18 and 38, a worker will hold approximately 10 jobs. Basically, we can conclude from this that—regardless of how you define the terms "career" or "job"—most adults will make many changes during their working lives. But, how do they decide where to go and what they want to do? A career assessment can open up a window to potential opportunities by helping your employees uncover the tasks, experience, education and training needed for their next career move. These tests can be effective in giving workers ideas of potential careers that may be a match for their skills and interests and get them thinking about how well-suited they might be for that particular career.

The assessment provides them with the information needed to make better career decisions, and allow you, the manager, to avoid spending money on the wrong training as you both work to plan the next step in your employee's career. Assessing career choices from time-to-time can be a valuable exercise for an employee. Whether they embarked on this path years ago and are simply confirming this as a viable professional career choice or are seriously re-evaluating their decision with a new plan to pursue a new line of work, it's important to take stock of an employee's interests and aptitudes and help them apply these talents where most appropriate for the employee and the company.

By keeping your talented employees challenged and upwardly mobile, you will be saving money and potentially increasing profitability for your company. It is critical for employers to manage their employees' expectations of what a career assessment will and won't do. The assessment won't necessarily point them to an absolute "dream job", but it will measure things such as his or her interests, personality or aptitude.

The results are merely suggestions based on that assessment. So, beware—just because a person has an interest in an area of work, it doesn't mean he or she will have the natural abilities to succeed in that new position. It is also important for the employer to coach the employee on how to take an assessment. It is crucial not to skew results of the career assessment by answering dishonestly. If an individual consciously or subconsciously answers questions to fit a preconceived career plan, the results will not be very useful.

Conclusion:

Working in a fulfilling career can dramatically increase happiness, self-confidence, and productivity, and consequently improve a company's performance. A career self-assessment is an important tool that can help identify possible avenues on a career path for an employee and be the instrument that opens up communication between the employee and his or her employer on how best to proceed. When the manager works with his employee to find the career path most rewarding for the employee, they are setting the stage for a long-term productive partnership.

"We want colleagues to take more ownership for their development and use the system to demonstrate that there are different routes they can take within the organization."

James Eastwood, HR director
Cable & Wireless

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