Monthly Archives: March 2010

Career Tests for Students: Beware

If a career test is really good at identifying what career a person should consider, wouldn’t that career test be a valuable tool for employers to use in the selection process?

Ask your high school career guidance counselor that is overseeing student career testing to explain which “employers” are using the assessment for hiring purposes. You might be surprised, and disappointed, to find that “no” employer is using the assessments the career guidance counselor is using.

There is a reason for this. Some career tests tell you that you are one thing when you are actually something else. Worse, they can match you with jobs, training programs, or College majors that don’t fit with your talents. For example, one “Holland-based” test (reports results using Holland Codes) might report that your highest score is for the Artistic personality type when actually it is Enterprising — a very different personality! This is exactly what happens to people taking a publicly available career test. Know the Truth

How do we know this? It is what their own research shows. The problem with many of the Holland-based and MBTI tests is that they do not measure what they are supposed to measure. Experts would say the test lacks test validity. Also, the way an assessment is used can create confusion and poor advice. To focus an individual in careers that provide only partial consideration for the student’s talent profile is about as helpful as using the horoscope to select careers.

Unfortunately, the Internet is loaded with career assessments or career tests that don’t measure up. They go by a variety of names, like: sorter, finder, quiz, and survey. They are also a part of web-based career guidance systems sold to schools and other organizations. And to make things harder for you, you’ll find some of the “oldest” and most popular career tests to be guilty of poor validity and poor reliability. The “newest” most likely do not have large population samples to support a validity study (validation studies using a population sample of 100 is not acceptable, look for validation data that uses thousands in their population sample).

Valid career measures are the result of years of scientific study and maintained on a regular basis. The results of these studies are reported in scientific journals and/or in professional training manuals and validation study white papers for the test. This takes time and money. Consequently, anything for free is most likely not something that has gone through rigorous validation studies to ensure it is current, and, most likely has not been painstakingly constructed to ensure reliability. One hint at the quality of the assessment is the amount of time required to complete the assessment. Many poorly constructed assessments can take an hour or more to complete. Test fatigue becomes a significant factor, especially with teenagers, when an assessment takes too long to finish. The Career Coaching for Students™ assessments take approximately 10 minutes each to complete – well within the amount of time before test fatigue becomes an issue.

Two examples that reveal questionable validity are described in articles we found in our research (see links at bottom of article). There are many studies that are uncovering the shortcomings of various career-oriented assessments. To make the issue more confusing, there are many professional counselors and career coaches that have invested years into using a specific assessment, may even be certified, and do not have the desire to change direction. This doesn’t make the career assessments they use more valid or more reliable.

We think that when it comes to career tests, “where” it is being used is a real measure. Why?
If companies (employers) are using the assessment(s) for hiring purposes, it is most likely a valid and reliable assessment. That’s because the government has rules and requirements regarding how to use assessments when hiring.

To be credible for hiring purposes (analyzing job fit), an assessment must be reliably valid and predictive without biases. If you are interested in looking beyond the hype, conduct a simple Internet search on the assessment name and company that produces the assessment. See if the assessment is being used in businesses to hire people. If you see business consultants who specialize in helping companies assess applicants referencing the assessment, you can be somewhat more confident the assessment is valid and reliable.

For example, Career Coaching for Students™uses two assessments for the student. One is a DISC behavioral assessment. The other is a Personal Interests, Attitudes and Values tm assessment (similar to Holland Codes and Strong Inventory). The DISC assessment combined with the Personal Interests, Attitudes and Values (PIAV) assessment provide a two dimensional picture of a person’s talents.

The Nielson Group, parent to Success Discoveries LLC, has been helping companies use the DISC and PIAV to accurately evaluate applicant talent-job fit for the past 10+ years. The maker of the assessments is TTI Performance Systems Ltd. (TTI). If you were to search “DISC assessment” you would find enough references to see how the assessment is being used (academics only or within businesses to hire people). But even with that, you’ll also find multiple DISC providers (competitors to TTI) that have their own DISC-based assessment and the quality (validity and reliability) of that assessment will be different – just as there are many assessments based on the Holland Codes.

TTI’s DISC and PIAV assessments are leaders for measuring behavioral style and motivators accurately. What can you do to verify a career assessment?

  • Ask the career guidance counselor if the assessment is used by companies to match people to jobs
  • If your school subscribes to an Internet-based educational or career guidance system, ask the principal or school counselor if the career measure meets professional standards for test validity. Many do not!

Unfortunately, some educators and counselors do not understand the importance of assessment validity and reliability even though their ethical standards require it. Be wary of endorsements by colleges, trade schools or universities or public links from their web pages. These organizations’ primary purpose is for marketing – to show you why you need to attend their program. The general rule is that if it is free it isn’t likely to be useful. Keep in mind that no test can tell you what to do. They can help you:

  • Learn about yourself
  • Identify high potential careers to consider
  • Make more informed decisions

The use of invalid career tests on the Internet is a serious problem. Several articles have recently appeared in publications of the National Career Development Association, American Counseling Association, and the American School Counselors Association.

Measuring the MBTI and Coming Up Short by David J. Pittenger

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI: Some Psychometric Limitations

TTI Performance Systems Validation Study for DISC

TTI Performance Systems Validation Study for PIAV

Lewis, P, & Rivkin, D. (1999). O*Net Interest Profiler. Raleigh, NC: National Center for O*NET Development.

Rounds, J., Smith, T., Hubert, L., Lewis, P., & Rivkin, D. (1999). O*Net Interest Profiler: Reliability, validity, and self-scoring. Raleigh, NC: National Center for O*NET Development.

Rounds, R., Mazzeo, S. E., Smith, T. J., & Hubert, L. (1999) . O*Net Interest Profiler: Reliability, validity, and comparability. Raleigh, NC: National Center for O*NET Development.

U.S. Department of Labor. (2000). O*Net Interest Profiler, User’s Guide. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Least Valued, Highest Value: Student Career Planning

Career planning is often minimized during high school to a few school English papers, a local career fair and a questionable career test. However, choosing a career direction is one of the most important decisions that students will make. Without proper career planning, many students take 5-6 years to complete a degree. We also see many students who didn’t do much career planning receiving degrees in declining growth fields or fields with a surplus of applicants and having difficulty finding employment after graduation. This data is not improving with the growth of high school site-licensed web-based offerings. The services offered at college counseling and placement offices is also not improving the situation.

Proper and intentional career planning while in high school plays a critical role in reducing the overall cost of college and increases a students self-esteem and academic success. A contributing factor in the college dropout and transfer rates is a lack of career planning and the failure to make college decisions based on career goals. Research by the US Department of Education (DOE) and American College Testing show that each year, about 50% of college freshman leave the college in which they first enrolled. Of the dropouts, about 30% transfer to other colleges at least once, and 20% transfer twice and typically take 6 or more years to complete a 4-year program.

Students who receive career planning prior to college choice and attendance have fewer changes in college major and fewer college transfers, graduate on time, and tend to be more goal- and academic-focused. Why is that? These students know themselves better than their peers. They also have focused on a career (or career options) that matches their talents. This “match” creates enthusiasm and passion to achieve a future that the student has defined. When you know what you want and you know how to get it, doing the work required to reach your goal is much easier.

So what does an effective career planning program produce:

  1. Significantly greater self awareness, an understanding of a person’s talent beyond the feedback given in school
  2. Valid and reliable career-focused assessments that give the student useful information about their talent
  3. A clear connection between a person’s talent and possible career choices that will produce satisfaction and success
  4. Implementation of strategies for learning about high-potential career choices
  5. Implementation of strategies for learning about educational options to support high-potential career options
  6. Developing clear action steps that the student is able to execute independently without outside motivation

Myths that create problems years later
Career coaching is something students will have access to in high school or at college
Investing in career coaching for a student is not necessary
Academically high achieving students don’t need career coaching
Average academic students don’t need career coaching
Future success is dependent on how well you do in school

A person who has chosen a path they are passionate about will be much more likely to experience high levels of satisfaction and success
Students who have a clear and positive future-view do better in all areas – academically, overcoming personal obstacles, relationships, etc.
A student who takes personal accountability for their future is more likely to succeed

There are many web-based career planning sites being implemented at high schools across the country. A few of the programs are Kuder, Naviance and Bridges Career Choices. There are others. They all provide a similar set of features.  A program that is different is Career Coaching for Students™. This is a program that utilizes “career coaching” as its foundational center and uses assessments for career matching and enhancing self-awareness. The guidebook provides a step-by-step approach so that any parent, coach, counselor or teacher can deliver the content and support the student. Consequently it is effective as an in-home parent-student self-directed program or as a student-parent workshop with a professionally trained facilitator coach or as a semester class. The semester curriculum can be integrated into an existing school program. Student workshops are held in various cities around the U.S. and each of the licensed facilitators offer one-on-one programs as well.

Waiting for Superman

Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim reminds us, in the soon-to-be-released film Waiting for Superman, that education “statistics” have names: Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy, and Emily, whose stories make up the engrossing foundation of WAITING FOR SUPERMAN. As he follows a handful of promising kids through a system that inhibits, rather than encourages, academic growth, Guggenheim undertakes an exhaustive review of public education, surveying “drop-out factories” and “academic sinkholes,” methodically dissecting the system and its seemingly intractable problems.

However, embracing the belief that good teachers make good schools, and ultimately questioning the role of unions in maintaining the status quo, Guggenheim offers hope by exploring innovative approaches taken by education reformers, inspiring teachers and charter schools that have—in reshaping the culture—refused to leave their students behind. The movie promises to receive high marks and has already been recognized at the Sundance Film Festival.

Guggenheim discusses his film

From Student to College to Career: Fun or Terrifying Journey?

We’ve all been there. High School. Whether you were at the top of your class or just proud to be graduating, high school provided that tension to bring adulthood and career planning into the forefront. A news article that was just posted online discusses how the ACT for Middle School students is shaping students’ opinion about career choices. Another article by an owner of a student career coaching business in Minnesota blended the economy and school career counselor limitations as the reason student career coaching outside of school is expanding. Based on feedback from parents and students in our Career Coaching for Students™ workshops and our one-on-one student coaching services, true career coaching hasn’t really been a part of the high school offering.

Take our Student Priorities Survey

Today, high schools are doing some exciting things to expose students to possible career areas, especially in the tech school vocational area. From photography and television production to welding and drafting, high schools are doing a great job of providing a broad offering of job skill development classes. Many schools have purchased and implemented subscriber-based online programs like Kuder, Naviance, Bridges Career Choices and other web-based career sites that give students access to career exploration tools. Most English classes include an assignment to research and write about a career. High schools are administering assessments to help students look at possible careers. The effort isn’t the question.

So with all that is going on, why do high school students continue to enter post-high school programs with a lack of confidence in career direction? Here are my top reasons:

  • True career coaching isn’t happening in high school. Coaching is very different from offering counseling and web-based tools – and much more time-consuming.
  • Assessments used by high schools aren’t focused to enable greater self-awareness about their talent and are not recognized in the work world as effective for matching people to jobs. Also, students report the assessment reports they receive in high school were either a “waste of their time” (no perceived value) or created greater confusion – both of which actually have a negative impact on the student’s interest in career exploration. However, we have seen a very strong positive reaction (face validity) from students after they received our assessment reports and debriefing in our workshops. The most common statement is “Wow! This is incredible and extremely helpful. It blows the [one received at school] out of the water.” Sounds a little dramatic but actually it is consistently the response we receive. The point here is that an assessment designed properly and presented properly is helpful and one that is not designed properly and explained properly is damaging.
  • Students, Parents, Teachers and School Counselors are overwhelmed by their daily schedule. Even career exploration assignments are completed by students in a haphazard and single-focused manner – to complete the assignment.

Effective career coaching integrates valid assessment results and other “student self-awareness” tools with web-based research tools and specific strategies for exploring careers. Coaching and coach-focused exercises are all geared to support the student in their journey. Career coaching enables the student to start broadly and quickly narrow high-potential career options regardless of current academic achievement. The student that has already embraced a career choice will find career coaching looks for ways to affirm their choice and works to support that choice and avoid missteps along the way.

The fact that the Middle School ACT test scores are influencing students about career options is very concerning. We all know of people (click link to see a “best motivation video” -scroll down page ) who have become highly successful but were told in high school by teachers, advisors or “academic test results” that they should (or should not) go in certain career directions. That, if the advice had been followed, would have steered the person away from their success. Today, that false thinking is unfortunately alive and well. The reason – academic achievement (current achievement) or lack there of does not consider a person’s talents.

The Learning
Choosing a career should be about aligning talent with career options. Talent is very different from academic achievement or current student achievement. In fact, we know that a very average academic student will excel and be successful when they have connected their talent to a career direction. They see their purpose. That purpose creates passion. Passion drives success. We’ve also seen high academic achievers (top 2% of their class) become lost in college and bounce from job to job after graduating – all because they hadn’t found their purpose. This is completely unnecessary. Let’s not put off true career coaching. College graduation or after quitting or getting fired from jobs is not the only time to do career coaching. The ideal time is in high school, somewhere between their Freshman and Junior year.

About Career Coaching for Students™
Career Coaching for Students™ utilizes professional coaching strategies with highly valid assessment tools (used in the work world to match people to jobs) to create a strong understanding of one’s talent and how to connect that talent to career options. The program impacts the student’s intrinsic motivation and self confidence and includes a 12-week self-directed program called Life Skills for Students™ based on what we know about highly successful people. Workshops are offered throughout the United States. To see a schedule of workshops, go to the Career Coaching for Students™ website.

About Carl Nielson
Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and the developer of Career Coaching for Students™. He also has a management consulting practice through The Nielson Group where he provides executive coaching, organizational development services and hiring-for-fit strategies using the same assessment technology used for Career Coaching for Students™.

March is Scholarship Time, Beware of Scams

March is scholarship essay completion time.

Most scholarships (and college applications) will require an essay for consideration. There are plenty of scholarships available. So do your research. To write a powerful essay, consider taking this approach:

  1. Focus on choosing your career interests first. Your career interests will provide a “passion” to support your essay writing.
  2. Identify colleges/universities that have majors that support your career interest. Our Student Resources Section has the most comprehensive career and college/majors research links you’ll find on the web.

  3. Official FAFSA Website

  4. Search for scholarships based on your career, school and major choices and your network (parents sometimes work at companies that offer scholarships to employee’s children, certain nonprofits in your community are looking for local students to award scholarship money, your high school will know about local scholarship opportunities, etc.). Also, remember that the most expensive colleges/universities offer “needs based” financial aid. That means, you’ll get a major discount applied to your fees and expenses at these universities if you get accepted. For these colleges, your financial situation is not considered for getting accepted. You’ll need to complete the FAFSA forms in a timely manner to qualify for financial aid. The advice here: “get it done!”

FastWeb is a commercial for-profit site with articles and info about scholarships, financial aid, student loans and FAFSAFastWeb claims to have over $24.3 billion worth of scholarships and grants in one location. FastWeb is a comprehensive site with information about scholarships, financial aid, student loans and FAFSA. It is a site worthy of checking out for the advice articles. But keep in mind it is commercially funded. This site is collecting information for its sponsors. You will be marketed to if you register and give private information. Is it ok? There isn’t much in this world that is free. You pay one way or another. So instead of paying a fee, you are paying with your private information which is used to funnel marketing promotions to you.

About Commercial Sites
The web was quickly harnessed by marketing strategist in the 90’s. It is still an excellent tool for getting information quickly but comes with a general agreement that you will be marketed to eventually. Success Discoveries LLC and Career Coaching for Students™ is not selling your information to anyone. However, if you connect out to a commercial site, you might be giving them information. Just be aware of what you are doing. And, be sure you understand that any site most likely has an agenda – to sell you something.

Beware of potential scholarship scams

FTC_Scholarship Scam InformationThere are unscrupulous web sites and email campaigns that are trying to get your money. A general rule to follow is, “if they request money from you in order to get money”, they are likely a scam. The FTC provides great advice and also tells you how to detect and report information about scholarship scams.