While the purpose of aptitude testing for most students is the same—choosing a course of study—adults are motivated for many different reasons. In this article, we use actual client stories to demonstrate how finding out about your natural abilities can make a great difference to almost anyone.
Making job choices
People often face crossroads in their careers in their thirties and forties, and aptitude testing might help identify which path would be most suitable.
A college student advisor, though happy with her job, had to make a decision about her future direction. Should she get more involved in managerial duties or emphasize the counseling aspect of her work? Each role uses different aptitudes. The person suited to managerial work might not enjoy counseling, while the person suited to counseling could become bored doing mainly administrative tasks. An understanding of her test scores made it clear to her that she had the aptitudes for counseling and that this direction could ultimately provide much greater satisfaction.
Working in a field for which you do not have the aptitudes can cause dissatisfaction and frustration, and unused aptitudes are likely to cause similar feelings.
A civil engineer came in to be tested after working in his field for six years. While he performed adequately, he was increasingly aware of how much more difficult the work was for him than it seemed to be for his co-workers. He told us, “I don’t think my job should be this frustrating.” During his testing, he learned that he did not possess one of the aptitudes most characteristic of satisfied civil engineers. More importantly, however, it was discovered that he had strong numerical aptitudes that were unchallenged in his job. We suggested that he would probably enjoy the financial side of construction work, such as project budgeting and cost analysis, more than he was enjoying the designing and building of three-dimensional forms.
Many people are happier when they have specific career goals. A thorough understanding of your aptitudes can aid in this process.
A client in his mid-thirties had mostly worked in payroll and auditing management. His aptitudes indicated being an expert or specialist in a numerical field. He was about to start a new job and could now see it as a stepping-stone toward narrowing his focus and becoming a consultant. Within two years, he had his first contract as an independent consultant, and he reported to us that he was happier and more satisfied with his new way of working.
In some cases, a person’s job situation might make the immediate application of the test results more difficult, but there is still value in learning about your aptitudes—in being aware of options you can pursue, even if, for the present, it is in your spare time.
A human resources executive with family responsibilities who discovered she scored high in aptitudes for design felt as though she had no option but to stay in her current job, at least for the time being. She believed, however, that this new knowledge might start her on the right track by suggesting appropriate part-time schooling, hobbies or other activities that might eventually ease the transition to a more satisfying career.
The benefit in objective documentation and confirmation of what a person already feels gives some people the required confidence to change—and, for some, it gives them permission.
A woman came in who had worked for several years as a teacher’s assistant, a job to which she was indifferent. During the review, her test administrator offered the idea of pursuing landscape and garden design as a business. Learning that what she considered a hobby provided outlets for her aptitudes, and was also something she could investigate as a career, seemed to have an immediate effect. She left the summary excited by the possibilities. Often our testing can confirm that a career you have contemplated or are considering is an appropriate fit for your aptitudes—and having this objectively confirmed can be a great way to reinforce your confidence.
Identification of strengths
As people progress in their careers, they become aware of likes and dislikes as well as strengths and weaknesses. Our testing can serve to give a definition to an ability and show how each aptitude can be used in a wide variety of ways.
A 65-year-old man, whose family had been tested, reported he wanted to see how he “fit into the mix.” He said he had always wanted to be a doctor, but for financial reasons, he was not able to go to college, and had been in business all his life. What he enjoyed most was going into companies that were ailing, fixing them up, and then moving on. He hadn’t realized that he’d been a company “doctor” all along.
Returning to school
For those with the time, money, and desire to return to school for further education, aptitude testing can help sort out the possibilities among an often confusing array of educational opportunities.
We tested someone who had successfully run her own design business, left it to raise a family, and was now interested in learning what type of second career might be suitable. She knew that education was necessary, but wasn’t sure what course of study to pursue. We discovered during her testing that she not only had strong artistic abilities, but also that her aptitude pattern suggested business management. She reported later that she was beginning a Masters’ Degree program in Arts Administration, with a view toward working for a museum or gallery.
Hobbies and avocations
As one grows older, the pressures of establishing oneself in a career or raising a family tend to lessen, with the result that more time becomes available for outside interests. Knowledge of one’s aptitudes might suggest ideas for these interests.
A successful CEO, whose work as an investment banker was well suited to his aptitude pattern, reported he was able to retire early and wanted to learn about how he might use his aptitudes to help plan post-retirement activities. He also scored high on our auditory tests, although he told his test administrator that he had never considered himself musical. We talked about getting involved in a financial role in local government, writing about his business experience, or using his management expertise as a volunteer with an arts or charity organization. We suggested he take advantage of his newly discovered aptitudes by joining a choir or taking up a musical instrument, ideas to which he responded enthusiastically.
Understanding the aptitude patterns of others
It is not uncommon for parents to be tested along with their children so that they have first-hand knowledge of the tests—so they can better understand their children’s abilities and how to make use of the information we provide. In fact, some families are now having the third and fourth generations of their children tested by the Foundation. We frequently see couples, friends, and even people referred by their co-workers or employers, come in for testing.
Additional considerations for adults
Having pointed out some of the ways in which aptitude testing has been useful to our adult clients, we feel it is important to note some possible limitations.
First, we are not employment counselors. For those out of work, finding a job is often the most pressing concern. Our purpose is to provide knowledge that can help people with career and educational planning. If your immediate concerns were writing a resume, learning interviewing techniques, or finding a job, you would need to consult other types of organizations for help in those areas.
The second possible limitation is the perceived impracticality of some of the career suggestions. Adults who decide to go through our testing program shouldn’t be surprised to learn about some options that might be difficult to pursue. Some might feel that becoming a teacher, for instance, is not a realistic option at this time in their lives. Being a teacher, though, doesn’t have to mean working in a classroom setting. It could also mean tutoring, doing sales training, or providing health education to adults. An understanding of the aptitudes of teaching can make one see that there are many ways to be a teacher.
We discuss with each client the career possibilities that our research indicates for their aptitudes. For those who are already working, we try to identify the least drastic, or most practical, changes a person could make to increase job satisfaction.
Not everyone needs a total change in what he or she is doing—to leave management to be an engineer, or quit accounting to sell computers. Sometimes a small change can make a big difference.
Tolerance for change and personal circumstances differ; what might seem like a drastic change to one person, could be less alarming to another; one person might be in a position to leave a job immediately, while another might have to begin the pursuit of a new career while remaining in his or her current job for some time. We will tell you about your career possibilities and give you some ideas about how to get started, but only you can decide what is practical or realistic for you.
Our performance-based battery of tests can provide an unbiased, independent assessment of your inherent abilities. The ultimate goal of our program is to help people learn about their aptitudes and explore ways those aptitudes might be put to use. The summary discussion of your aptitudes, interests, and experiences can provide objective confirmation of your self-perceptions, reinforce a direction you were already considering, or open up new avenues for you to explore. For those whose aptitudes do suggest a very different career, the possibility of greater happiness and satisfaction can be a powerful motivator.