Career Counselling & Assessments: My Personal Experience & How the Strong Interest Inventory Helped Me

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In this article, I want to share some of my personal career counselling experiences and how I was helped to find career direction in my own life!

Part of the reason I’m so passionate about helping others figure out what they want to do with their life is because I really struggled with this issue myself…. for a long time!

I always enjoyed school, but once I entered the workforce, I was surprised by how BORED I was in my jobs. One of my first jobs out of university was as an Administrative Assistant with a health care authority. When I interviewed for the job, I was told that it would be a project-based role and that I’d be working closely with health & safety professionals to launch innovative safety programs across the health authority. It sounded awesome!

But I quickly found it to be the opposite. I was involved with a ton of administrative tasks, working on spreadsheets, sorting mail, filing, organizing, processing people’s expenses….. I was wondering why I went to university to learn about all these interesting HR concepts and strategies… if I was going to be doing (what I felt was) mindless work sorting papers. 

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I left this role eventually and I worked in multiple Human Resources roles for the next ten years, which were closer to what I was looking for, but still… weren’t quite right. After ten years of struggling with this – I decided to go through career counselling myself and figure out – what do I REALLY want to do? I took a few career assessments as part of the process and one of them was the Strong Interest Inventory.

Career Assessment: The Strong Interest Inventory

Let me tell you a little bit about the Strong Interest Inventory itself. The assessment measures your interest in a broad range of occupations, work activities, leisure activities, and school subjects. The questionnaire compares how these interests are similar to the interests of people successfully employed in those occupations. It is used to help people understand their work interests and to illustrate the kinds of work in which they might be most satisfied.

The Strong Interest Inventory uses Holland codes, which are personality types created to measure an individual’s “type” and match it with a list of career choices that would be a good fit for that individual. It assesses you on the following areas:

  • Realistic – practical, physical, hands-on, tool-oriented
  • Investigative – analytical, intellectual, scientific, explorative
  • Artistic – creative, original, independent, chaotic
  • Social – cooperative, supporting, helping, healing/nurturing
  • Enterprising – competitive, environments, leadership, persuading
  • Conventional – detail-oriented, organizing, clerical

(Description above from Psychometrics.com)

Here’s a quick summary of my results when I took the Strong Interest Inventory:

  • Artistic – Very High
  • Investigative – High
  • Enterprising – High
  • Social – High
  • Realistic – Moderate
  • Conventional – Very Little

Career Counselling: What I Learned

Here are a couple of snippets of what I learned from my results:

  • I have a LOT of interests. I’d always known that, but seeing these results – really solidified things and put it into perspective for me.
  • I’m Enterprising – which came as a bit of a surprise. I learned I might enjoy running a business, as well as marketing and selling things.
  • Although I have an interest in Social roles, it’s not my primary area of interest.
  • I have very little interest in tasks or jobs in the Conventional area.

When I noticed that I have a lot of interests, I realized that a job where I just focus on one or two things is probably not going to be the best fit for me. I need to be challenged in a few different areas and work on different types of tasks on a daily basis. Maybe something creative and artistic one day, and another day – something investigative and problem-solving.

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I ranked high in Enterprising which includes tasks and jobs such as sales and negotiations, which was a bit of a surprise…. I never thought of myself as a “sales” person – and of course I was thinking of  the stereotypical, pushy “used car salesman.” This led me to think a little bit more about sales and business in general, and if it was something I actually really was interested in pursuing, especially starting my own business.

I actually learned a lot about myself based on what I’m NOT interested in. Conventional interests include organization, data management, setting up procedures and systems, keeping records, and developing computer applications. According to this – I have no interest in being involved with any of these things.

(Keep in mind – the question isn’t “Can I do these types of activities?” In my case, I had worked in administrative roles for years, so obviously I could do the activities.)

The key takeaway for me here was that I wouldn’t be happy if the majority of my job is focused on conventional tasks and responsibilities.

Career Counselling – My Next Steps

Moving forward, I realized a few things:

  • I’m not interested in highly administrative/organizational work, so it’s important for me to have a role where this is not the focus.
  • Variety is very important to me – I need to have a role that’s focused on more than one area and where I’m always learning new things.
  • I like the challenge of problem solving and new ideas – working in a static environment maintaining the status quo isn’t enjoyable for me.
  • I’m Enterprising – so starting a business might be a good idea.

Looking back at some of my previous roles, they were highly administrative, even within HR. Although there was a social component to the role which was interesting, overall – there was a hugely administrative focus. The roles also lacked variety, and there was very little opportunity to learn new things and grow (partially due to the fact that I worked in small HR departments).

Now, finding a solution to this for me didn’t come overnight… and to be honest, my needs and preferences will always be changing over time. The next step for me was assessing how I could use my previous experience and knowledge (of which I’d gained a lot) to start a business or a new career path. Eventually I arrived at the idea of starting a career coaching business – and that’s where I am today!

I can honestly say that I’m actually enjoying my work for the first time in my life. I’m not dreading Mondays anymore – or waking up in the morning wondering how I’m going to get through another day. I’m not going to lie and say it’s perfection – nothing is – but I’m actually HAPPY with my career right now, which would have been impossible to imagine three years ago.

In this role, I’m able to do something I truly value – help others with their careers – while performing work that fulfills my needs for variety, creativity, and problem-solving. Running my own business allows me to learn about marketing, writing, website design, graphic design, video editing, career assessments, coaching, social media… and the list goes on.

What do you think?

Now, the Strong Interest Inventory wasn’t the only assessment that helped me – I’ve taken many others that have been really helpful – but I wanted to demonstrate specifically how I was able to use the results from it to see what wasn’t working for me in my career.

So based on the above – what would you say your interests are? Do you think you know what your results would be if you took the Strong Interest Inventory, or do you think you could be surprised?

Interested in learning more? You can find more information about the Strong Interest Inventory here.

It’s also one of the assessments I recommend taking as part of my Career Exploration or Career Transition packages.

If you’d like to learn more about the assessment, or if you have any questions – please feel free to get in touch with me!

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