Last year, I embarked on a journey to find a new online career assessment tool for Biola University students. I wanted to find the best for the Biola community, keeping quality and user experience in mind, so I ended up testing 15 different assessments myself. While each assessment had unique features, all of them pointed to a few foundational lessons to understand when deciding on a career direction.

1. Pay Attention to your Interests

Career assessment tools almost always have interests at their foundation. In most career assessment tools, interests refer to one’s preferences for certain tasks and activities. In late adolescence and early adulthood, interests begin to stabilize and can be fantastic predictors for discerning what careers you might enjoy, according to the American Psychological Association. Additionally, studies show that aligning your career with your interests not only raises work satisfaction but also increases career longevity and performance.

2. Consider Environmental Fit

The results from career assessments are about finding the work environment that is right for you. Will you share the values and characteristics of your co-workers and company culture? Most career assessments will compare how you answer questions to the answers of real people who are thriving in different fields. These assessments will rank careers based on the alignment of your responses with theirs, even on questions that have nothing to do with the job description itself.

3. Leverage your Strengths 

While you may not get to be anything you want, you can be excellent at who God created you to be! Pay attention to your natural aptitudes. It will help you discern between the variety of careers to which an assessment matches you. In other words, it can help you decide which options are viable career paths and which are hobbies. Choosing a path that develops and leverages your strengths will not only increase your joy on the job but also help you experience exponential growth, according to Gallup.

What you will not find in these career assessments are results based on what someone else wants from you or for you. Well-meaning people will suggest career paths for you because it might earn a lot of money, bring prestige, offer stability or someone has family connections to the field. These are not bad things in and of themselves, and can actually be quite good. However, remember to make sure that direction also aligns with your interests and strengths and puts you in an environment where you can thrive and is life-giving.

Are you curious about what careers an assessment would suggest for you? The happy ending to this story is that I found an assessment for the Biola Career Center and we now offer it to you for free. Check out CareerExplorer today and discover new possibilities.

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Heather Martin is the assistant director of the Biola University Career Center. A Biola alumnus herself, she specializes in helping students find possible career paths. She has 13 years of experience in the career services field.