Last summer, I threw myself a little pity party because I was worried my career would suck me in like a black hole, chew me up, and spit out my bones. Okay, okay, a little dramatic, but you get the picture.
If I'm being honest, the self-pity was really fear. Fear that I would work hard for a job that didn't work for me. Fear that I would spend countless hours in front of a spreadsheet and slowly let myself turn to vanilla. For those that know me, "vanilla" is my ever-so-affectionate term for someone who is just. plain. boring. Especially boring people are vanilla without the little bean flecks. ;) Simkus is vanilla without bean flecks and I did not want to be him:
Shortly after that post, I started to think. If not accounting, then insert answer here. There's a lot I could do. I'm a hard worker, and I like to think that I pick up on things fairly quickly. However, I wanted something more, I wanted something that I could do...really well. I wanted to work my tail off, but at the same time have the tiniest tingle of exhilaration--that "hell yeah"--every once in a while. I just had no idea what that something was.
As is the norm with the scenes of my life that involve major life decisions, enter incredibly supportive parents, stage left. They knew that I was struggling to define myself as a professional and suggested that I visit Career Vision, a career counseling service that helps college students and career changers find direction through a series of tests that analyze your natural abilities & personal priorities. At first I resisted because it seemed really hokey. Read: Iowa Basic exams for adults. But after reading a lot of the material on their website and calling to speak with someone from Career Vision, I decided that I would try it.
Later on that summer, I walked into Career Vision, chugged a hugh-jass cup of coffee, and sat down for five hours of testing. Most of the time was spent on aptitude testing, a series of cognitive evaluations that analyzed the way that I think. I got rapid-fire math questions, timed essays with an open-ended prompt, and more memory games than Milton Bradley. I put together 3D puzzles (fail) and was drilled in vocabulary (win). By the time we finished the end of the aptitude testing, my brain hurt.
The last hour or so was spent on "softer" tests. These concentrated less on what I could do and more on what I wanted to do. What were my motivations? My values? Preferences? A lot of these were similar to those tests you took in Psych 101 where you found out if you were a "true blue" or a "solid gold" personality type. Some of the questions were harder, though (I.e. given a sample of values, rank them in importance to you), and I was the only person in the room to use up all of the test time. NERD ALERT.
It took a few weeks for my results to be ready, and I have to admit that I was really nervous. What if I got the results back and they told me that I'd better give up now and enroll in clown school? Luckily, I was not directed to the nearest big top. Instead, we talked about three main points:
(1) What am I inherently good at? I looked at the graphs of my tests results and immediately looked at the numerical computation ranking that is highest in people that are strong accountants. Mid/ high range. Shocker. Nothing stellar. Vanilla. I then looked to the areas that were the highest: off the charts in rote memory and in idea generation and fluency. Basically, if my job was to recall a boatload of information on a dime and then organize that boatload into easily digestible bits, I would be maximizing all that I could possibly offer an employer.
(2) What motivates me?. My results in this area were pretty clear. I'm motivated by helping others succeed, I prefer basic acknowledgement / simple display of appreciation as a reward, and given the choice, I'd work in a partnership over group or solo work.
(3) What opportunities are available to someone like me?. This was the missing piece of the puzzle. Career Vision had pointed me in the direction of a few career paths that would allow me to really tap into my potential and the education requirements for each path. The rest was up to me to pursue and recognize an opportunity when I saw one. With a lot of these things, timing is everything. I'm so grateful for my parents encouraging me to give Career Vision a chance. At the very least I have a better understanding of who I am and what type of work will give my the greatest sense of fulfillment. Let me tell ya...it's empowering.