In counseling, you know you are unable to counsel your children. Many theories exist as to why this isn’t a good idea which is why I took my daughter to have aptitude testing this summer. When I speak with groups or even talk with my current clients during our review session, I mention other testing companies because I’m only one person and am at the point where I can’t see everyone. But I’m very passionate about letting individuals know of other resources to help make decisions, whether they come to me or tell others about ways to make an informed decision.
As a mother, I knew as my daughter goes into her junior year, we needed to invest in focused time on her future. Now, as you can imagine, she has taken every assessment and test under the sun, beginning in the 7th grade when I gave her StrengthFinder to put some language to her interest. To date, her results hang on her wall, articulating the four adjectives that describe her. Also, let’s talk about the number of times she’s been in my HS presentations when I’m honored to talk to students about how to make informed decisions and give them a fun, conversation started interest inventory. She has taken the full MBTI, Strong and all of the aptitude tests. She’s done it all, and not always joyfully!
When I told her I felt I was failing her if I didn’t take her to a 3rd party, she took another deep breath as if, “Here she goes again!” I promised her this would be the last testing she had to do regarding career selection. She reluctantly agreed and it was the best thing I did all summer.
Here’s what I learned and why I continue to believe how critical engagement with a 3rd party is in making decisions.
1. She Actually Enjoyed it!
Okay, I say that lightly but because aptitude testing is not like taking an SAT/ACT, they are brain games, it can be fun. When I picked her up, as the testing is onsite, not at home which is one way we differ greatly, she was somewhat excited to share how quickly she finished some of her tests. She shared how on her writing sample, they had to take the paper away from her because she would have written for hours (Idea Generation aptitude) and everyone else had already finished. She articulated where she felt she struggled and loves sharing when she felt she knocked it out of the park. Her excitement surprised me, but she was exhausted at the end of the day from the tests.
2. Review Session was Overwhelming at Times
Processing of the data/results can be a lot to take in, and I’ve had clients of mine express this as well. I looked over at her during the session and as I will see on my client’s faces sometimes, she was experiencing this. I said to her, “Are you feeling overwhelmed?” and she said, “yes.” This is normal! During client sessions, sometimes I see the parent is more overwhelmed than the young adult. The data is a lot of “data”, but an extremely important part of the entire processes is to review the packet after the session is complete. The clarity comes afterward when homework is done, and processing happens with the family. It’s one reason I highly recommend, even if over 18, that someone comes with my clients to their review session because you need someone to help digest the experience.
3. Giving Language to Who She is Naturally
This may seem like a given but to watch my daughter hear who she is, how she processes information, likes to learn, and someone articulated her natural gifts was almost shocking to her. A perfect stranger to her, although I knew our facilitator from career development conferences, was telling her all about herself and watching her head nod and smile as if she was hearing from a fortune-teller was kind of funny. I could almost hear her saying to herself, “I AM good at that!” I’ve said it a million times, but I think sometimes school and all the test prep for college acceptance takes a toll on young adults. This was the first time she was learning all about herself, compared only to herself. It was a big self-esteem boost because she knew her gifts but to hear someone else identify them through a test, was validating.
4. List of Careers
I live in the world of careers. I love learning and exploring and expanding my world view on growing fields so I can help educate my clients. It’s a little bit of a sickness. I share the below story to only show the power of a comprehensive approach. In the aptitude testing for her, a career emerged a few years ago that I didn’t fully understand which was Geographic Information Systems (GIS). I thought I knew what it was but as I did more research I was completely intrigued. The reason this career was identified was because Pattern Memory was her highest aptitudes which is the ability to recall visual patterns quickly and easily after receiving very little exposure to them. I remember her freshman year in HS she told me she thought she has a photographic memory (ha!) and didn’t need to study maps/images in geography because it just stuck. Little did I know, she was almost right. Her Pattern Memory helps her recall maps and imagery, but she does not have a photographic memory. I thought she was just trying to get out of studying!
Her second-highest aptitude is Spatial Visualization which is the ability to mentally visualize two-dimensional objects and space in three dimensions. She has played with Legos since she was tiny, is a soccer player (a spatial sport) and enjoys gaming. We’ve always known this ability was her gift. Both of these aptitudes are requirements for GIS.
GIS happens to be one of the fastest-growing career fields and is perfect for people who have the two aptitudes above and enjoy being active/outside. Think Google maps with drones. When this came up, she didn’t know what it was and was considering Marine Biology. She’s been a scuba diver since 13 and completed three years at SeaWorld Career camps, so it isn’t a passing interest. While touring a college campus who had the GIS degree, we ran into student after student who told us they are adding, even a minor in GIS to their degrees because it means instant hiring, there’s such a demand. They have 100% job placement immediately following graduation, if not before.
Since that college tour, we have come into contact with no less than 3 other people who have brought up this field. One was in the Phoenix, AZ airport on our way home from a family vacation. He worked for USAA with people reporting to him who were GIS specialists. If you think about natural disasters, the coastlines are changed, property shifts, and you need someone to track this. He mentioned he had just come from a GIS conference, which is what started this conversation in the airport restaurant. At the conference, Jane Goodall the famous conservationist was the guest speaker. She talked about how GIS is used to track the migration of animals as it relates to tracking the poachers. Who knew?
As we sat in our career reveal portion of our session, GIS was an ideal match...again! We looked at each other and started laughing. I’m sure the facilitator thought we were crazy. The validation of a very specific career gave her a career to seriously ponder that she had no idea even existed. That is the power of aptitude testing.
5. Finally, 3rd Party Professional
I’ve had many people ask me, “Why are you taking her when you are the career specialist?” The reason is that nothing is a substitute for an unbiased opinion. Research shows the most unreliable person to give career advice are the parents. Also, I know the value of formal career exploration. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing what I do. It’s not something to take lightly. As a parent, we may know our children, and we do, like no one else. But the moment we throw out a career option, it’s instantly discounted because it’s us! Even if we know exactly our children’s wonderful gifts. As we ended our session, I asked her, “What did you learn from this experience?” She said I continue to see careers come through consistently that I need to really consider. She also has realized, although at one-time money did not matter to her, hence Marine Biology, that it does. She eliminated some of the fields because she wants to have a sustainable career. The facilitator commended her on understanding how important this was. I agree but it was her coming to this realization on her own.
We both left the experience more enlightened and “lightened”. I felt I had done my job as a mom. She felt she saw career decisions from someone who didn’t know her and through formal testing. It was a win/win. I give all of my clients a journal with a personalized note written in them, so I gave my daughter an organizer with a personalized note. I thought it was only appropriate. It said that no matter what she decides to do, it’s her decision and her father and I will support her. I know my parents who I have the honor of working with their young adults, feel the same. It’s a huge decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Even for someone who does it every day, I have incredible empathy for my families. It’s my honor to be their 3rd party professional.