The Perfect Career
New to the work force? Looking for a new career path? Follow the trail laid by The Perfect Career, a computerized test of your skills and interests.
Mindscape's program is no Cosmopolitan quiz; it's a list of about 180 questions concerning your interests and work experience. For people who have no work experience, The Perfect Career tests interests alone. James Gonyea, the test's developer, is an experienced career counselor with many credits to his name.
From your answers, the program creates graphs that show how the results of your extensive Interest Inventory test relate to the careers you find interesting. In the Interest/Abilities section, graphs show how your interests compare with your abilities. For example, you might be interested in a career for which you have no experience, or you might like a job in the arts, but your test highlights a strong aptitude for science.
Navigation is menu-driven, which makes the program easy to use. At each crossroad, you choose your next move from a list of possibilities. One hitch is that, to go backward, you must retrace your steps-sometimes that means going back through several pages of text.
After you take your test(s), you must research the suggested occupations. The program provides a bibliography of occupational profiles that you can use to get started. You can also order occupational profiles from the U.S. Department of Labor for a nominal fee; The Perfect Career will compile a list of the profiles you want, based on your test results. The manual includes an example of one of these profiles; it's detailed and interesting, and it includes a discussion of salary, required skills, and trends that may affect the job market for a particular career.
Armed with all of this information and the forms provided in the manual, you can compare suggested careers with your interests, your goals, your likes, and your dislikes. Finally, you can define a career goal. The manual provides still another form that you can use to figure out what qualifications you're missing (like certification for certain jobs), to plan how to gain those qualifications, to rank them, and to hit the trail for your new job. Your parents would be so proud.
You won't be disappointed with The Perfect Career, but expect limits: It doesn't do all of the hard stuff for you. That's not really a problem; it's just that so many of us wish the job search could be easier. Mindscape could have included a database of more career information, but that would greatly increase the size-and price, no doubt-of the program. Instead of the paper forms that come with the package, Mindscape could have stored them as interactive computer forms that compare information and draw conclusions for you. But again, that would have made the program awkward to use.
A more noticeable problem is the program's weak presentation of information. The program doesn't take sufficient advantage of the computer's presentation abilities. The questions are set up well, but in some portions of the program, you read several pages of text with no interaction and no graphics.
Keep in mind also that the main part of the program, the interest and abilities inventory, can become very tedious-it took me half an hour to answer the nearly 180 questions. After a while, you may find yourself spending less thought on each answer, making the second half of the test less accurate than the first. Although the program doesn't suggest taking breaks, it's a good idea to pause after answering a few screens of questions before you go on.
One danger of any standardized test is that you don't define your answers in the same way the scoring system does. This means you might consider a task interesting because you find it curious or unusual, while the computer assumes that you mean it's something you wouldn't mind doing every day. You need to be working with the same definitions. Gonyea tries to define the terms he uses, but they remain unclear. I got the best results when I defined an interesting task as something I would enjoy doing for an extended period.
Using a computer for career counseling has advantages and disadvantages. A computer can quickly calculate your career test scores and doesn't mind if you need to change your answers. However, it can't tell if you've lied about your experience or abilities or if you don't understand its questions. Ultimately, what you get out of The Perfect Career depends entirely on what you put into it.
- Heidi E. H. Aycock
|The Perfect Career
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3444 Dundee Rd.
Northbrook, IL 60062