I recently attended a Webinar put on by The Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation. They are a 100 year old national nonprofit organization that studies aptitudes and human ability. They offer a full battery of hands-on, experiential aptitude tests, available at their eleven offices around the country (including Seattle). These tests require a person to do a wide variety of tasks, such as assembling blocks, remembering numbers, solving puzzles, and listening to tunes. Paper and pencil tests are kept to a minimum. Some are given individually by a trained test administrator and others are given using audio-visual equipment.
Although expensive, these assessments can really be helpful in providing objective information about your natural strengths and abilities. They can be an effective tool in providing career direction because they are focused on what kinds of things you naturally do well (or don’t).
Aptitudes are inherited traits or innate abilities, and are also the result of your early development. They don’t change the way your interests do, which shift and evolve throughout life as you learn and as your experience grows. Their research has shown that a person's aptitudes stabilize at around age fourteen, and remain so for the rest of life.
What they are not:
An IQ score
IQ scores are probably of limited value in career selection, while aptitude test results form a pattern, showing your various strengths and weaknesses. Two people can have identical IQ scores but very different aptitude patterns.
Interest or personality tests
The Johnson O’Connor aptitude tests do not consist of answering self-perception questions or filling out forms. It’s hard not to answer an attitude, perception, or interest question based on your mood or opinion, or as you feel it ought to be answered. Instead aptitude assessments are based only on how well you actually can do a particular task.
While I find personality tests hugely helpful in finding the right work for oneself, I like the idea of coupling those with the Johnson O’Connor assessments. And if you have a strong interest in a particular career or occupation, that is very, very important. But aptitude test results might be able to indicate which aspect to explore that would best suit you. Being a doctor is not the only role in the field of medicine, just as working in a classroom is not the only way of teaching.
One of the stories shared on their website is about a woman, Teresa, who graduated with a BA in Communications who took a marketing job after college. She hated it. Then after 3 years, she randomly applied to a posting for a private investigator position and when she was offered the job, she looked back at her past aptitude testing results. She found that detective was one of the suggested careers for her, right after attorney! So she decided to take the job. In the end, this career change paid off for her both financially and in terms of her job satisfaction. She eventually landed as an investigator referring cases to the City Attorney or DA’s office for criminal prosecution.
Here are some of her responses to questions about her aptitude testing:
Q: What was your impression of the summary discussion session? Did anything in particular stand out?
Teresa: There were several funny things. The reviewer, when he reached the musical section, said I could play the radio or play the drums. That cracked me up because I've always thought I was tone deaf, as is most of my family. I play drums on Rock Band. He also told me that I probably shouldn't consider becoming a surgeon because I'd cut right through the body. I have a poor sense of space as demonstrated by my test results from the wiggly block test. I wasn't surprised that I had good finger dexterity.
Q: Did you learn anything new about yourself?
Teresa: Yes, that I was good at problem solving and critical thinking. I can see now how I would have been a good diplomat and probably a good government spy. I use my diplomacy skills in my current position. A co-worker described my job as “getting everyone to hum together.” That's an accurate description. I was born a natural critic. That's not a label I would have applied to myself, but I'm sure others have. I appreciate what I do well and give myself a break on those aptitudes that I am challenged by.
Q: How often have you used this information to make decisions?
Teresa: The information helped me make the most important decision of my life. I've referred to the information over the years especially when I've thought about returning to college.