0ne of the benefits of being a Board member of CPP Inc.-The Myers-Briggs Company is that we get to use the products. Each year at our off-sites, we take an assessment and then, one of the PhD psychologists on our research staff takes us through the history of the tool, key markets, and – the best part- our own results.

This year we had a remarkable experience when we took the Strong Interest Inventory. The Strong was introduced back in 1927, and was designed to reveal an individual’s Interests.  (Actually, it was designed for men; a women’s version was released in 1933. And yes, ladies, there are gender differences in interests, but I digress … ) Interests have proven to be a key factor in career decisions and often people are unsure of their own interests. Think of answering the questions, “what do you like to do?” Most people are very vague, and often reply with, “a lot of things.” The Strong helps isolate interests along the RIASEC scale, which is an acronym for the following dimensions: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional. The instrument can rank these RIASEC dimensions and map those rankings to career paths based on ONet (US Government occupational descriptions) categories to help people explore potential career paths that are congruent with their interests.

Research has shown that people who take jobs that align with their interests tend to be better performers and more satisfied workers. Additionally, interests tend to be more important than personality in studies of grades in college, degrees received, occupational prestige and even income. Not unsurprisingly, the Strong is widely used in colleges and training programs to help students chose majors and by extension, careers, that are suited to their interests.

So here we are in our Board meeting, a group of senior executives well advanced in our careers.  As we received our feedback about the career paths that would align with our interests, I jokingly pointed out that it was a bit late for that, since our careers were now all fairly set.

The results were uncanny.

  • I spent most of my career building two companies and leading our team. The Strong said I should be a Top Executive in Business or Finance.
  • Another Board member, a PhD psychologist spent her career as a professor at Berkeley and ultimately the Dean of Students. Her top career score was a University professor.
  • Our most senior Board member had done some time in the air force before becoming a Silicon Valley CFO and he was tagged for Military and Financial management.
  • Entrepreneurship and senior management was suggested for another colleague, who was a retired CEO of 3 companies who recently started her own successful marketing firm.

What is even more remarkable is that the Strong is not a predictor of careers, but nonetheless, it had predicted ours. That is because we were all fortunate enough to pursue professional opportunities that aligned with our interests. Given that, it is no surprise that we were all successful; when you are interested and/or passionate about your work, job satisfaction and solid performance often follow. We may not be proof of the validity of the Strong, but we are proof of the strength of the connection between interests and career trajectories.

(As an aside, given my expertise in the Gig Economy, I could not help but think about the implications of the Strong on independent workers. In virtually every study of the freelance population, the reasons people choose to work independently is because they want to have control over their time, but also they want to choose what kind of work they do, the work that interests them the most. No wonder more than 70% of the 53 million independent workers in America are satisfied with their choice, because it aligns with their interests.)

The tool is so much more robust though, because it offers people a host of other interest areas and pursuits that make sense to explore. One high on the list of one of our board members was translating, a field she had never had the time to pursue. Now with more time available to her, learning another language is something she may explore, something that came to her because of her Strong results.

So not only do I think this is a very interesting way for students to explore optimal careerpathways, I also think it has great value for those who are considering a new future, whether due to the need to retrain or from a job transition. When choosing a new path, why not choose the one that could be the most interesting? Self-knowledge is a gift, and in this case, it is the one that can keep giving.

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