It's Your Career: Take Control of It

Sometimes it's hard to see what's holding you back.

Suzanne Lucas

Can you tell me what you think of the Strong Interest Inventory [a career test]? This summer I was talking to an acquaintance who recommended Strong to me. ... I respect his opinion personally and professionally. My own "Evil HR Lady" tells me that our company does not have a policy of paying for this test, so if I want it paid for I will have to talk to my manager. Here is where I get nervous. My direct manager, I feel, manages by default; if I ask him about this test he will tell me to ask HR, and then to stick with whatever they say. But his manager, who I used to report to directly, I think tries to make the system work for his people rather than his people for the system, and would probably okay the relatively small test expense.

Our organization is not too rigid. My former manager will still call me directly on occasion (I work remotely from both of the managers mentioned). But I know you tell people to expect nothing good to happen if they go behind their manager's back. So, I should talk to my manager; but if he doesn't approve it, should I talk to his manager or pay for it myself? What is your opinion of this career guidance tool?

I can sum up what I think about the Strong Interest Inventory in one word: Nothing. I have never used or taken the test and so am unqualified to give any opinion as to its benefit to you or your company.

[See what to do when a dream job isn't.]

But, the actual test is irrelevant. You are interested in taking it and you want your employer to pay for it. Before you ask your manager, you need to be able to state the business case for this expense. You need to do the research to show that this will benefit the company. If you can't make a strong business case, I wouldn't even bother asking.

But, let me ask another question. I did take the time to Google it and found that the cost is below $100 (including a free phone consultation!). This is a small expense in the eternal scheme of things, especially if you feel it is critical to your career. So, why not cough up the money yourself and take the test?

It's a good question, isn't it? Because I doubt this is about the money. It's about the fact that you don't like your manager's style of managing. I think you may be secretly hoping that this test will direct you out of this manager's group. A test, no matter how effective it is at identifying your strengths and weaknesses, won't change your current situation. You have to do that. The test may help you decide where you want to go, but I guarantee that your company isn't going to look at the results and say, "Well, this here test shows that Bob would be great in marketing! Bob, we're moving you to marketing!" And I'm even willing to venture a guess that if you go to a job interview and say, "I took this test that said I'd be great in marketing!" unless the interviewer is a devotee of the Strong Interest Inventory, you'll get an eye roll and a negative mark on your file.

[See why you should be honest in a job interview.]

Take the test, but take control of your career. Don't expect a test to solve your problems and give you true direction. It might give you a nudge, but you've got to do the work.

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of human resources experience, most of which have been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources Certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.


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