From College Access to Career Success: Using Career Inventories

January 26, 2017

By Amina Anderson Pringle, Member Services Manager 

In the beginning, college access was just that, focused on helping students prepare and apply for college. Over time, the focus shifted to include “success” or “completion” -- whichever term you prefer. Now a new shift is upon us: to include career readiness and success. College access and success cannot be separate from career preparation, and NCAN views this work as the "next frontier" for our field. To help members begin to think about incorporating career readiness services into their programming, we will share tools and resources that make the intersections of college success and career more explicit, highlight successful programs that are already connecting the two, and build capacity to make this pivot smoother.

Defining College and Career Readiness

There are many definitions of college and career readiness, but most point to ensuring that students are prepared to be successful in the postsecondary pursuit of their choosing. For many NCAN members, this means ensuring that high school graduates are prepared for a full range of postsecondary opportunities, but this could also apply to adult learners. Many states have developed very explicit definitions of college and career readiness that specify the knowledge, skills, and abilities students must demonstrate in order to meet state standards. These definitions address areas such as:

  • academic preparedness
  • critical thinking and problem solving
  • social and emotional learning
  • communication and working in teams
  • community involvement and citizenship
  • grit and perseverance

What is a Career Inventory?

According to the Business Dictionary, a career inventory is a career tool for self-assessment that aids in career planning to assess the likes of particular objects, activities, and personalities using the theory that individuals with the same career tend to have the same interests.

Access providers, counselors and others working in our field have begun to move into this workspace in a creative way. While researching this topic, on Pinterest I have seen so many inventive ways of tackling this topic: career Jeopardy, career bingo, and career cafés, just to name a few. Some states require that students explore their postsecondary interests and make personalized plans to determine how to achieve them. Few mention very specific workforce preparation skills such as resume writing, interviewing skills, or internships. Career Inventories are another resource to help our field in this pivot to career readiness

Career inventories are a great way for high school students to figure out where their interests lie. That is why so many advisors recommend them when students come with questions about “what to major in” or “what do I want in a career.” Sure, a student’s interests could change over time (that is to be expected), but it is a great place to start. Students might even discover options that they had not considered before.

Here are some popular career tests students can take right now to help explore their options:

  1. The Complete Aptitude Test
    The Aptitude Test is divided into seven parts that take about three minutes each. Each part asks questions pertaining to verbal, numerical, perceptual, spatial, technical, acuity, and analytical reasoning. While each part can only be taken once, you can complete them in any order. This is a great test for helping students find careers and majors based on “what you’re good at.”
  2. Princeton Review Career Quiz
    Princeton has the best of both worlds. If a student has an idea of what they want to study, you can search through the categories to see how well you score on their aptitude tests. When students do not know, they can take a five-minute quiz to get a better idea.
  3. AptitudeTest.com
    This site has a wide range of different aptitude tests that one can browse for free. The categories are numerical, verbal, non-verbal, mechanical, mixed, and miscellaneous.

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