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  • Mary Feduccia

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The Missing Link: Abilities

My last blog captured the essence of career success: choosing work that allows you to do what you are by truly understanding four key areas: your abilities, your interests, your personality, and your values. I've discovered from my experience in working over many years with high school and college students and adults in career transition that of these four areas, abilities is the missing link in that it is the area that is most difficult to explore and is often the least considered. In fact, in my work, abilities were never actually assessed. Strengths and skills were considered, but resources to identify aptitudes and abilities were not part of the array of assessments available. In my work now as a career counselor, the exploration of abilities is often the starting point in understanding oneself in order to make the best career decision possible. To me, it is the foundation of the cornerstone to career success because if our choice of career reflects our most passionate interests, our unique personality, and our strongest values but requires abilities that we lack, we encounter frustration and the realization that our choice was not a good one. We often equate abilities with strengths and find it tempting when asked about our abilities to think about the academic subjects we're strongest in. But abilities are innate and become stabilized around the age of fourteen. They don't change over the years, even if they aren't used. They are literally a part of our DNA and have tremendous influence on success and happiness in our careers.

So how can you truly understand this critically important element to incorporate in making a decision about what career is best for you? While there are several excellent ability or aptitude assessments being used today, my instrument of choice is the Highlands Ability Battery published by the Highlands Company. It is based on the pioneering studies of Johnson O'Connor, a leader in the field of aptitude assessment. While there are other assessments based on his work, the Highlands Ability Battery is the only comprehensive online assessment of abilities and is considered the "gold standard" of ability testing. It consists of 19 worksamples that assess abilities in areas that are crucial for consideration in making good career choices.

The difference in this test and many others on the market today is that this is a performance-based test, not a test in which one self-reports or gives opinions about what is most important. The entire battery requires 3 hours which is a rather daunting thought to most of us, but part of the advantage in taking it online is that the user determines how many worksamples will be taken in one sitting. The test can be taken in one day or over a few days, depending on the choice of the individual. Two extensive reports are provided to plot one's abilities and to understand how the unique combination of abilities form patterns that are capitalized on in various careers. Each of these reports, the Ability Profile and the Career Exploration Supplement, are approximately 25-35 pages long, so they provide a "deep dive" into understanding abilities and exploring careers that will best incorporate one's abilities. Besides helping the individual understand his driving abilities and his specialized abilities, the Ability Profile also includes five personal style scales which provide information about the extent he likes to engage with others at work, how deeply or broadly he likes to approach his work, and his time frame for setting goals and achieving results. Included in the specialized abilities are five learning channels to provide extensive information about how one learns best. Sample student and adult ability battery reports and Career Exploration Supplements can be viewed by clicking this link.


Stay tuned for my next blog post in which we'll cover the three other important pillars of what I regard as the cornerstone of career success: interests, personality, and values. While I consider the exploration of these four areas (abilities, interests, personality, and values) as critical to effective career decision-making, they are not the end-all or be-all of career coaching. They form the cornerstone on which to build a holistic view of oneself that incorporates unique elements of one's life and the factors that must be considered in choosing work that will be fulfilling and the best fit for oneself.

#careerdecisionmaking #abilityassessment

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