Find Your Dream Job: Know Your Interests

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“My son is 21 and attends a local college.  He likes computers but has trouble passing the classes required for computer technology. He gets F’s.  He seems depressed and lost.  Any ideas will help because we are out of plans.

Find Your Dream Job: Test Your Interests, Skills, and Personality by Pete Wright

Your description of your son reminds me of my story. My teachers advised my parents “Pete isn’t college material. You need to lower your expectations for him.” I wasn’t allowed in the “college track” but was placed in the “vocational track”.

When I was in the eighth grade, I had lots of problems. Most of these problems were caused by ADHD issues, not my learning disabilities.  I saw a counseling psychologist during that time.

The psychologist administered a battery of psychological tests. Two tests were related to my interests and my aptitudes . . . 

Many years later, I majored in psych in undergraduate school. I took tests as part of a class. Two tests measured interests and aptitudes, the same tests I took in eighth grade.

Several years later, I was in grad school in psych (had 30 grad hours, didn’t finish, went to law school instead). As part of a class, we had to take tests. I took the same two tests for the third time.

Fifteen-Year Comparison of Three Test Batteries

My parents kept the test results from eighth grade and the results of the tests I took in college. This allowed me to compare the results of tests that were administered three times over approximately 15 years.

I was astounded. The findings didn’t change over the fifteen-year period — they were right on the money.

I was a little unnerved to realize how test data about my interests and aptitude and their predictions for future success were so accurate.

Assessing Interests and Aptitudes

Until I took these tests for the third time, I was convinced that the first two tests were wrong. But results of those tests taken in middle school and college actually predicted the careers I would choose and excel at as an adult.

As an adolescent and young adult, I wanted to work as a forest ranger. I thought that would give me lots of time to fish and camp. The occupations recommended by the vocational interest and aptitude tests were journalism, counseling, ministry, and attorney.

During and after college, I worked part-time for a local newspaper. I worked as a juvenile probation officer for 10 years before law school.

After law school, I worked as a criminal defense attorney. Many of my clients were wayward youth who were drifting aimlessly with no direction. I referred these kids to a counseling/vocational psychologist for an assessment of their strengths, weaknesses, aptitudes, and interests.

Most of my young clients believed they knew their strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Like me, they were wrong.

The first step to choosing the right career is to understand yourself. These tests help you dig into your interests and skills and see how they relate to different jobs. You also need to understand your personality. The tests show you how your personality type will fit some careers better than others.

When my kids looked at their test data, they were able to take a deeper look into their interests, skills, and personalities. When I had the results of their tests, I was in a better position to help them start moving in the right direction.

By the time we had the final dispositional hearing ( i.e., whether the youngster would be incarcerated or placed on probation), we had a plan in place and our plan was working. Their self-concept changed as they began to accomplish things of value.

The two tests I had were the Strong Vocational Interest Inventory and the Kuder Personal Preference Inventory.

These vocational tests were the only ones available in the old days. Newer editions of these and other tests are likely to be better.

You can take the Strong Interest, Personalit,y and Vocational Inventories online. Learn more. Frequently Asked Questions.

Get the Data First

Bottom line: Like many things in life, before you try to create a plan, get your data first.

When I was in college, I came within a hair of flunking out. I was on probation for more semesters than I was off. I felt depressed off and on.

Life turned around during my junior year of college. I fell in love with psychology and started working with delinquent kids at a juvenile training school.

My life had meaning.

Before that, my parents lost many, many nights of sleep.

Good luck.


Re-edited from a post originally published 08/02/2010

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  1. Mr. Wright, you must read minds…Every article you send me, is exactly what I need and in that order. I have learned so much and find that I am well educated by your articles than most teachers..who are given the title of 504 Service Plans Administrators. I know a few. . I have questioned their so-called education regarding subjects on IEP and 504 and found their interpretation of these have been incorrect. Without Wrightslaw guidance,I could not have been a successful Advocate for my son and others like him.
    Thank you for your service

    • After reading this article as an adult who had IEPS and 504 plans growing up with uncertainly, I am in a stage in my life whereas adult I am in the midst of figuring just what works and does not. Though, a feeling of uncertainty hangs over me at night i continue to try multiple things.

  2. Thank you for this. I have been turning my thoughts towards “transition services” as my son moves from a 5th grader reading on a 1st grade level to a 9th grader receiving proper instruction on the college track. His 4th grade teachers said he would “never learn to read.” I didn’t give up on him. Nor did I give up on the other students in my school system who deserved better. There are now properly trained teachers and supports in gen ed and SPED for all students to learn to read.

    IEP teams that do not seem to understand college track transition services. With a 10th, 9th and 6th grader with IEPs, all As and a desire for higher education, I will take on transition services for all. This article was updated at the perfect time. As always, thank you Wrights for guiding our way!

    • TamaraQ – Thanks for your note. You are clearly on the right track with your own kids.

      There’s an old saying that applies to transition: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

      I agree that many people who are responsible for helping kids make transitions, especially the transition to college, don’t seem to understand why transition plans are critical and what their role is, or is supposed to be.

      I don’t understand this disinterest. The idea of plans to help kids make a transition is a legal requirement but it’s also common sense.

  3. Hi,
    I really like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It is the most widely used and most widely researched psychological assessment available. It is used for a variety of different purposes and is very popular as a vocational assessment. It is actually so much more than that. When I was learning to give it, of course I had to take it myself, and it is not hyperbole to say that it was life changing. It explained so much about me and actually gave me tools to use to help in my every day life. There are versions on the internet but they are not the real test – they are a combination of the MBTI and another one (the Kirsey) or a shortened form. Find someone who has been trained to give it and take your son. Good luck.

  4. My son would not be doing well in college if he did not have supports in place. Since he was on an IEP in high school the local college utilizes his accommodations and provides free tutoring services twice per week and he can take all of his tests on the computer with it reading to him and he can have a scribe if needed. In class the teachers must provide him with notes whether another student writes the notes on carbon paper and my son gets the bottom copy or the teacher has notes posted on the web page. Even with all of this my son needed twice a week outside support which we paid for. This year we hope he can use the free supports and not need the outside supports. Without this he would not be successful.

  5. We are involved with a due process complaint. On numerous occasions I have been told by school staff that since we are involved in a conflict that it is not appropriate to communicate with me. I never talk about the complaint; it is specific to particular issues. I do need to talk to the school staff regarding ongoing programmatic issues, but I am told this is not appropriate, or “don’t call here, talk to your attorney, and have your attorney contact our attorney.” Please advise as to the appropriateness of this. I can’t find anything in the procedural safeguards that addresses this issue.

    • “Have your attorney contact our attorney” – not a good use of an attorney’s time.

      I expect the school lawyer told the administrators and teachers not to communicate with you while litigation is pending or in process. Lawyers worry about what could happen – i.e. if a teacher talks with you, s/he may express sympathy or tell you that things are worse than you thought, on and on.

      If you have questions or concerns about program issues, write your concerns in a note or letter (written or typed notes are viewed more positively by recipients than email and are more likely to get an answer). This has a secondary benefit: if you write a letter and receive an answer, you are on firm ground if you need to fight over that issue.
      Good luck to you!

  6. I find your story inspiring and true to life. I am grateful to you for making this journey through the school years bearable and in the end rewarding…

    my son is entering college with the accommodations he needs.

    • Colleen, thanks for letting us know. I hope we helped you learn to advocate for your son. And I hope he learned from his mom!

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