Phd Career Exploration: Are Online Self-Assessment Tools Worth Your Time?

For many PhDs, taking the altac route means finding a space where one can remain involved in scholarly or academic work beyond the confines of a tenure-track position. But for other PhDs, going “altac” often means changing careers. In many ways, considering the pursuit of non-academic job opportunities as a career switcher is a great way to, not only look at the past without the feeling of failure, but also to look at your present. Why? Simply put, because career switching has basically become the new normal.


And this is good news: you are not alone.


On the contrary, you are among a wide variety of workers, academic and not, who feel that they might have graduated with the wrong degree or made the wrong choices. This current shift in the workplace means that your options are less limited than they were 10 years ago. While some jobs might require a specific set of skills or specialized training, this is not the case for all jobs. As you read these lines, many people are finding work in positions outside their field of formal study. Don’t you want to join in?


To be kick-start your Phd career exploration, the first step you need to take is to start identifying your interests, values, and skills. And luckily there are tests for that.


Here are a few common assessment methods that can help you learn a little bit more about yourself. All of these tests are available through online sources for free or for a fee. You can also pay your University Career Services office a visit to find out which assessments they have available at no charge to students to help with with their Phd career exploration:

  • The Strong Interest Inventory is test focused personality styles. It defines who you are based on your interests and matches them with variety of occupations where they are relevant.


  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) provides you with insight on how you make decisions, relate to other people, and get inspired. While it does not assess your skills, it provides you with valuable information about your strengths, your inner motivations, and identifies growth opportunities.


  • Clifton Strengths Finder. The name say it all. Strengths Finder helps you uncover your hidden strengths across a wide variety of areas. This online assessment online provides you with a report detailing your top strengths, which can be very helpful in building your career switch road map.


So, are these assessments any good? Yes and no. While relying too heavily on predefined criteria can be limiting, it is a good idea to give these assessments a try before engaging in a full-fledged job search. Your Phd career exploration should not be taken lightly.


If your results are contradictory, you are not pleased with what you see, or if you feel that the career paths suggested are not a good match, it might be helpful to meet with a professional, or discuss your results with insiders. It is important to keep in mind that tests are just tools, and should not have any control over your life choices.


You are the only person who should have final say on your next career move. And keep in mind, that you are a growing person. Your interests and skills will change with any new activity you take on.


Thinking of exploring alternative career paths and don’t know where to start? Download our free Quick Guide to Career Exploration: Plotting Your Plan B in 6 Easy Steps


Do you need help with your Phd career exploration? We’re here to help! Sign up for a free consultation, and learn how we can provide the one-on-one counseling you need to find a job that is the best fit for you.


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