Occupational Testing

I was trying to make room in the filing cabinet, and I found a folder labeled School. In that folder were some test results I had no idea I’d kept. Back in college, I changed my major about six times the first year, and finally at the suggestion of my sixth advisor went to the Career Center to do some vocational testing. Here is the result of a test that is apparently called the Strong Interest Inventory of the Strong Vocational Interest Blank. It is supposed to determine which of the six vocational types (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional) a person is interested in.


NONE strong interests! That seems about right.

There’s a second page that divides occupations into lists, sorting them by how similar I am to people in those occupations. I have no matches in the “very similar” category. In the “similar” category, I have six occupations: photographer, lawyer, librarian, broadcaster, public administrator, banker.

In the “moderately similar” category, I have eight occupations: advertising executive, reporter, elected public official, store manager, public relations director, social science teacher, Chamber of Commerce executive, and marketer.

In the “very dissimilar” category are ALL THE REST OF THE OCCUPATIONS. A lonnnnnnnng list. It includes all the medical professions, most of the teaching professions, all of the science and engineering professions, and also things such as forester, carpenter, mathematician, and police officer. Nopes all around.

While all of this is a little discouraging, not to mention not very helpful, there is a sense in which it is comforting to see that I have been the same all along: low interest in pretty much everything, no feeling of having various possible paths to contented employment. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t feel like I was wasting decades of career growth by having a lot of kids: I didn’t have anything I particularly wanted to do anyway.

But it makes it hard to figure out what to do as the kids get older. Surely I will not still be sitting in the house without a job after the last kid is gone? And yet, my job experiences so far are not giving me much hope. Well! Still many more occupations to attempt!

39 thoughts on “Occupational Testing

  1. ccr in MA

    I think I’d rather have a flat profile than the results I got, which suggested I would make a good beautician or police office. First, no I would not, for either. Second, what in the world do they have in common? Other than dealing with the public? which I hate, by the way.

    I’m sure you will figure something out one day. So many options! Imagine if all you ever wanted to be was one specific thing, and then you couldn’t, how awful would that be?

  2. Jenny Grace

    I think you’d like most of being a librarian (if a librarian in a public library, not the parts where crazy people talk to you while you are trapped at the reference desk). I also think public administrator could fit you moderately well.
    I have trouble seeing you in ANY position where you are the captive audience for any sort of airing of grievances and/or the public face of a company/brand/whatever.
    I want to take this test!

    1. Swistle Post author

      Ha, yes: on my list of NEVER AGAIN is any sort of customer service work. I HATE IT SO MUCH. And it keeps happening, because I am smiley and polite, so employers want to put me on the register or whatever. TERRIBLE IDEA.

  3. Maggie

    I suspect I’d score similar, I feel like I have a generally low interest in careers/professions. I’ve worked for the same company since graduating college 14 years ago. It’s a large company that is mainly customer service, but I managed to spend 10 of my 13 years in a position that wasn’t directly customer facing, so I consider that a win.

  4. A

    Swistle, you are an AMAZING writer! Amd there’s got to be a way to monetize that. I’m sure we could all come up with a million ways of we brainstorm. I’ll start:
    -marketing materials
    -instruction manuals
    -internal corporate communications

  5. Sarah

    I took a test in high school that told me I should be a grocery store bagger (not even a cashier! a bagger!), a bell hop, or an air traffic controller. I was valedictorian of my class so I found these career prospects fairly disheartening. (And at 31, I’ve managed to avoid those field entirely, despite them being my destiny.)

    1. Swistle Post author

      My high school aptitude testing said I should be a funeral home director. I thought that was…surprisingly specific. Especially since many, many, many of my classmates got the same result. I think there must have been a shortage at the time.

      1. Nicole Boyhouse

        That is so specific. And…well…I mean, I guess there is a need…but working with bereaved families day in and day out? That seems so…what’s the word…painful.

        I don’t remember taking any of those tests or anything, but now I’m dying of curiosity. What would I have scored as, and would it have made a difference in my life?

      2. Swistle-Supporting Career Counselor

        I’m a career counselor and have gotten the funeral director suggestion too (as did one of my co-workers). I think it’s reflective of the fact that to be a funeral director, you have to be compassionate and care about people, and also be organized and skilled at logistics. I am not certified in STRONG, but it’s a very old instrument. I much prefer Myers-Briggs (MBTI) and have found it useful not just in career decisions but in interpersonal relationships (with my husband, specifically). It’s expensive, but (this is off the record!) there are free fake versions online that can give you some insight.
        Also, there has been a lot of press lately about how it’s very normal not to have a professional passion (the notion of “dream job” isn’t always realistic) and instead to get great fulfillment from other pursuits (caregiving, hobbies, BLOGGING, etc.). It’s something our society should talk more about.

    2. Sarah

      No way! I got grocery bagger, too! Sadly I did not get any other suggestions not even bell hop. Just grocery bagger. As if it needs to be said: I am not employed as a grocery bagger, though I do compulsively sort my groceries during check out.

  6. Teej

    Did you quit your elder care job? I have been following your posts on that with great interest.

    1. Swistle Post author

      Not yet, but I am awaiting my moment. I feel Done with the job, but also feel an obligation to a particular client. If she were to suddenly no longer need me, I would quit immediately; as it is, I’m trying to figure out what to do.

  7. Anna

    There is a program in my state (probably several, but I only know of one) that matches volunteers with new moms. The volunteers come for one hour a week through the baby’s first birthday and just lend a sympathetic ear to stressed first time moms. I think there are also variations of this program that focus on low income families, teenage moms, single moms, etc. I don’t know if there are similar paid positions/ nonprofits that hire people to do something similar in the community, but I feel like you would do so well lending an ear/ offering your experience to mothers of young children. In general, I think working for some organization that focuses on helping moms dealing with various common first timer problems would be a really good match for you. That and writing. Like maybe being a guest writer for some popular parenting / running a household / stay at home mom blog?

  8. StephLove

    I remember taking an aptitude test in middle school that told me I should teach deaf children. I thought that was also oddly specific.

    1. caro

      I am a deaf educator! I never got that result in an aptitude test, but I have an affinity for language, specifically syntax and sentence structure, and I wanted to go into special education. Perhaps you have strong English/language skills?

  9. Kirsty

    I studied Modern Languages (specifically French and Spanish) at university (the British system is very different to the American one it seems). At the end of my Master’s degree, all final year students had an obligatory meeting with the careers officer (the excellently named Jack Daniels, though he was singularly lacking in humour about that, probably from having every student ever make a comment or snigger or something). He asked me several dull questions, asked me if I enjoyed working with numbers (emphatic NO for that one) and then announced that a) my degree choice made me essentially unemployable – a fantastic thing to learn after 4 years of study – and b) that my ideal career was OBVIOUSLY as an accountant. Yeah. That really helped. I did a one-year post-grad course (after two years of menial work in France) in medical translation and have been working freelance as a translator – medical, scientific, technical, bla, bla – ever since. As for the numeracy, well, I am currently struggling to help my 12 year-old with her maths homework….

  10. TheFirstA

    As a counselor trained in career counseling, I’d encourage you to have yourself re-assessed. The Strong is actually a pretty reliable assessment, but it’s really more of a screening tool & works best when the results are combined with the results of other assessments. The Holland Career assessment is another good one. If you Google, both the Strong & Holland can be found for free online. I also suggest the Meyers-Briggs. Many community colleges offer this one for free or very low cost, and a meeting with a career counselor is usually included to help you interpret it. Good luck!

  11. Phancymama

    One career test I did in high school recommended I be a landscape architect, because I had interests in the outdoors and artistic things. The one basic piece they missed is that I do not like plants. I do not know plants. I kill plants very easily in fact. Perhaps I would succeed as a xeriscape architect, but other wise that career test was a dud.

    1. Corinne

      I GOT THIS TOO! And in fact I went to college with that as my intended major, only to find out I HATED it. It was not at all what I thought it would be. I knew very little about it, except that the name sounded great. There was no description at all, really, of what that profession actually did. (This was pre-internet, so there was no Googling to learn more.)
      Also, it’s a tremendously competitive field. Very low odds of placement/advancement past grunt work. I feel like this is information they should provide when recommending careers to children. If nothing else, it might raise a red flag with their parents.

  12. Clara

    My middle school career test said I should be an architect. I went into the medical field instead.

  13. Melanie

    My oldest – currently a doctor in residency – was given one of these tests by the school district near the end of junior high. Her #1 job was….lumberjack! Seriously. For someone who hates being outside, hurts herself standing up from the sofa and has an IQ just under the genius cutoff – the test was just a bunch of bs marketed and sold to the school district. My tax dollars wasted – again!

    Have you considered longer term temp work? I know that you don’t like new situations, but I have quite a few friends who stumbled across what they like doing that way.

  14. Ginny

    I feel like we as a culture put too much emphasis on finding The Career That Fulfills You. Like, maybe what fulfills me is my writing and my family and my job is just something I do to bring money in? My current day job is not thrilling at all. It’s a low-key techy thing, like light programming and database admin stuff. It’s fine, I don’t mind it, I have moments of great satisfaction when I solve a problem, but it’s not exciting and I don’t feel like I’m making the world a better place by what I do. (Except by making the lives of the people I work with easier, which isn’t nothing.)

    BUT I don’t hate going to work, and at the end of the day I have enough energy to do the stuff I’m passionate about. And it makes enough money that I’m not constantly stressed about money. And that’s really what I want out of a job now? I don’t want to monetize writing or taking care of people, which are my two big passions, because it’s really hard to make money at those in a way that doesn’t kind of ruin it. So I’m happy to be able to support myself comfortably, even though it doesn’t thrill me and I don’t feel proud and eager to tell people “what I do.”

    1. Swistle Post author

      This is what I want, too: just something I can do, without hating it and without being so stressed.

      1. Corinne

        Oh, that makes sense. I was initially going to say “Oh but we love your blog! Monetize your writing!” but perhaps you’d rather keep it as a non-employment thing.
        If I were naming your employable skills, I would think immediately of your ability to think through a problem from all sides, and clearly articulate the possibilities and relative merits. You are really particularly skilled at that. What career requires that skill?
        The temp idea is one that seems useful. It lets you get into lots of different domains to see what you like, and it’s low pressure in the sense that you know it’s limited term and you can always call the agency and say “This isn’t working.”

  15. Hannah

    Career counselor in the house! I love career assessments, and think they can be very powerful tools to guide people on their career path. There are two unfortunately common problems that can limit their usefulness:

    1) The person taking the assessment does not understand what the results are actually saying
    2) Neither does the person administering the assessment.

    Anyone who has any kind of counseling degree can purchase and interpret the Strong and the MBTI, but so often they haven’t really been properly trained in either assessment, which leads to frustrating results for the assessment taker.

    Some general information about The Strong Interest Inventory: it is actually measuring your answers on several different scales. General Occupation Themes (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, Conventional), Basic Interests, Occupational themes, and Personal Style scales. The reason that the careers seem so weirdly specific is that they are. There are only 122 occupations that are listed in the Strong. It would be impossible to have an assessment that actually had every occupation listed, so instead they have a sampling of careers across all six general themes. What your assessment is saying when it lists a career for you is not: “You should be a cosmetologist!”, what it is saying is based on the way you answered the questions, you are similar to people who enjoy being a cosmetologist. That doesn’t mean you would be any good at being a cosmetologist, or that you personally would enjoy it. The next step is to look at what the jobs in your occupational themes actually look like, and start noting the parts that you are interested in, and the parts that you aren’t. The Strong is not the answer to what should you do for your job, its a jumping off point.

    Finally, both the Strong and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). are both restricted assessments, which means you should never just be given your results without an interpretation, because they can be harmful if misinterpreted. (This is especially true for young people taking these assessments: i.e. a teenager being told with no context they should be a funeral home director. I am clutching my career counselor pearls so hard right now.) If you are interested in taking the Strong or Myers-Briggs again, feel free to email me! I’d be happy to give either or both to you free of charge :)

  16. Rah

    “Strong” is the name of the psychologist who developed the inventory (Edward K. Strong) not the results! But in your case it presented an irresistible opportunity for an ironic statement that made me chuckle. That inventory was eventually revised a couple of times, most recently in 2004, and I believe is now called the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory. The most recent reiteration is much more helpful, and I suspect your results would be more definitive now. I would go so far as to recommend that you try it again Google SAYS you can get a free version online, but I know nothing about that.

  17. Celeste

    Is there a university near you? They typically have many kinds of administrative jobs that would fit you. Another benefit of them is they often confer on your children tuition discounts including tuition exchange at schools on their list. If you could get on with one of these programs, it would be like double-dipping if your kids would go to any of the schools that participate. It might take more than one effort to land a position, but it might be more worth it than a lot of jobs. One of my friends got a spot in the non-traditional student office at a small local university, which is how I know about the benefits program.

    1. Natalie

      When I was in college I worked in the office of my major with an older lady who had done so for 20+ years. I loved it so much. She was so finicky (arranged her papers just so, and never EVER left any drawers open), but so sweet and everybody loved her. She and I got along so very well. HOWEVER. Students back in my day were much different, and there was some student interaction involved. So I am not sure Swistle would enjoy this type of thing if it involved student/public interaction.

  18. Erin

    Swistle, that looks just like my results from the tests I took while in college at the career counseling center. It was so frustrating! I had gone through several majors and was so desperate to find something! I had so many varied interests, but yet none of them appealed so much to me that I could devote my life to them! I ended up getting my degree in Philosophy which was a “just get me the hell out of here” major. I ended up falling into a Legal Secretary position at a law firm and have done that for 18 years now. The best part of my job is that it is not something that I take home with me – literally or figuratively.

    I wish I had pursued my Masters in Library Science or a job in the field of linguistics.

  19. Alice

    i have never taken one of these tests!! I feel kind of cheated, if only because I want to know what ludicrously specific (and incorrect) profession it would have predicted for me.

  20. Holly

    I don’t know if it was this same test, but I did a career exploration course in college and there was exactly one job that fit my profile: restorer of papers and prints. I’m now approaching 20 years as a reporter, and sometimes when I have to make a particularly difficult phone call (i.e., to relatives of crime victims), I think, “I should be in a windowless room in a museum basement somewhere.”

  21. Maureen

    We know of a job career for you-writer! Seriously, you would have a book if you gather your most popular posts, right?

    The whole job thing-I feel like it used to be, you would work for a company, go up through the ranks, and retire from there. That is what my grandpa did, he started work for Standard Oil pumping gas when he was a teenager, and retired from there at 65. My personal opinion is that those kind of companies actually used to have loyalty to their employees, they valued their experience. Now, youth is the currency, and older employees are often the first to be laid off.

    So, my conclusion here is not having that passion for a career, is not necessarily a bad thing. You found your passion in having and raising your children. You have an awesome blog that people love, and look forward to everything you post. You have a lovely group of people who comment, which is really a testament to you

    Reading the comments, I think what we can take away from most of these tests, is that we shouldn’t pay any attention to them.

  22. Katy (aka Taxmom)

    I am another person who strongly believes that you don’t need to immediately identify your passion and follow it doggedly. I majored in German in college, pretty much because it was ‘my’ thing going in, and because I fell in love with the Romantic poetry my second semester as a freshman. I ultimately ended up getting my ph.d. and had an unsuccessful academic career. THEN I knocked around a bit and after I had my first kid I went to storefront tax school, prepared tax returns for a season, and got hired as a staff accountant by a mom and pop firm in my area. My job grew as my kids did and I ultimately became a CPA. My job is numbers, but it is a lot of patterns and matching, rules and exceptions, which is a lot like a foreign language. I also learned a lot about what I liked and what I didn’t as I worked in different situations. My job for the last 20 years has been a series of good enoughs: good enough intellectual stimulation, good enough $$, good enough flexibility.

  23. Sylvie

    Is it important for you to have a job where you get out of the house? Like is going somewhere part of what you’re looking for? Or more like to have something compelling / interesting / non stressful but would be OK if you could do it from home? Just curious!

    1. Swistle Post author

      I would be okay working from home, I THINK. I’m not sure! On one hand, that might be super convenient. On the other hand, I did like the “getting out of the house”/”change of pace”/”new view” part about working.

  24. Barb

    VERY interesting topic! Unlike most (all?) of your readers, I’m in my 70’s; retired from a career of wife/mother; followed by finance/investments (my college major was English!/Music!!!). I have to admit I do miss the intense stimulation work provided…, solving problems, creating communication (written & verbal) with clients & prospective clients. Building a team. But I also DON’T miss the rigors & disciplines associated with the 9-5 routine. For the first time in my life, I am living single (divorced & widowed), & responsible only to/for myself; I have my health & sufficient funds. I don’t want to waste this. Soooooo, what’s next???

  25. Rini

    So here is a random comment for you: have you tried transcription as a job?

    About a year ago, I had a six-month-old child (which my husband assured me would have to be the last), and I was dreading having to go back to work, but we’d agreed I would do so when the baby turned one. So since I’d been out of the workplace for a while, and since my career before had been highly technical, I was looking for ways to sharpen my mind again after the past several years of stay-at-home mothering.

    I stumbled across one of those “real ways to work from home” blogs, probably through an ad on Facebook, and I clicked around a bit. It had a whole page of “non-phone” jobs, and one of the things in the list was transcription. As in, you listen to a recording and type what they say. I’ve never had very good ears (arguing with the doctors that I must be partially deaf because I can’t understand the words people are saying to me!), but I do have an excellent (fanatical) grasp of English grammar and a very decent typing speed, and it seemed like just the thing for the end of my 20s. (I spent my childhood developing my strengths and my 20s fighting my weaknesses. Understanding human speech was my biggest weakness short of pure social anxiety.)

    ANYWAY, long story still long, I got started with a transcription company and found that I absolutely love the work. In a strange way, it is incredibly relaxing to transcribe these little audio clips. And while the pay is low when compared to a traditional 9-to-5, it is high when compared to “online surveys” and when combined with not having to actually get dressed or leave my house… well, it works for me. So I wondered, since so much of your blog resonates with me, if you have looked into it at all to know if you might like it too.

    (Also, while I am commenting here – because normally I click through to comment and then see that you already have HUNDREDS of comments, no doubt saying the same thing I planned to, and click away again – I just want to tell you that I loved your post about the cartilege piercing. While I have no particular interest in getting another piercing, I am very interested in getting the details of what an experience would be LIKE without actually doing it myself. And your writing is very, very good at that.)

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