December 8, 2023

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“My son is 21 and attends a local college. He likes computers but has trouble taking the classes required for computing. He gets an F. He looks depressed and lost. Any ideas will help as we are off schedule.

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 is not college material. You need to lower your expectations of him.” I wasn’t admitted to “college” but was put on a “professional track”.

I was in a lot of trouble when I was in eighth grade. Most of these problems were caused by ADHD issues, not my learning disabilities. At the time I was seeing a counseling psychologist.

A psychologist conducted a series of psychological tests. Two tests were about my interests and abilities. . .

Many years later, I majored in psychology in college. I took tests as part of the class. Two tests measured interests and abilities, the same tests I took in eighth grade.

A few years later I was in high school majoring in psychology (had 30 hours, didn’t graduate, went to law school instead). We had to take tests during the lesson. I did the same two tests for the third time.

A fifteen-year comparison of three test batteries

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

I was amazed. The finds haven’t changed in those fifteen years – they were right on the money.

I was a little nervous when I realized how accurate the test data was about my interests and abilities and their predictions of future success.

Assessing interests and abilities

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

As a teenager and young adult, I wanted to work as a forester. I thought it would give me plenty of time for fishing and camping. Careers recommended by professional interest and talent tests were journalism, consulting, ministry, and law.

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

After law school, I worked as a criminal defense attorney. Many of my clients were wayward youths drifting aimlessly with no direction. I referred these children to a counseling/professional psychologist to assess their strengths and weaknesses, abilities 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 profession is to understand yourself. These tests help you delve into your interests and skills and see how they relate to different jobs. You also need to understand your personality. Tests will show you how your personality type fits some occupations better than others.

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

By the time we had the final disposition hearing (ie, whether the youth would be incarcerated or placed on probation), we had a plan in place and our plan was working. Their self-concept changed when they began to achieve things of value.

The two tests I had were Inventory of strong professional interest and Kuder Personal Preference Inventory.

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

You can use the Strong Interest, Personality, and Occupation inventories online. Find out more. FAQs.

First, get the data

Bottom Line: Like many things in life, get your data first before trying to make a plan.

I was a hair’s breadth away when I was in college. I was on probation more semesters than I was off. I felt depressed.

Life took a turn during my freshman year of college. I fell in love with psychology and started working with delinquent children at a juvenile institution.

My life had meaning.

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

Good luck.


Re-edited from a post originally published on 2/8/2010

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