Matching students with their dream career (before college)

Can a quick personality test help match you with a career that will play to your strengths and interests? CareerBuilder says it can.

Matching students with their dream career (before college)
Credit: Kevin Dooley

Millennials catch a lot of flak. B stereotypes aside, there is one thing most people can agree on. Today's young people are saddled with student-loan debt and are often underemployed. But what if there was a way for students to make sound decisions before they embark into higher education and their careers to ensure they are on the right path before taking on loans and years of education? That's what CareerBuilder is trying to do with its newly launched free website, Find Your Calling, which aims to help students figure out what career path suits them best and the education they need to achieve their goals.

The stats on college success

According to data from a 2013 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, six years after enrolling in a bachelor's degree program in 2007, 41 percent of students still hadn't completed the program or had dropped out completely.

CareerBuilder attributes this drop-off to a general feeling of uncertainty for students when it comes to figuring out what path they want to take. In a study from CareerBuilder, 41 percent of workers reported that they wished they had received more help and guidance before choosing a career path. Combine that with another CareerBuilder study where one in four high school seniors report having "no idea what career they want to pursue," and you've got a recipe for career regret.

The same study also found that students really don't have an authoritative or informative place to turn when they are ready to figure out their futures. In fact, 23 percent of high school seniors surveyed said they chose their career based off a TV show or movie. Only 34 percent turned to parents or family members for help, 19 percent looked to their teachers for help and 53 percent took their search online.

"The skills gap in our country is in large part an 'information gap' -- many young people are unaware of jobs that are in high-demand, pay well, and are aligned with what they're passionate about," said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder and co-author of The Talent Equation, in a press release from the company.

Basically, it seems that students just aren't sure what opportunities exist after high school, and it's leaving some stuck in programs they don't love or in careers that aren't for them. By heading this problem off before it comes time to apply to colleges, students -- and parents -- can make sure they are on the right track before they've invested time and money.

A place to turn

Find Your Calling attempted to help students really understand how their interests, passions, strengths and weaknesses align with career opportunities. And, according to CareerBuilder, the main difference between going to your school counselor and using this new resource, is that Find Your Calling has extensive data backing it up.

"Traditionally, students and parents are used to going through career type assessments, and people are kind of tired of assessments. You see them on Facebook, you see them in school. What we've seen is we do the assessment, but it's really more about the data, its more about getting insight into this occupation that matches your interest that you have no idea exists," says Rob Sentz, Chief Innovation Officer at EMSI, a CareerBuilder Company.

The data CareerBuilder is using isn't random or just from its database. In fact, the site pulls real-time labor market data including job growth projections, salary ranges, college programs and businesses with current openings.

"The data we use comes from about 90 different state and federal sources, so we use things like the BLS ACS, the traditional standard what you call structural labor market data, and then we work with CareerBuilder data about job posting analytics. We combine these two to give people insight on a whole bunch of different economic and workforce parameters, but we try to simplify it and make it easy," says Sentz.

To the Quiz

Taking the quiz is simple, and it should only take a minute or so to answer the six basic questions, according to CareerBuilder. Each question features a sliding bar that lets you adjust how much time you think you would want to spend doing different tasks. For example, it asks how much of your time you'd want to spend "Working with data analysis, finance, planning and organizational tasks," and you can slide the bar anywhere from "none of my time," to "all of my time." You can even play around with the different variables to see how the matches change, and to get a sense of what each industry requires.

While six simple questions certainly can't predict the future, they can give students a general idea of what jobs exist in the marketplace, because, as Sentz points out, there is a disconnect between jobs that exist and the jobs students think they want after graduation. Find Your Calling hopes to minimize this confusion and expose students to opportunities they might have never known about until later in life.

"In the case of Find Your Calling -- we can tell you in depth things about hundreds and hundreds of occupations, and that's really what it comes down to," says Sentz.

After choosing an industry, like IT, you can choose your location from a drop-down menu and show "career matches" in your state. It delivers up job titles, like computer programmer, multimedia artist and animator, and identifies how much the title matches your interests, and if the job is growing or not. It also tells you what the estimated yearly salary is for the job, and what level of education you'll need to find a job in that field.

Diving even deeper into the job title, you can get an idea of what the job requires and other similar job titles you might be interested in. It lets you find schools in any state that offer programs in that field and even lays out the day-to-day tasks you'd be responsible for. And if that isn't enough, you can also see what companies have posted job listings for that title in the last few years to get a sense of what companies you could work for.

Learning about education

Ultimately, the goal of Find Your Calling is to help both students and their parents wade through overwhelming career information. Rather than rely on old systems,or outdated job testing, students and parents can use Find Your Calling to learn more about industries they might not even know exist. And that's the main goal, according to Sentz, eliminating the disconnect and matching viable future -- or present -- candidates with the right career to cut down on unemployment and futile loan debts.

"In a complex large economy, which is really full of data and technology, even some parents really lack the right sort of insight, they lack the signal and the noise so to speak, that they can use to make a better decision," Sentz says." We have really high unemployment rates for recent college grads, and I think a lot of that is because people traditionally have not had access to information that they can use to make smart decisions quick. Our goal is to get that out there and give them the right signals so when they go to college, they are being way more intentional about it."

To comment on this article and other CIO content, visit us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.
Download the CIO Nov/Dec 2016 Digital Magazine
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.