The counselor at the Department of Labor, in Brooklyn, asked me if there was anything else I might want to discuss. We had already talked about the sorts of jobs I had done, and the sorts of jobs I might want to do that I hadn't already done. But now that he asked there was one additional thing ...
I asked if I could take what they call an "interest profile." I figured, why not? It's a little extra time for them that they have to spend with me, but I've already paid for it via my taxes. I might as well get everything I'm entitled to. I wanted to see what sorts of jobs and careers, in addition to journalism, I might be qualified to do, and have an affinity for. After all, if not now when?
My counselor, Mike, said sure. He called up a program on his computer and we were off. The program had 180 questions and I was supposed to answer them either like, dislike, or I did not know. The goal was to find what skills and occupations I might like independent of whether I might be qualified to do them. Don't think about it too much, Mike said, just answer them from the gut.
The questions broke down into some fairly obvious categories right away, I saw. Question number two, for example, asked me how much I would like to be a guard for an armored car. That would be a good example of "dislike."
Others were perhaps a bit unrealistic, and not anything I had thought about before but I put down "like" anyway. For example, I was asked if I would like to dance in a Broadway show. Sure, why not? It will never happen, and I have no burning desire to make it happen but if it happened I would probably like it, or at least like the story it would give me.
And so it went. There were a few that had me stumped, though, and I had to check I don't know. Such as, would I want to work in a lab curing infectious diseases? It might be interesting, but I never liked chemistry. On the other hand helping all those people ... I had to say I didn't know.
The test didn't take all that long. As instructed I went with my gut, and didn't think about my answers too much. Thinking, or in this case rationalizing, wouldn't have helped me, and it wasn't a pass/fail test anyway.
After about two minutes Mike tabulated my scores, and a very strong set of correlations emerged. There were six categories in which I could score: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, conventional. I will explain each one, from lowest score to highest.
Realistic: Here my score was a big, fat, whopping zero. "People with Realistic interests like work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions." They like working with wood, tools, plants, and being outside a lot. They don't like paperwork or working closely with others.
Not a surprise that this didn't interest me. I like people, I like ideas, I even like paper. I don't like building stuff, and have no mechanical or technical skills. I once tried to solder a pickup to my guitar and after an hour of sloppy labor realized I had put it in backwards. There were only two wires. Guess I won't become a general contractor anytime soon. Darn.
Conventional: My score here was a "1." These folks, as befitting the name "conventional," like jobs with set procedures and rules. They like data and detail, not ideas. They like precision. They don't like judging their own work, but conforming to others' standards. These people are often accountants. Unless they are the dreaded "creative accountants."
Enterprising: My score "2". They like to start up and carry out projects, especially in business. They like persuading people, and taking risks for profit. They like action rather than thinking. These people are the smug butt-heads who helped destroy our economy. No way man!
So, I pretty much hated all these areas of interest. Now here is what I did like.
Investigative: Here I scored "11." These people like ideas and thinking, rather than physical activity. Big shocker to those of you who have ever SEEN an actual journalist. They like to search for facts and figure out problems in their heads, rather than persuade or lead people. In other words these people like to sit in the back of the room, make a bunch of smart-assed comments about stuff and then let everyone else figure out how to actually solve the problem in the real world. Yes, I have this side of my personality (just ask my wife!), but interestingly I scored higher in two other areas ...
Social: Here I scored "14." These folks like jobs that help others and promote learning and personal development. They prefer to communicate more than work with objects, machines or data. (Guilty!) They like to teach, give advice, or be of service to people. These people are Counselor Troi.
When I saw this I wasn't shocked. I always loved mentoring younger writers and reporters, even when I didn't always know that much more than they did. I felt gratified when I saw them learn and improve. It often meant more to me than my own writing. This felt good to hear, and is an entire part of my personality that needs to be expressed.
But the winner was ...
Artistic: Here I scored "16." These people like, well, art. They like self-expression in their work. They like jobs that can be done without a clear set of rules.
I agree I have this side of me. I sometimes would get very creative even with the most basic investing story. (Not with the data, just the way I wrote it!) I agree, this is part of me too. I am just not convinced it is the leading part of me.
Nonetheless, the evidence spoke volumes. I like thinking problems through, helping others and being creative. I don't like hard physical labor, data-entry or destroying our economy.
The issue now is finding ways to put all these affinities into effect in one place. Jobs that are intellectually stimulating (preferably allowing me to write in a meaningful way), while being intensely social and creative. Journalism can be that, if you get the right job, but it's not the only place to look.
The neat part of the process was that I was then hooked up, via computer, with a whole range of jobs that are relatively close matches for what I am naturally strong in. Editor and reporter came up but so did a lot of jobs in education (at all different level, including special ed, adult education, middle school, pre-school, high school and college) and counseling. And because I had to be a smart ass I was also told I might want to consider a career as a choreographer.
All this leaves me with an interesting dilemma, and avenues to pursue that I might not have considered before. I love writing; always have and always will. But I also love working with people, counseling them and helping them. Of course when the deadline pressure is on and someone turns in something craptastic you end up doing a lot of counseling, boy, do you ever. But I might want to consider the other kind too. And you do a lot of educating as an editor, which is what I often liked more than the actual editing, at least sometimes.
Well, that's it. It was an interesting thing to see. I just hope I can benefit from the knowledge, without making the process to hard or lengthy on myself or my family.