Harvey Mackay: Time to get a psychological career boost
In professional sports, most of draft day hype focuses on athletic skills. But sophisticated general managers, who are responsible for these multimillion dollar decisions, have to factor in other elements. They realize that the performance of their choices will depend as much on personal qualities as on raw physical talent. Is this player committed? What is his value system? Is she coachable? Will he be a team player? Will she be able to overcome her shortcomings? Will he choke? Does she quit? Has he established sound training habits?Sports franchises are built on the answers to these kinds of questions. And guess what so are businesses.For many years I have relied on industrial psychologists to help me sort out the complexities of a hire. According to the American Management Association, more than two-thirds of U.S. companies use some form of job-skills testing and 29 percent use other forms of personality testing. In fact, I think in tough economic times like today, its even more important to make sure that your job candidates are a good fit. These days a company cant afford to make a big mistake with a bad hire. Fortunately for us business types, its a lot easier to get business candidates to test than 19-year-old athletes. Brad Swanson of SKS Consulting Psychologists, a Minneapolis firm I have often used, has taught me a few things. He says highly effective organizations take the insights learned from industrial psychologists and adjust jobs to the strengths of candidates. They provide training where needed. That way, a good fit can become a great fit. Whatever the results of testing, I never let the industrial psychologists make the decision for me. Their information is just another tool in the hiring process. Its also a tool you can use to your own advantage as a prospective employee. If you suddenly find yourself scanning the horizons for a job, I recommend you get yourself to an industrial psychologist and get tested on your own.Im not going to kid you. Its not cheap. It will cost you several hundred dollars, but the oral and written exams will uncover strengths you never dreamed you had, and a few weaknesses to work on also. If youre being let go, try to talk your employer into paying the tab as part of your outplacement package.Remember, youre at a crossroads in your life, and the next job you take could determine your future for a long time to come. Isnt it worth your while to know whether youre heading in the right direction? Fate may have forced you into this situation, so take advantage of it. Play out the hand youve been dealt, and find out about yourself and what youre good at. Go to a firm with an excellent reputation, so you know youre getting a sound evaluation from someone whos a lot less biased about you than you are.Years ago, Arthur Rubinstein witnessed a car accident and was called into court to testify. On the witness stand he was asked his name and occupation. My name is Arthur Rubinstein, the worlds greatest pianist. After he stepped down from testifying and was on his way out of the courthouse, a cub reporter rushed up to him and said, Mr. Rubinstein, dont you think that was a little presumptuous the way you described yourself? The virtuoso didnt skip a beat: But son, what could I do? I was under oath.Not all of us have such a clear picture of our own skills. Using a psychologist to fill in the blanks doesnt seem so expensive if you learn some things about yourself that can be of permanent benefit to you.Another use is this: You now have in your hands the kind of report that 99.9 percent of other job seekers your competitors dont have. It contains information every interviewer is trying to learn about a prospect before they hire. Armed with this psychological profile, you now have your own personal seal of approval, a way of providing potential employers with the valuable information they want.Does it show that you are a less than perfect human being? Of course. Not to worry. What it also shows is that you have areas of strength, as well as creativity and imagination in your job-seeking skills. And that may be just enough to resolve the decision in your favor.Mackays Moral: When you cant afford to make a mistake, good advice is priceless.
Harvey Mackay is a part-time Aspen resident and best-selling author of swim with the Sharks. He can reached on the Web at http://www.harveymackay.com.His column is feature of Inside Business, published Tuesdays in The Aspen Times.
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