At the age of 26, Amy Strong of Forest Hills, seeking to get a better sense of her career goals, sat down at a computer, called up a site on the Internet and answered about 300 questions designed to evaluate her skills, personality and career interests.
Billed as more comprehensive and user friendly than any other career-related program on the Net, the program, called Careervectors.com, was developed three years ago by Barry Lustig, a career counselor at FEGS, the Federation of Employment and Guidance Service.
"It didn’t say I should be a doctor or a lawyer, but it said I have certain skills and that I should use them in areas that I had not thought of in the past," said Strong of the computer-generated test results.
A graduate of the State University at Albany with degrees in Judaic studies and women’s studies, Strong said she has been working in the administrative side of a nonprofit Jewish communal organization. But the test, she said, indicated that with her skills she might want to aim for a management position.
"It helped me identify my goals," said Strong. "While you may know them in the back of your head, how often do you put them on paper? And now that I have tangible goals, it makes me feel more confident about achieving them: it makes me focus on them."
While she had taken skills and personality tests in the past, Strong said this test, aside from suggesting different careers or fields of interest, "isolates the skills you identify as your strong points and those you would like to improve. That’s helpful when you go on job interviews because when you are asked your best and worst qualities, you don’t have to hem and haw."
The staff at FEGS, a UJA-Federation beneficiary agency, told her also that unlike other career tests that provide 200 career recommendations, this one offers up to 2,000, she said.
"They are very specific recommendations, like being a lawyer for Amnesty International, rather than just being a lawyer," Strong said, "or working as a facilitator at the Department of Labor."
Gail Magaliff, chief operating officer of human services at FEGS, noted that the program has links to descriptions of the jobs suggested and to job openings currently available in that field: including how much they are paying.
"FEGS has been providing career guidance for nearly all of its 65 years to anyone and everyone who is career confused or who wants to make a career change," she said. Magaliff said Careervectors.com is valuable for everyone from high school students to retirees who donít want to quit working.
"There are high school students who say, ‘how can I choose a college, I don’t even know what I’m going to do with my life,’" said Magaliff. "And there are college kids whose parents want them to be lawyers, but after studying art, math and computers they are not so sure that’s what they want to do. So career assessment is important for people who are in college and high school."
Research has found that most people (80 percent by some surveys) are unhappy with their job, Magaliff pointed out. "It could be for monetary reasons or because they are bored, work too hard, don’t like their boss or want more career mobility," she said. "In addition, women may want to make a career change to have more time to be with their families."
The days of employers frowning on job-hoppers are over, Magaliff stressed. "That began to change about 10 years ago as a result of mergers, the recession and the globalization of the Internet," she explained.
"Jobs and industries could suddenly function in different ways because of it. As a result, people now have two or three totally different careers in their lifetime. And because they have different skills, they can have more mobility and the confidence to go from one firm to the other."
The decision by FEGS to hook up with Xcape, a high-tech firm that can translate its material for use on the Internet, is part of the organization’s attempt to keep up with rapidly changing technological advancements, said Al Miller, the group’s executive vice president. "If quality services are going to continue to be offered in human services and health-related areas, we have to marry technology and provide efficiency and quality," he said. "It means that far more people will be served, and at a reduced cost."
He noted that Careervectors.com costs only $69.95, compared with at least $500 for a comparable test administered with a pad and pencil.
Although FEGS will still have career counselors to help in choosing a career path, Miller said the time with counselors would be slashed for those who took the Internet test. But he noted that the test is so comprehensive, not everyone may need to pay for the services of a career counselor.
The test takes three hours but it does not have to be completed at one sitting, Magaliff noted. Miller said FEGS and Xcape would share the profits from their joint venture.
"We are not looking to own a private business," he said when asked why his organization did not buy an Internet company and handle the whole thing itself.
"Our profits go to provide additional services: in many cases for the Jewish community," he said. "And we might use the profits to translate this program into other languages for use overseas."
He said it would be marketed through universities and career guidance counselors, as well as through the Jewish Vocational Service.