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Primary Occupational Interests debunked?

Like me, I’m sure you’ve been subjected to tests designed to find out what profession you should pursue. Whether termed professional aptitude tests or primary occupational interests tests, I have long been skeptical of the value of the results these tests offer up. A study in the Journal of Vocational Behavior seems to indicate that I have been right to be skeptical. The study found that a sizeable minority are in jobs that don’t fit our primary occupational interests.

This begs the question of whether the assumption that we are mostly drawn to jobs due to the kinds of things we want to do is true. While it may indeed be true for many people, exceptions are plentiful. Some seek a job, not for what the job entails, but for the money, security, or colleagues that job might have to offer. People may also find ways to shape jobs around their own interests, or be able to reap rewards that may at first glance not be obvious.

A fairly famous story is told of JFK, who met a janitor during a visit to the NASA Space Center in 1962. He introduced himself, and asked the man what his job was, to which the man answered “Well, Mr. President I’m helping put a man on the moon.” This example is far from unique, and similar examples are found in the London Tube and on IT service desks. The sense of mission and goal is instilled in such a way, and workers are shown how they fit into the greater whole, which results in higher job satisfaction even in lower skilled jobs.

At any rate, it seems to me that the findings may well indicate that the theoretical framework is lacking in merit. That should be a wake-up call to career consultants and recruiters everywhere.

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