Taxidermist or Dictionary Editor?

by | July 20, 2009
filed under Feminism

“Some people’s ‘types’ have been found to vary according to the time of day.

Of course, if the function of the tests is really ideological – to promote the peg-in-hole theory of employment – they do not have to be in any way accurate as predictors of performance or satisfaction.”

-Barbara Ehrenreich, Bait and Switch, 2005, pp. 34-35.

Where to?

Where to?

I realized I haven’t related any of my test results to you yet. The career planning program ran us through a whole battery of these tests in week one to help us discover our values, aptitudes, and personalities.

To be fair, the instructors have been fully candid that these test results can change over time as our experiences shape us. But still we’re told that these results can help determine our eligibility for federally-funded training programs. We need to show that we “fit” the career we’re looking at, as well as proving there is a need for workers in that field. We’re told that some reasons we may have been bored or frustrated at past jobs is that it wasn’t our “fit”. We’re still encouraged to speculate on our spouses’ “types” and look at how relationships might change based on the people’s “true colors.”

It certainly seems like the function of these tests is more ideological than practical, as Ehrenreich argues. But I was determined to go into this program with an open mind, and I figured that one of the 7 tests might be more valid for me than the others. I’m not going to do a detailed analysis of who created these tests for whom, as I’ve found little research on the subject. But let’s look at how I came out:

1. Holland Code: Artistic Social Investigative

Holland seemed to me to weigh pretty heavily on interests and less on aptitudes, which is why my artistic side came out pretty strongly.  The top recommended careers for my type were Advertising Copywriter, Dance Therapist, and Reporter. Secondary fits included various nursing positions, and Dictionary Editor.

2. Hall Inventory

My Hall Inventory showed a high need/value for personal satisfaction in work, high interest in aesthetic-artistic pursuits, high concern for qualifications, decision-making based on subjective internal authority, and a strong ability for people-business-influencing skills. Possibly one of the more accurate tests for me.

3. Kiersey Temperament: INFJ

The Kiersey Temperament is a Meyers-Briggs type indicator. This one showed that I was Introverted, INtuitive, Feeling, and Judging. Today I also tested my cats on this scale, which I figured was no more pointless than testing me on it. Fat cat Kongo scored ISFJ (same as me but sensing instead of intuitive) while noisy cat Frizz was ENFP. Suggest cat temperament testing as area for further study.

4. Forced Choice Value Inventory

This was to discover what we value most in life, and consequently should be looking for in a career. Unsurprisingly, my top 2 were Equality and Broadmindedness. Love and Self-Sufficiency were tied for number 3. Unfortunately I may be SOL trying to find a job totally free of inequality. Expressed my disappointment to facilitator, who said that “I’d be surprised how much things have changed for women.” I think she’d be surprised how much they haven’t.

5. COPS/COPES – Communication/Clerical valuing Leadership

The Career Occupational Preferency System is made up of a series of questions where you choose how much you would like or dislike certain tasks like “studying the long-term effects of air pollution” or “designing a space station.” I came out with strong scores in Communication and Clerical careers.

The related COPES test is another work values assessment. I only scored above average in my high valuation of taking a leadership role.

Suggested careers from this assessment included Taxidermist, Mail Sorter, Opera Lyricist, and TV/Radio Quiz Master.

To be fair there approximately 400 career suggestions, so they weren’t all as inapplicable to me. But with 400, they were pretty safe that some would apply.

6. True Colors – Green with Blue

TrueColors The True Colors system postulates that people all have aspects of four different colour personalities (see diagram), but that they are usually “brightest” in one colour. So for me it turns out that’s green. That apparently means that I am “obsessed to learn”, “play is work”, am “terse, compact, and logical”, and need to have “power or control over nature.”

This was another test where the results did seem to apply more to me (except for that play is work part) , but many in the class found themselves tied between different colour types.

We also got to take home a sheet on how to improve personal and work relationships by understanding other people’s “colours”.

7. Who Am I?: Helper/Thinker/Organizer

Last but not least. Yes, there is a test called Who Am I? I especially want to mention the disclaimer on the front of the booklets: “Recommended for Grade 10.”

This test classified me as a Helper/Thinker/Organizer. This suggests the following careers: Flight Attendant, Home Health Aide, Props Person, Proofreader, Judge, Forester, Actuary, Technical Writer, and (God forbid) Career Counsellor, among others.

Ehrenreich cites Annie Murphy Paul’s 2004 book The Cult of Personality and states “there is no evidence that [Briggs’] sixteeen distinct types have any more validity than the twelve signs of the zodiac” (2005, p. 34). I heard this same sentiment repeated by a couple people in my class – that they felt that all the “types” applied to them more or less.

It seems like the tests may appeal to people looking to feel like they have a place in society. A “type” may well be reassuring to people, especially for those looking for something to blame for being out of work. They were just the wrong “type” for their former job.

But aside from the dubious results I achieved, I also suspect that people cannot be so easily categorized, nor should they be.