The Pre-Counseling Assessment
by Martin Elliot Jaffe
Bernie K., 47, was “downsized” after 22 years as an electrical engineer at a power company. “My corporate outplacement guy had me take six hours of tests. He says I’ve got to ‘re-career’ for the millennium. I’m not so sure… Couldn’t there be other engineering jobs for me? I like engineering.”
Enya L., 26, has had four jobs since earning her B.A. in political science four years ago. “No tears shed here — library assistant was not my life path. Still, I’m not sure what to do now. Should I go back to school? Look for a job? I have $3,000 college debt and this counselor my dad knows wants to give me $600 worth of vocational tests.”
Bernie and Enya (not their real names) are at a typical crossroads for many clients just entering career counseling: Should I do a job search or career search? Luckily for these two, they live close to InfoPLACE, a career-planning program in Maple Heights, Ohio, that uses a pre-advising assessment tool to answer that question. InfoPLACE, a public library based adult career planning program with 28 years of experience, provides a unique, neutral tax-supported service where adults can step back and decide if they are leaning toward a radical career transition or an immediate job search based on their current skill set. Counselors at InfoPLACE saw the need for a tool that could indicate the appropriate depth and direction of counseling before sessions began, so they created CACTI (Core Adult Career Transition Inventory). CACTI helps clients step back, take a deep breath and consider whether they want to launch a job search based on their current skill set or to make a radical career change, possibly involving further training and education.
The seven-page self-scored assessment has sections on work values, skills, job search or career exploration and a planning summary. The first section consists of 15 yes/no questions that ask users to define their values regarding salary, work environment, education and training. At the end of the section, a summary score indicates the importance of external (e.g., salary, schedule) vs. internal (e.g., integration of meaning and purpose) factors and the level of satisfaction in a current position. This portion of CACTI can provide significant information for discussion as counselor and client go over the results.
An extensive skill section asks the client to use a Likert scale to self-rank his or her level of competency in a variety of skill areas. A summary code assesses whether skills attested to relate to data, people, things, ideas, while a follow-up section asks the user to rank the four areas by preference. This information can be used by the client in deciding which areas to develop and can be integrated into a retraining or re-careering plan.
The final section of CACTI consists of yes/no questions resulting in a summary code that indicates the appropriate next step:
- An immediate job search using current skills and education or
- A career exploration and planning for a radical transition.
Clients then meet with InfoPLACE counselors in private appointments or attend career decision/job search workshops. Standard assessments (SDS, MBTI, card sorts, etc.) and interpretation are available in both contexts.
A particularly useful component of CACTI helps clients not only identify skills but how they feel about using them in a work context. For example, an InfoPLACE client scored high on people skills in the assessment, but reported he didn’t like using that skill: “I’m so tired of listening to people’s troubles, solving their problems, being sympathetic, acting like I care — I want to develop skills with things and become a computer programmer.” Sound odd? In counseling sessions, he revealed he had spent 11 years as a bartender.
Our extensive individual use with CACTI among our 3,000 annual adult clients has established its utility as an introductory tool for:
Recently downsized workers
Adults in midlife career transition
Non-traditional aged students contemplating a return to post-secondary education
Discouraged workers frustrated by job search progress
CACTI has been a valuable tool for our clients in a turbulent era of change. We tell our clients to be like cacti on difficult days — “Keep your head up toward the light, nourish your roots with the advice and counsel of family, friends and professional resources — and you will continue to thrive.”
Martin Elliot Jaffe
, CDFI, MCC, is the Manager of InfoPLACE and can be reached at
InfoPLACE offers CACTI at no charge to clients in our service area while meeting with InfoPLACE counselors. To defray costs we sell them for $4.02 including sales tax/shipping to users outside of our area. The CACTI assessment can be ordered by contacting: InfoPLACE, 5225 Library Lane, Maple Hts, Ohio 44137-1291.