Unbiaised review of Career Explorer test by Sokanu: Is it worth it?
It took me 1 hour to actually finish the test, but I am a career professional. It should probably take you a bit more time.
This would be counterproductive to describe every part or aspect of the test, as obviously it would take forever, so I decided, rather than report every step, to focus on what really matters.
This review is to be considered as a humble critical analysis.
If you want to get a complete overview of what a career test is and it’s limits beforehand, I encourage you to stop right here and read my book “Career Guidance or The Art of Not Failing” available on Google play and amazon, of which I will provide some extracts or concepts here and there in this review.
I will start with my conclusion, then let the reader explore my experience in depth to deepen the understanding and basis for this conclusion and especially think about some of the key questions that emerged down the line. I will also provide the screenshots of my results.
Before checking the conclusion let’s quickly take a look at some of their statements about the Career Explorer test that you can find on their website, and let’s read between the lines.
“Using advanced machine learning, psychometrics, and career satisfaction data, we’ve reimagined what a career test can be."
“Our machine learning models train on millions of data points, constantly improving the reliability and validity of our career test results.”
“We provide career matches based on your interests, goals, history, workplace preferences, and personality.”
So it’s unclear how the test is really constructed at that point and to what extent it is validated, and finally they do not include in the list of what the test provides: what you want or makes sense to you.
“We continuously tweak our algorithms and update our datasets to provide industry-leading match accuracy."
Given the fact that any change may impact the results provided and that it should be validated by empirical scientific testing each time, this is scary knowing “they” are continuously tweaking the AI.
Another huge statement from the career explorer website at the time I wrote this article: “Whether you’re pursuing education, in the early career stages of your career, pivoting to a new path, or just looking for answers, we’re here to help you discover where you’ll find happiness in the world of work.”
Happiness at work, nothing less. This is not even a bold statement but a foolish one as even psychology researchers have trouble defining and measuring it. I will let you check about that on your own.
In their “what makes us unique” section, they state the test is based on the Big 5 Model (I encourage you to read the Wikipedia page on this one and especially the “critique” chapter :https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_personality_traits), and that they mix it with the Holland codes (the RIASEC).
How they do that, how it works exactly, how their test and algorithm were validated remains a mystery at that point. But they take two different controversial models and concepts, which even taken separately have some flaws, that are about personality types at work and have nothing to do with a career choice, mix it up in an unknown way, then has an undocumented AI serves you a result of a career path or degree.
I can’t stress this enough: How this magic mix has been validated is the central question.
And at last we can read, “Our career test items were developed by a team of I/O psychologists with years of experience in the field of psychometrics.” and in the “about page” of the website you can read: “In 2012, Spencer founded Sokanu to solve this problem. He partnered with PhD career psychologists to reinvent the standard career test and launched what would become CareerExplorer—a world-class career platform powered by modern science and technology.”
So, please type in your preferred search engine “PhD career psychologists”, you will see that there is no such thing. Of course there are a couple of PhDs in psychology but as you just realized, not in the “career” field and the way it is written is highly misleading, influential.
So what is the type of results you can expect?
Here is my conclusion on this test:
There are a lot of really interesting steps, if only they were in a different format with open text field leaving the user to be able to express himself. Unfortunately, that would be impossible for a computer program to handle and it could still probably lacks context and meaning as if you don’t have someone to tell you it’s not clear enough or not thorough enough, you will be left with a lot of different types of deepening depending on the individuals.
Therefore, it’s based on the perception you have of yourself or the image you want to be considered as.
Someone, like me, having done psychoanalysis for more than 9 years and being a coach for the last 17 years has a deeper understanding of himself than common people. I guess the results should be more accurate.
Here are the actual results of my test.
Your discoveries (the characteristics that make me unique): Groundbreaker / feeling minded / maximizing
My top careers:
These careers are not much of a change! This is just activities as a full career that I already do as a Coach and Psychoanalyst right now. I won't even comment my top degrees results.
I have trouble saying they are way off on the personality aspects, but my next career ideas they provide are what I already do. There is a big part of the test that is about your current career, activities and what you like about it, so I don’t really understand what’s going on here. It’s interesting to note that I really like computer design, web design and UX design and that didn’t come up. Why?
It doesn’t get any better if you’re a student or first-time career chooser because you’re left with so many results that without professional help it can quickly become overwhelming. This is probably why they offer a premium package with professional coaches. Well, they do want and need to make money.
What happens is that without reflecting at every question, without having someone pointing out some truths about yourself to help bring the focus on what you are and what you like more closely to reality, your answers are not truthful as they should and therefore the results will be different than what it should be, conceptually. That’s the main problem, and not specific to this test.
People representations and thinking are usually biased. You want to answer a question in some way, OK, but do you have a clear view of yourself and what you really like? Usually it takes some real self-reflection to do. It is also important to take into account that some people have been highly influenced in their way of viewing themselves, especially by school, studies, parents, boss, co-workers, family members and close friends. There are usually many things to deconstruct in your beliefs but also some work to do on your mindset prior to thinking and setting any career goal.
My opinion is that the results represent what I already do and therefore doesn’t help much considering a change of career. This test doesn’t solve the main problems all career test presents, it is influential and the results are biased by the representations of each individual that are not questioned making the results unreliable. The lack of context and meaning in all the types of answers you are asked to give is what makes a career test useless. A test supposed to work for everyone that could take into account such things with open answers just cannot be analyzed by a computer that will be able to give a sensible result. You can’t mass provide career choices, period. When you face even only five career choices, what do you do? Preferably you seek professional help, that’s why they have a premium package. So in the end, as usual, this is all made to hook you up with a plan and sell you some additional services as you will think their test is well made, that the results are interesting and by the time you spent 1 hour answering questions, you will be the subject of a well-known marketing manipulation. I encourage you to read Mr Cialdini and others, on the different marketing manipulation techniques.
For now, my advice is that you find another option. One that relies on your own thinking preferably and that will not influence you, of course.
Now, the resume of my experience with the test, step by step.
We will start with the first step as this is where we encounter the first problem.
The test asks you what activities you would like to do.
Great! But this format is problematic in two ways, first, the algorithm can’t deal and process easily open text input, second, I know that the majority of my clients have trouble answering quickly and without a doubt what it is they really like to do. Usually people need guidance with this step. The other aspect is that even if you and the system could overcome these problems no artificial intelligence will ever be able to know what is meaningful to you in those activities or what’s the most important one, without much more information.
And does it list all the activities in the world: NO. Of course It can’t. Therefore it steers (influence) you in some direction and doesn’t make you really think about what you like. Supposedly because the test makers can’t do anything else if they want to give you some result they can compile at the end. Those activities are in fact the reflect of a clear but general path, a field. The process here hasn’t changed much compared to other tests, it’s not so much about activities but more about finding a path.
Let’s take a look at some examples: Find support resources for families in need / repair farm equipment / research how genes function.
You are asked to choose between: Hate it / dislike it / neutral / like it / love it
How does this answer help define how much you like it really and why?
It’s like reviews on books. A 3-star rating for one will be a 5-star rating for another, it all depends on your representations, norms and experience. A “dislike it” for someone will be a “neutral” for someone else with the exact same representation on the activity. There is a deep lack of meaning here.
The second step asks you to rate careers, it’s called your personality archetype.
It doesn’t take into account the first answers given and how you responded to the activities you liked in the first step. They give you the name of a job like “marine biologist” with a short explanation of what it’s a bout.
I bet they do that because they suppose that you thought you like or disliked something in the first step but did so without knowing exactly what it was all about, and without context. So they double-check your answers providing some more details and you’re asked to rate it again with stars from 1 to 5. In this case I saw a direct link between step one and two.
So basically you do this step as in step 1 but this time with some more details. This is kind of smart but time consuming, obviously we all have misrepresentations of activities and jobs. They show you job titles as diverse as dog walker, flight engineer and detectives. You are then asked again to express your opinion using like / dislike on, information technology, law, mathematics, life science, music or nature and agriculture, given that this time your representations are more precise.
Next you’re asked to rate degrees. I really have a hard time understanding why this is relevant? Why do we care at that point what we think about degrees (with a short description), as we don’t even know what we want to do? The only logical explanation is that they want to provide you with specific degree matches (and they do). A relevant explanation for an exercise that is not relevant to a career choice, except for those who choose a degree and not a career, when they shouldn’t.
Examples of degree: Deaf Studies.
That degree (and some others I was asked to rate to be honest) made me wonder why I would be asked to rate such a specific degree that has nothing to do with what I already answered? Where does it come from? Is this asked to everyone? Have I missed something? Will they even provide sufficient information for me to be able to rate it? On what criteria? I’m lost.
Maybe I’m going further that I should here, but is it some marketing? Is this influential to make the individual think of a career path that needs applicants? You know, I’m talking about that kind of publicity that is induced like when the characters on your favorite TV show drink a brand of beer or soda making sure you clearly see it… Anyway, I hope I’m wrong.
Here’s the description of the degree: “A program that focuses on the sociological, historical and linguistic aspects of the deaf and hearing-impaired, and that prepares individuals to work with the deaf and hearing-impaired. Includes instruction in American Sign Language, deaf studies, American deaf culture, structure of American Sign Language, history of the American deaf community, and civil rights of deaf people.”
I may be wrong but I think that there is no clear link between my first answers and what is being asked during that step, given that it is offered to me to rate degrees in robotics, law, food science, physiology, etc.
After that, you’re asked about your previous experiences and then to fill some information about yourself, part of this information is your ethnicity, this is what they claim it is for: “We use demographic data like ethnicity to reduce discrimination and bias in our algorithms, as well as contextualize some of your results in line with peers of your age group, sex, and location. Your answers are transmitted and stored securely, and never shared with third parties.”
Why this should have anything to do with what you want to do as your next job? How does their algorithm compute that data? What does that mean exactly :“contextualize some of your results in line with peers of your age group, sex and location”? It looks to me they want to classify you in some groups, and therefore that may have an impact on the results you’re given. Not totally unbiased or uninfluential if that’s the case.
Next they ask you your actual degrees and where you got them, what is your current career and finally what is the highest level of education achieved by your parents. Is this to corroborate what social studies showed a long time ago that high-achieving parents tend to have high-achieving kids, because of the environment in which they are educated? Is this for their own statistics? Is this related to the point above to also help classify you to some groups? Why should it be relevant to a new career choice.
Next, they ask you if your actual career gives you purpose and fulfillment.
Interesting, but the main question is again: what do they do with it? What impact can it have on the results?
Once you’ve answered those questions they ask you to give your opinion on different statements about your job:
“Being a Coach gives you control over the direction of your work."
"There is a competitive work environment as a(n) Coach."
"Being a Coach requires frequent time pressure to complete tasks.”
As you can see, even if you’re not a coach, your representation of the work and type of tasks that a coach handles on his day-to-day routine should be clear enough to be able to tell if those questions are relevant. It looks like the algorithm just add the name of the job in a pre-written question. Therefore, it’s pretty useless and totally meaningless.
In the next step, you will have to define what would bother you in a job: dealing with customers, unpredictable work schedules, Working more than 40 hours a week…
Is this a fully exhaustive list of all aspects of all jobs? No, therefore, in that format I think this step is influential. Asking you to tell what exactly would bother you in a job, making a list of all the bad aspects of all the jobs you know or can imagine without help wouldn’t be influential. It would be your responsibility to do the exercise as thoroughly as possible, considering this is useful.
There is another hidden problem here. You’re asked to tell what’s important to you. This is based on your beliefs and given the fact that no one tells you / help you to question those beliefs and to rethink them, you’re in trouble because you will mislead yourself. What you think is the result of a combination of so many things. You may think that working more than 40 hours a week is an absolute nightmare, but this is given a certain context. You would certainly think differently if what you were doing had a deep meaning for you, for example.
There are usual beliefs that career professionals know are important to you and rather than explaining why it shouldn’t be a criterion for a choice, they prefer to reinforce them, for lack of understanding the problem or for influential purposes: you tend to like and trust people that tell you that what you think is smart. But, as I said in my latest book, if you go to the DIY store for a tool to handle a problem in the house, you expect the professional to tell you it’s the right one or steer you to the right tool for the job, preventing you from other problems. As an example, try to remove a nail with a screwdriver…
These are the kinds of beliefs I’m talking about: Earning a lot of money. Getting recognized for the work I do. Good working conditions. Having co-workers that are easy to get along with. Job prestige (i.e., career is admired and respected in society). Variety, something different every day.
You will think I am crazy to say that, because I’ve never seen anybody state that but all these are pretty much based on bullshit beliefs and shouldn’t be taken into account without deep questioning to understand exactly and precisely what it is you really mean, want, why and if, it is under your control. I can’t get into the nitty-gritty here, as this is far beyond the subject of this article, so please, read my other articles on influence, and if you’re planning on a career change and you feel I’m crazy, that you want to get deep into these aspects for a full-depth analysis and explanation, and if one of those aspects is one of your criteria, here is a little bit of self-promotion, please check my latest book: “Overcome Influence and Thrive”.
Let’s move on to the next step, you’re asked to define if some statements sound like you. For example “I… Am always prepared”.
What does that even mean? Prepared for what? Anything? The problem with all those questions you will have to answer, like the one above, is that they are out of context; therefore their meaning is missing. This is why some people think their psychic are always right, they add any context necessary so it makes some sense to them. Here, you are also the one creating the context, creating meaning, an image, a story, in order to be able to answer. And because it’s a yes or no exercise and you can’t type and add any context to your answer, this exercise is totally useless and meaningless.
I can’t reveal here all the questions of the test and some questions are a bit strange but I must admit that after all it can probably help get a pretty rounded but incomplete image of your personality. The only problem is, your personality is used to MATCH you with a job. If you read “Career Guidance or The Art of Not Failing” then you understood right away what I meant, for the rest of you here is an example so you understand what I mean as quickly as possible: Do you think you need a specific personality to become a cab driver? Yeah, you don’t. They trick you. They present it in a way that looks like what you are looking for, close enough: to be matched with a job, because this is the only thing they can really provide with a test. When in fact, what you usually want is to know how to pin-point what could be your next adventure, what you would really love to do, maybe what you need to do in order to enjoy life, find what you want to do, figure out your purpose, whatever you think is what you want and know all the reasons you do, whatever your reasons.
The next step is about the skills you want to use in your career: this is something really interesting!
But again, we are faced with a problem: will you be able to tell and describe those skills you want to use or will you have to choose from a list and if so are all skills listed? You guessed it, you’ll have to choose from a list and they are not all there. Here are some examples of the skills: Learning new things / programming / negotiating.
So again we have an influential exercise that lacks in context, details and meaning.
The last step is also interesting I must say, it’s called: Does this sound like you?
There are many statements, a pretty good round up, but many questions seem redundant and we are again in a “matching” principle obviously…
An open text field should be mandatory on such exercises.
So here I am at the end of the Career Explorer test, with the feeling that if I didn't write an article about it, it would be a waste of time and I would miss a good opportunity to prevent many failures.
I'm faced with an overwhelming ton of results, so I'll refer you to the conclusion I placed in the introduction to satisfy the more hurried among you.
At the end, you are left with two options the first one is to pay to have the “full results”, clearly I do not recommend doing so.
So here are the “Members benefits”:
- Your compatibility with over 1,000 careers and degrees
- Personality and trait reports
- Special curated offers
- Access to coaching, career training, and more
Let me get this straight: you’re looking for your next step in life and they offer you a “compatibility” list of more than 1000 careers and degrees? What will you do with that, how does that help you? This is way more confusing than helping if you ask me. Unbelievable.
Next, a “personality and trait reports”, as we have previously discussed you don’t need one to know what job you want to do next. Useless.
Special curated offers: so they will offer you some more paid services via coaching and online courses. We can ask ourselves why on earth you already spent 1h30m or more on that test if it finally comes down to getting help from a career coach you can find and select yourself based on your own criteria. Commercial add-on is not a benefit.
So now, let’s see after 1h30 of quizzes what you get out of it:
So as I said, I took the test as a professional coach which I am, wanting a career change without any specific idea of what I would like. This state of mind is approximately 90% of career change seekers, they want change but don’t know what they want and they are faced with multiple dilemmas about time, finances, and their own capabilities to name a few. I’m pretty sure this test “as is” will generate more trouble than help.
I’ll leave the reader circle back to the beginning to read again the conclusion that was given in introduction to this review article.