Being good at something doesn’t mean you should build a career around it. Yet that’s what many people do, becoming an accountant because they’re “good with numbers,” a doctor because they’re “good at science” or an attorney because they’re “good in a debate,” able to see the pros and cons of an argument so quickly. When they wind up feeling frustrated, unfulfilled and discouraged, they are often perplexed.

career coach Chicago aptitude testing

“Our abilities can be disabilities if they lead us into the wrong career,” as Maura Koutoujian, a career and life coach in Jody Michael Associates’ Chicago office, explains. The Highlands Ability Battery™ (HAB) is an aptitude test designed to help you understand how you reason, how you approach challenges and how you learn.

4 Surprising Insights the HAB Can Reveal About You

Test” … The mere word may catapult you back in time, conjuring up memories of studying for a high school geometry final or taking a college entrance exam like the SAT or ACT. The HAB is a different animal.

It is an assessment. You can’t study for it. You can’t get an A (or an F) on it. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer. Because it is not a test of knowledge or skill, the HAB won’t tell you what you’re “good at.” A low score on any of the work samples isn’t inherently bad, nor is a high score something to boast about.

Innate abilities differ from skills. Our natural tendencies are apparent early in childhood, displayed in the way we play, problem-solve and interact with others. Whether by nature or nurture, by the time we are in our mid-teens, our abilities show up, and can be tested. Over time, we accumulate skills, both complementary and compensatory. The Highlands Ability Battery™ is one tool you can use to identify your talents — and tendencies. Among its many insights, it can reveal:

1. Why you do this “weird, quirky thing” — It may seem odd to your co-worker in the next cubbie that you like to color-code your files. But your affinity for organization may reflect a linear style of thinking that culminates in one of your strengths. A score in the high range on the HAB’s Concept Organization work sample can help you understand why order is so important — and why it comes so easily — to you.

2. Your penchant (or apathy) for detail — Your score on the Specialist versus Generalist work samples will likely reflect whether your focus tends to go narrow and deep, or wide and broad. If you score in the mid range of both scales, it doesn’t mean that you’re neither one, but that your strength may be in assimilating a “just-right” amount of detail in order to maintain an ability to see the big picture. You might be well-suited for a “translator” or liaison role, a valuable asset to your team or company. It can also be a great advantage in leadership roles.

3. Your chances of writing the Great American Novel (or not) — No, the HAB doesn’t evaluate your writing skills, but it does provide insights into your time frame preferences. And while a score in the low range of the time frame spectrum doesn’t mean you won’t succeed on longer-term project, it does help you understand that you’ll find it more palatable if you break it into smaller pieces.

4. What it’s like not to be you —In addition to helping you identify your best career fit, professional goals and most conducive work environment, the HAB can enhance your ability to understand, interact and communicate with others. With a high score on the Extrovert range, you might thrive on back-to-back meetings, but your partner may need cushion time to quietly process what she’s heard, and to recharge. By the same token, your high Specialist tendencies might tempt you to provide your boss with frequent, detailed updates, when all he really wants (as a Generalist) is a monthly report on the bottom line. Rather than making the faulty assumption that your Introverted partner is giving you the cold shoulder, or that your Generalist boss doesn’t care, the HAB can help you develop an appreciation of — and respect for — people with styles different from your own.

The HAB: A Journey and a Destination

Because the HAB provides insight into how you reason and approach problems, the test-taking experience itself can spark self-awareness. “Before we begin the debrief session, I like to ask clients about any thoughts they noticed running through their mind during the process. Their answers are often just as enlightening as the results of the test,” Maura says. “One client told me that she was really energized by the work samples that were a challenge, while another told me that he would rather leave a field blank than enter a potentially wrong answer.”

One of the most common observations is that the self-talk people engage in while taking the test can be very powerful in either a positive or negative direction. The messages you tell yourself in these kinds of situations (e.g., I’ve got this … or My memory is atrocious) can determine the tone of the experience. “During the debrief meeting, I emphasize to clients that this is not a ‘here-you-go/now-you-know’ exercise. Digesting the results — and living them — is where the truest value lies.”

The Highlands Ability Battery is included in JMA’s Career Discovery program. It is also available as a stand-alone offering, including the assessment and a debrief session with one of our certified career coaches, trained by the Highlands Company to help you understand your results — and to use them to create alignment with your career.  

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