Aptitudes and special talents

For career planning purposes, a person’s aptitudes are usually measured with a test battery such as the general aptitude test battery (GATB), which most state one stop career centers make available. This instrument measures various aptitudes including intelligence ad mathematical ability. You can also use specialized tests, such as for mechanical comprehension. However, even Holland’s Self Directed Search will provide some insights into your aptitudes.

Identify your Career Anchors:

Edgar Schein says that career planning is a continuing process of discovery one in which a person slowly develops a clearer occupational self-concept in terms of what his or her talents, abilities motives, needs, attitudes, and values are. Schein also says that as you learn more about yourself, it becomes apparent that you have a dominant career anchor, a concern or value that you will not give up if a career choice has to be made.

Career anchors, as their name implies, are the pivots around which a person’s career swings; a person becomes conscious of them as a result of learning, through experience, about his or her talents and abilities, motives and needs, and attitudes and values. Based on his research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Schein believes that career anchors are difficult to predict because they are evolutionary and a product of a process of discovery. Some people may never find out what their career anchors are until they have to make a major choice such as whether to take the promotion to the headquarters staff or strike out on their own by starting a business. It is at this point that all the person’s past work experiences, interests, aptitudes, and orientations converge into a meaningful pattern that helps show what (career anchor) is the most important factoring driving the person’s career choices.

Based on his study of MIT graduates, Schein identified five career anchors.

Technical/Functional Competence

People who had a strong technical / functional career anchor tended to avoid decisions that would drive them toward general management. Instead, they made decisions that would enable them to remain and grow in their chosen technical or functional fields.

Managerial Competence

Other people show a strong motivation to become managers and their career experience enabled them to believe they had the skills and values required. A management position of high responsibility is their ultimate goal. When pressed to explain why they believed they had the skills necessary to gain such positions, many in Schein’s research sample answered that they were qualified for these jobs because of what they saw as their competencies in a combination of three areas: (1) analytical competence ability to identify, analyze, and solve problems under conditions of incomplete information and uncertainty; (2) interpersonal competence ability to influence, supervise, lead, manipulate, and control people at all levels; and (3) emotional competence the capacity to be stimulated by emotional and interpersonal crises rather than exhausted or debilitated by them, and the capacity to bear high levels of responsibility without becoming paralyzed.


Some of the graduates had gone on to become successful entrepreneurs. These people seemed to have a need “to build or create something that was entirely their own product” – a product or process that bears their name, a company of their own, or a personal fortune that reflects their accomplishments. For example, one graduate had become a successful purchase, restorer, and renter of townhouses in a large city; another had built a successful consulting firm.

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