Should I be an entrepreneur when I grow up? It turns out that vocational interest assessments can help you figure that out.
Hold on…what are vocational interest assessments again?
A teacher or career counselor may have given you a vocational interest assessment in high school, college or university. The assessment will tell you areas you are curious and interested in, say artistic or social interests (e.g., drawing, singing, or helping people in-need), and gives you a list of jobs to look into that matches your interests. I heard that these assessments were hit or misses. A student may snicker when seeing that the list of jobs recommended includes being a rock star. Another student may feel validated that one of the top recommendations was to be a teacher, a job that they personally were interested in. However, regardless of the initial reactions of respondents, the fate of these vocational interest assessment reports tend to end up in the abyss after a 10-second scan. Unsurprisingly, researchers collectively seemed to lose interest and pursued other studies …until recently.
A group of psychology researchers, including Christopher Nye, Rong Su, and Chad Van Iddekinge, revived the life of vocational interests, making it a focus since 2002. Through meta-analyses and empirically-based studies, these researchers showed that vocational interests can be telling when looking at job knowledge, job performance, and turnover. What's more, it seems that vocational interests seem to tell us more than what people's personality preferences and cognitive ability levels can tell us.
Vocational Interests & Entrepreneurship
Empirical evidence is powerful when we want to know more about ourselves and entrepreneurship. The Canadian government announced in 2019 it plans to decrease small business tax rates to 9%, and the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada is offering $1.65 billion in new financing for women business owners. Additionally, in 2016 a Forbes article also noted that there is a growing number of degree programs in education entrepreneurship. Clearly, entrepreneurship matters to society, but now the question is, how do we get more people who are interested in entrepreneurship to take advantage of these resources.
One answer is to use vocational interests. The free vocational interest survey and job database hosted by the US Department of Labor does not have the occupation “entrepreneur” for reference. But what we know is that we can use its survey, and make speculations informed opinions based on the areas of interest one is highest in. Research shows that enterprising and artistic interests (e.g., creating things, managing retail stores) seem to associate most with entrepreneurial individuals. In fact, the predictive power of vocational interests and entrepreneurial activities remained even after accounting for entrepreneurial personality traits (e.g., vision, entrepreneurial creativity), sex, and age.
So give your clients, whether it’s a student, job seeker, or employee, more value in their assessments. Provide an evidence-based view on their suitability with entrepreneurship with other entrepreneur assessments and vocational interests.