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One of the goals that company founder, Denise Hughes set out in the early days of CLSR, was to make sure that career development professionals had access to tools that were not only reliable, and valid, but are also practical – As she would say, “where the rubber hits the road.” These are the kind of tools that make the biggest impact on clients in the end; card sort career assessments are one of those tools.

One of the issues that I kept hearing coming up when talking with other career development professionals at the CANNEXUS conference last month, is client reluctance. Getting clients to engage in the process, or share information, can be a challenge for so many reasons. Career development professionals need to dig into our toolkits to find ways to overcome this challenge, and this is where card sort career assessments shine.

What are Card Sort Career Assessments?

Card sort assessments, like the Values & Skills Assessment cards, or Knowdell card sorts use a set of physical playing cards representing various skills, values, or interests. Clients sort these cards based on their relevance or importance, giving them insights into their career aspirations and strengths.

Why a card sort?

  1. Less Formal, More Conversational: Unlike traditional assessments, which can feel rigid and intimidating, card sorts are informal and approachable. Clients often feel more relaxed, facilitating open communication and deeper insights into their career goals.
  2. Non-Threatening Environment: Sorting through cards feels less like an evaluation and more like a collaborative exercise. Clients are not pressured to perform or provide “correct” answers, reducing the fear of judgment or failure commonly associated with traditional assessments.
  3. Facilitated Exploration: The visual and tactile nature of card sorting encourages clients to explore their thoughts and feelings in a structured yet non-intimidating manner. They can experiment with different combinations of cards without fear of being wrong, leading to better insights and revelations.
  4. Conversation Starter: The act of sorting cards naturally encourages discussions between the career professional and the client. As clients share why they choose certain cards over others, professionals gain valuable insights into what they’re thinking about, their aspirations, and concerns.
  5. Encourage Self-Reflection: Sorting through the cards requires clients to consider their skills, values, and interests with their careers. This self-exploration process gives them a deeper understanding of themselves and their careers.
  6. Focus on Strengths: Rather than highlighting weaknesses or what’s missing, card sort like the Values & Skills Assessment Cards emphasize clients’ strengths, values, and aspirations. This positive framing creates a supportive environment where clients feel validated and empowered to pursue paths aligned with their true selves.
  7. Client-Centered Approach: Card sort assessments empower clients to take control of the counselling process. By letting clients freely share their thoughts and preferences, it shows them that their independence and uniqueness is respected. This helps build trust and a feeling of safety.

When traditional assessments just don’t work.

While traditional assessments have their good points, they may not always resonate with clients; results are only as good as the answers that clients give:

  1. Test Anxiety: Some clients may experience anxiety or apprehension when faced with formal tests, affecting their ability to accurately express their interests and preferences.
  2. Previous Experiences: Clients who have had negative experiences with previous assessments or career decisions may be hesitant to engage with similar tools, leaving them wondering why the one in front of them will be different when it looks the same.
  3. Lack of Trust: Building trust between the career professional and the client is essential for good work to be done. Traditional assessments can feel impersonal, or not leave room for variation, leading to skepticism or reluctance to share openly.

When working with clients, the goal is not just providing answers, but to facilitate meaningful conversations and self-discovery… It’s the superpower of the entire career development sector.  Card sort career assessments are another way to make this happen; by creating a safe, relaxed environment where clients can explore their career aspirations with confidence. Traditional career assessments still have their place for lots of clients, and can still be the better choice; that’s why it’s important to Always Assess the Assessment. Regardless of which tools you use, it’s all about being able to empower clients to unlock new possibilities on their career development journeys.

Brad Whitehorn

Brad Whitehorn – BA, CCDP is the Associate Director at CLSR Inc.  He was thrown into the career development field headfirst after completing a Communications degree in 2005, and hasn’t looked back!  Since then, Brad has worked on the development, implementation and certification for various career and personality assessments (including Personality Dimensions®), making sure that Career Development Practitioners get the right tools to best serve their clients.