Self-Employment Steps for Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors: Helping a Consumer Start a Business

Chapter 4:

Skills & Interest Assessments

Skill and interest assessments may be informal or formal.

Informal Assessments

While the Feasibility Study focuses on the proposed business, here attention is shifted to the potential business-person's skills and interests. These assessments are nonstandardized - the person being assessed is not measured against a scale or others who have taken the same test. A vocational evaluator or rehabilitation counselor can administer them, or the individual can self-assess. It is usually a self-discovery process. For example, a vocational evaluator and consumer might discuss the person's experience and education, skills and abilities, financial situation, likes and dislikes, current needs, desirable settings/locations, and need for additional education or training. The goal is to discover one or more possible business(es) to pursue. 

Michael LeBoeuf, author of The Perfect Business , describes a different process:

Step 1. Discover a person's passions, because passions motivate people. LeBoeuf asks a series of guided-discovery questions. 

Step 2. Ascertain a person's strengths. LeBoeuf presents a framework for this.

Step 3. Assess the marketability and income-potential of a person's passions and strengths.

Step 4. Read and learn all that is possible about the potential business(es).

Step 5. Focus on the business - Select one business, develop a mission statement, create a vision statement, and define reasons for getting into the business.

In their book,The Best Home Businesses for the 90s, Paul and Sarah Edwards say that "selecting a business from among the many that are viable requires finding a match between two things" a person's interests and capabilities and what people in the community will pay for. This match is vital to the business's success. They also point out the importance of a person enjoying his or her business, and of using "interests, talents, likes, and dislikes as a filter" for examining business opportunities. Their discovery process uses five exercises: 

1. The potential business owner identifies his or her:

  • Education and Experience
  • Hobbies, Enjoyable Activities, Particular Skills
  • Need to be Involved with Others
  • Desired Number of Working Hours per Week
  • Required Salary
  • Available Resources
  • Business Preferences (such as franchise vs. start-from-scratch) 

2. The potential business owner selects activities he or she likes to do from three categories:

  • Information-oriented Work
  • People-oriented Work
  • Thing-oriented Work

3. The individual makes two lists: 

  • Strongest Skills, Talents, Abilities, Capabilities, or Aptitudes
  • Subjects/Fields of Greatest Knowledge, Competency, Experience and Expertise

4. Each list is then shortened to three skills and three subjects.

5. The individual indicates income requirements, need for contact with others, desire to learn new skills, and amount of money required and available to start a business.

The results from these five exercises should be used to compare an individuals characteristics and preferences with those required by businesses under consideration.

Formal Assessments

There also are many formal assessment tools. Generally these are standardized questionnaires that measure the individual against a scale or others who have answered the questions in a certain way. Those listed here are primarily interest and skills inventories used to help someone identify one or more careers to pursue. For self-employment, these inventories identify a general career path, but do not usually identify a specific type of business to start. Although specific businesses are not identified, these inventories are very useful to help someone focus on one career path and explore the types of business opportunities on that path.

Some of these assessments must be administered and interpreted by an authorized test administrator. Many of these assessments may be available through vocational evaluators. Or you might contact your agency's Human Resources department for information on them. You are probably already familiar with many of these tools and use them with consumers for identifying potential careers. These assessments include the following:

Strong Interest Inventory: Assesses an individual's interests and compares them to people reporting satisfaction in a particular career. 

Career Assessment Inventory: Compares an individual's interests to people in occupations requiring two or fewer years of post-secondary education or training (similar to the Strong Interest Inventory). 

Campbell Interest and Skill Survey: Assesses interests and skills, or confidence in a particular skill. 

System of Interactive Guidance and Information: Computerized assessment tool includes a self-assessment, search of majors and occupations, specific information about required skills and preparation, help with career choices, and recommended further steps.

Career Occupational Preference System (COPSystem) Interest Inventory: Yields job activity interest scores based on 14 career clusters. It can be used in conjunction with:

Career Orientation Placement & Evaluation Survey measures personal values and increases career development self-awareness; and Career Ability Placement Survey measures mechanical and verbal reasoning, numerical ability, language usage, word knowledge and manual speed and dexterity.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: Indicates how an individual views events and makes decisions. The Myers-Briggs places people into one of 16 personality types and ranks them on extroversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving. James Reynierse (1997) compared Myers-Briggs samples of entrepreneurs and small business owners. He found that as a group:

  • Entrepreneurs exhibited relatively high rates of extroversion, intuition, and thinking,
  • Small-firm entrepreneurs had higher rates of perceiving;
  • Fast-growth entrepreneurs had higher rates of judging;
  • Small business owners exhibited relatively high rates of extroversion, sensing, thinking, and judging. 

July 1998, 1st Revision June 1999, 2nd Revision February 2001