Author Archive for Dean DeGroot

“Who’s Steering Your Ship?” How to Build Career Confidence and Make Decisions that Move You in the Right Direction

Whether you’re just getting started in your career or thinking about working after retirement, it’s great to feel confident about who you are and where you’re going. What are your strengths and how will you use them? What’s your next career destination, and how will you get there? What decisions will you need to make to keep moving in the right direction? How will you navigate through those chaotic and uncertain elements life and work inevitably present? Most importantly, how will you stay in control?

A big part of career confidence is self-awareness: knowing and being comfortable with who you are and what you want to do, and using that knowledge to inform the decisions you make about your life and career. Too often, however, other voices—often well-meaning—get in the way of our progress. One of these voices may even be our own, and this often takes the form of comparing ourselves to others who have achieved what we think we should have achieved, and finding ourselves wanting!

In this article, we’ll tackle a key factor that can boost your career confidence, and that’s the knowledge you can gain through career assessment, especially through formal career assessment instruments. These assessments compare you with others in an objective way that reveals your uniqueness and the special value you bring to the world—not in a self-defeating way like your own, more subjective comparisons might. We’ll also discuss how you can take ownership of assessment results, and in doing so boost both your self-confidence and your ability to make sound decisions.

Along the way, you’ll meet Kyle, a talented young client of mine who was full of youthful self-confidence but lacked the insight he needed to make what he felt would be “the right decision” for the next stage of his career. As it turns out, assessment was just what he needed to get where he needed to be!

The Journey from Knowledge to Action

To understand how career assessment can boost your own career confidence and help you make better decisions, it’s useful to understand the overall goals of career assessment and how it works in practice. So with that in mind, we’ll look at the following:

  • I’ll provide a brief overview of my own career assessment process, which I’ve built over thirty years as a licensed psychologist and career counselor, coach and consultant.
  • I’ll explain how I used the process with Kyle, and how the knowledge he gained led to a successful transition from underemployment to the start of a promising new career.
  • We’ll conclude by looking how assessment aids in decision-making, not just at the time of assessment but throughout your career.

As you think about career assessment, a key takeaway is that it’s not a one-and-done activity in which you receive results and are then left on your own to decide what to make of them. Career assessment is a process in which you invest time to work with a career counselor or coach, receive their insights on what those results mean, and then—and this is the critical part—apply your own self-knowledge and goals to decide how you’ll use the results in your career.

Taking Ownership of Assessment Results

My career assessment process consists of three basic elements—a structured interview, formal career assessment instruments, and self-assessment worksheets. Having these elements allows me to gather objective information (from the career assessment instruments) and more subjective information (from the structured interview and self-assessment worksheets).

The secret is in the order of these elements. I almost always conduct the structured interview, for which I draw from a set of 21 standard questions, before administering any formal assessments. Its purpose is to help me get to know the client by asking a range of broad and probing questions. After I’ve administered formal assessments and shared the results with my client, I provide them with worksheets on which they record key observations, such as what they perceive to be their strengths, weaknesses, career goals and so on based on their own self-knowledge and the work we’ve done together.

The self-assessment worksheets are a critical part of my process because they allow my client to sort out what’s most important to them in the findings. Career assessment findings can run to 40 or 50 pages, so I want my client to zero in what most resonates with them. Completing the worksheets also has the effect of having the client take ownership, which is less likely to happen when they’re a passive recipient of the results. Instead, they remain fully in control and engaged.

Examples of structured interview questions: “Tell me about a work experience that was memorable for you. Why was it memorable?” “What value do you bring to the world? What value do you want to bring to the world?” “What are three words that would best describe you as a person?” What’s great about these questions, many of which are based on positive psychology, is that they start to build confidence by having clients recall successful projects or experiences.

Career assessment instruments: My core set of instruments includes the California Psychological Inventory (CPI); Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation-Behavior assessment (FIRO-B); Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI); Sixteen Personality Factors Questionnaire (16PF); and the Strong Interest Inventory (Strong). When two or more of these instruments are used together, strong themes or patterns may emerge, such as a client’s suitability and potential for leading others.

Self-assessment worksheets: To help clients sort and prioritize their assessment results, I developed the Career Ingredients Summary Sheet, Career and Job Compatability Matrix, and Game Plan. The summary sheet includes several sections for clients to complete, including strengths, weaknesses, career goals, personal goals, and desired outcomes. The matrix allows a client to explore work environments that might be appealing, including preferred industries and roles, types of people they want to work with, and other factors. Finally, the game plan invites clients to record career criteria for what they need to thrive in their work in three categories: What, Where, and Who. Clients also record action steps to start the process of fulfilling these criteria.

From Career Confusion to Career Confidence: Kyle’s Story

Kyle,* twenty-six when he approached me for help, was full of self-confidence and potential. When I interviewed him, he described himself as hard-working and competitive, and he admired people who had built their own businesses. He had also earned a degree in business, a sign that he was serious about a career in the corporate and business world. But the reality of his career was another story: Since graduation, Kyle had held only low-paying fast-food and retail jobs, none of which had offered him much in the way of career development or training opportunities.

As I got to know Kyle during the interview, I quickly discovered that despite his general self-confidence and positive attitude, he was suffering from considerable confusion about what to do next. While he knew what he didn’t want, he wasn’t at all clear at what he wanted to do, or could do. And, given his social nature—Kyle was an extrovert who enjoyed reaching out to others for advice—he was easily influenced by other people’s ideas and suggestions, as well as all manner of opportunities that looked attractive, at least on the surface. I call this the “in search of the shiniest object” syndrome.

Completing the career assessment process did wonders for boosting Kyle’s career confidence and focusing his efforts. Let’s look at that briefly.

Structured interview and follow-up work. I’ve touched on much of this above, noting his appreciation for business owners, for example. I also learned that Kyle had played college and high school sports, enjoyed helping and serving others, and loved to learn. In addition, I want to stress here Kyle’s hard work and positive attitude when it came to doing the assessment work we decided to pursue after the interview. He completed his formal assessments promptly and with enthusiasm, and he was also fully engaged and conscientious in completing his self-assessment worksheets.

Formal assessment results. Overall, Kyle’s results painted a picture of someone well-suited for demanding and ambitious work in the business world—work which also happened to require working closely and effectively with people. His MBTI indicated that he was an ENTJ (extraverted, intuitive, thinking, judging). His highest themes on the Strong were Enterprising, Social, and Conventional. On the Strong Basic Interests scale, he ranked high in Sales. His FIRO-B indicated both high Inclusion and high Affection, both positive results for sales and other people-oriented jobs. Finally, on the 16PF, Kyle’s top themes included many related to business and enterprise, including sales, advertising, and marketing.

Self-assessment worksheets. On his Career Ingredients Summary Sheet, Kyle listed “sales and collaboration” as strengths. He was also looking for an environment that was “caring, challenging, and competitive.” Possible occupations included hospital administrator, sales associate and recruiter. On the Career and Job Compatibility Matrix, Kyle checked “manager,” “collaborator,” “partner,” and “implementor” as preferred roles; and his preferred environment was “competitive,” “challenge/results oriented,” and “respectful.” When completing his game plan, Kyle included many of these factors in the What, Where, and Who sections of his plan.

As we discussed these results, it became clear to both Kyle and me that working as a recruiter might be a good role for him and meet many of his career and lifestyle needs. I suggested he connect with a colleague of mine with extensive experience in corporate recruiting. After consulting with my colleague, Kyle was certain that recruiting was the route he should take, and within two months, he was hired by a leading national recruiting firm.

*My client’s name and other details have been changed to maintain confidentiality.

Career Assessment and Decision-Making

Career confidence includes having the information you need to make informed decisions about your career, both now and in the future. Once you’ve been through a thorough career assessment process and completed your worksheets, as I’ve described above and illustrated with Kyle, you’ll have a solid reference point for making decisions. Let’s quickly recap the key benefits of the kind of integrated career assessment process I’ve described:

  • It allows for both subjective and objective information, which you need to make informed decisions. The combination of structured interview, formal career assessment instruments, and self-assessment worksheets supplies a rich array of data to ponder, analyze, and make sense of.
  • Self-assessment work fosters ownership and control of assessment data, which is essential for career confidence and the ability to make sound decisions. To build your self-confidence and boost your decision-making capabilities, you need to apply what you’ve learned.
  • Once you’ve processed assessment data into manageable form through self-assessment, you have a solid reference you can count on to make further decisions as opportunities arise. You’ll know what you need to thrive in your career and what steps to take to get there.

Kyle’s journey from being underemployed to finding a great position as a recruiter illustrates the power of career assessment. Kyle went from being confused and directionless to finding his “True North.” Should he decide to change direction to something new, he’ll have his self-assessment documents as a guide to what he deemed was most important to him. He’ll be the one steering his ship.

Learn More About Career Assessment

If you’re interested in learning more about how career assessment can help you build your career confidence and take your next steps, I’d love to help! Feel free to contact me through LinkedIn or through my website at

If you’re a career counselor, coach, or other career professional interested in career assessment, you may be interested in my book, Game Plan: An Insider’s Guide to Effective Career Assessment, co-authored by @Liz Willis, who also collaborated on this article.

You can find out more about the book—and download a free chapter on specializing in career assessment—at

Using Career Assessment to Help Bullied Clients


By Dean R. DeGroot and Liz Willis





Workplace bullying is a common practice that harms employees and organizations. By employing career assessment strategies, career practitioners can increase both their own and clients’ understanding of workplace bullying dynamics. This benefits clients by enhancing their self-awareness and hope for the future.


The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) defines workplace bullying as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment by one or more employees or an employee: abusive conduct that takes the form of verbal abuse; or behaviors perceived as threatening, intimidating, or humiliating; work sabotage; or in some combination of the above” (WBI, n.d., para. 1).

According to WBI’s latest national survey, an estimated 48.6 million Americans are bullied at work (Namie, 2021). Thirty percent reported that they had experienced bullying directly at work, up 57% from 2017. Of those who are bullied, 67% risk losing their jobs, while bullies often remain unscathed. Only 23% of perpetrators experienced any kind of consequences because of their actions: punishment, termination, or being forced to quit, for example (Namie, 2021).

Workplace bullying is harmful to both employees and organizations. Targets of bullying suffer from both physical and mental health issues (Futterman, 2004). In organizations where bullying goes unchecked, damage can happen in the form of turnover, absenteeism, and the loss of high performers who leave such environments (Sutton, 2007).

When bullied employees show up as career clients—whether they present as being bullied initially or their experience with bullying emerges gradually over the course of an engagement—career assessment can shed considerable light on their situation and offer hope for a better future.

Strategies for gathering assessment data

Each component of the career assessment process, from the initial interview and formal assessment instruments, to homework and follow-up discussion, plays an important role in helping bullied clients (DeGroot & Willis, 2022).

The first two strategies below are useful when working with any client and can be particularly helpful in revealing potential vulnerabilities to bullying. The third strategy, for clients who present as being bullied, is an effective way to gather additional useful data.

  • When interviewing clients, explore their attitudes toward work

When both career counselors and clients understand clients’ motivations, career choices they have made, and their overall attitudes toward work, it can aid in identifying those vulnerable to bullying. For example, clients who have been bullied are often naive when it comes to office politics and corporate culture.  This can make them easy targets, whether they are timid, shy, or more outgoing. Clients who are overly focused on their work and less on their interactions with others may also be vulnerable to bullying.


  • Use assessment instruments to explore client vulnerability

Some assessments measure traits related to bullying. For example, the California Psychological Inventory (CPI) measures a personality factor called “Dominance,” which concerns the need for power and influence over others. Although those scoring low on dominance won’t necessarily be bullied, and those scoring high won’t necessarily be bullies, the potential is there. In fact, bullying often occurs when people with high and low dominance work together—usually, but not always, in a boss/subordinate relationship. The Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation-Behavior (FIRO-B) assessment and 16PF (Sixteen Personality Factors) questionnaire are also useful for exploring bullying. Both the CPI and 16PF have high validity and reliability coefficients (Wood & Hays, 2013).

Discuss the client’s understanding of the bullying situation they’re experiencing, and find out what they have done about it

  • Because they are often feeling traumatized and distracted, bullied clients are usually not ready to discuss career issues objectively. However, it is important to explore the bullying situation. Why do they think the bullying happened? What have they done about it? Have they approached their employer or the Human Resources (HR) department? Asking these questions can help determine what interventions are needed, and it can also give additional insights on the client—how they handle stress and adversity, the strength of their network, and so on.

In addition to providing vital career assessment services, career practitioners can play an important partnership and support role with bullied clients. For example, if a client is not sure what steps to take, the career practitioner can help them navigate that process, including working with HR. Benefits of understanding bullying for clients

Because assessment helps clients better understand what is happening when they are being bullied or treated disrespectfully, it has several benefits, including:

  • More positive thinking. Bullied clients often feel down on themselves and hopeless and may make statements such as: “I’m a victim and a loser!” “Why does this happen to me all the time?” “I feel like some kind of punching bag.” However, once they understand what is causing the bullying—that certain dynamics and factors are at play, many of which are beyond their control—they tend to feel more hopeful and positive.
  • Empowerment. Understanding these dynamics can be truly empowering. It can create a pathway to learning new behaviors and taking on different roles. For example, if a bullied client tends to think that it is “not nice” to push back, they may learn that being more assertive and setting boundaries is exactly what is needed to reduce the frequency of the bullying or disrespectful behavior they are experiencing.
  • Awareness of office politics. Most employees focus on their skills, knowledge, and abilities, and equate career success with doing better work. Learning how their personality, interests, and style relate to their behavior and interactions with others helps them see that their work is part of the larger organizational culture. If they want to work well with others, they may need to learn to negotiate the norms and styles of that environment—or find another environment more conducive to their needs.

Facing the future career practitioners and their clients must tackle workplace bullying head-on. Career assessment can help by revealing the dynamics of bullying and giving clients the tools needed to face the future with confidence.




DeGroot, D. & Willis, L. (2022). Game plan: An insider’s guide to effective career assessment.

Innerview Press LLP, Minneapolis, MN


Futterman, S. (2004). When you work for a bully: Assessing your options and taking action.

Croce Publishing Group, LLC, New Jersey


Namie, G. (2021). 2021 WBI workplace bullying survey.       wbi-survey/


Sutton, R. (2007). The no asshole rule: Building a civilized workplace and surviving one that

isn’t. Warner Business Books, New York


Wood, C. & Hays, D. G. (2013). A counselor’s guide to career assessment instruments, sixth

6th ed. National Career Development Association, Broken Arrow, OK


Workplace Bullying Institute. (n.d.). What is workplace bullying?. Retrieved September 14, 2022 from                                


Dean R. DeGroot is a licensed psychologist and business consultant who has helped individuals and organizations navigate change through career assessment and other services for over thirty years. He has a particular interest in workplace dynamics, including job fit, job satisfaction, bullying and disrespectful behavior. Dean holds a master’s degree in behavior analysis and therapy from Southern Illinois University. He is past president of the Minnesota Career Development Association and received the Marty Dockman Merit Award and Jules Kerlan Outstanding Achievement Award for his contributions to the profession. You can reach him at


Liz Willis is a writer and editor with an interest in career development and the obstacles that keep people from realizing their dreams. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Alberta and a master’s degree in library and information science from Western University. You can reach her at


The article, “Using Career Assessment to Help Bullied Clients”, by Dean R. DeGroot and Liz Willis, originally appeared in NCDA’s web magazine, Career Convergence, at Copyright  October 2022. Reprinted with permission.



Simple Questions: Surprising Answers

The right interview questions can help you really get to know your clients. More than you might think.

In my work with career clients, I have found it useful to have a set of standard questions—a structured interview— that I ask most clients in our first session. My structured interview currently consists of 21 questions in two categories: Work-Related and Personal.

At the end of my Personal questions list is this simple question: “What has been a great movie or book that has impacted you? Why?

When I ask clients this question, I learn a lot about their values and motivations. Often, too, the characters in books and movies behave in a way that’s consistent with my clients’ preferences or philosophy of life.

Here’s a small sampling of client answers:*

Atlas Shrugged

The Bible

Man’s Search for Meaning

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

American Beauty

The Lord of the Rings

Saving Private Ryan

The Shawshank Redemption

Star Wars (Original, 1977)

As I’ve said, the answers can tell me a lot about clients’ values, motivation, preferences and philosophy of life. The power of this question also relates to story. Often the stories we’re attracted to in some way relate to our own struggles. Sometimes they suggest options we hadn’t considered.

By their nature, stories can also provide a kind of closure or resolution, which can be comforting when our own stories are incomplete—when they’re still being “composed” as our lives progress.

Where the Magic Happens: Digging Deeper into Client Responses

As you may know from your own experience interviewing clients, the magic often happens in the follow-up—what both you and the client learn from the client’s answers and your subsequent discussion.

Let’s consider a few examples from the list above. Man’s Search for Meaning, a book by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankel, is all about the resilience of the human spirit under adversity. Discussing this book with a client can help them articulate and overcome their own obstacles, as well as shed light on their values, philosophy of life, and even spirituality.

The Shawshank Redemption brings hope in the face of adversity. Discussing it, and movies like it, can yield important insights about how clients view themselves and others, as well as bring to light a client’s experience of injustice.

Clients’ answers to this question can also reveal events or issues happening in their lives that might otherwise go unmentioned. For example, a client in his fifties who cited the movie American Beauty was having a mid-life crisis and helping a friend through his. I likely never would have discovered this had I not asked the question.

Finally, clients’ answers to this question can provide you with clues as to how they like to learn. For example, clients citing books may love to read, and that can help suggest options when assigning them homework.

Learn More About the Value of the Structured Interview

In Game Plan: An Insider’s Guide to Effective Career Assessment, I go deeper into my structured interview and how it can open up clients—and the career counselors and coaches who work with them—to new insights and opportunities.

I also explain how, when used properly, a structured interview gives you more control over your first session with clients and ensures you get useful information early on in the process.

The book includes the full 21 questions, as well as numerous examples of client answers. For example, in the client case studies, in a section called “Clues from the Structured Interview,” I show how answers to a few key questions offered major insights.

One of my structured interview questions asks clients what job duties or responsibilities were (or are) most or least favorite. A client who had been fired repeatedly from manager positions had an interesting answer:

His favorite duties? “Troubleshooting and engineering work”

His least favorite duties? “Supervising others and dealing with ‘people stuff’”

A major clue to why managing people didn’t suit him!

Questions about movies and books or favorite job duties may seem mundane on the surface. But the answers to these questions can lead to a rich array of insights which, when combined with formal assessment results and additional analysis, give hope and direction to clients.

*If you’d like to see a list of the other books and movies my clients have cited in their answers, contact me at and I’ll send you my complete list.

Game Plan: An Insider’s Guide to Effective Career Assessment, co-authored with writer and editor Liz Willis, was published in January 2022. You can read more about the book, including testimonials from career assessment professionals, at

What’s Your Game Plan? Assessment Could Hold the Answer.

In my work with clients, I strive to help them answer the following basic questions: What kind of work do you want to do? Where do you want to do it? With whom do you want to work? I call these questions, collectively, a game plan.

However, the game plan I use in my process is not a plan in the classic sense. Rather, it’s a set of criteria for what you need to thrive in your work, along with a list of action steps that encourage you to bring these criteria into reality.

Let’s say my client wants to be a web design consultant (the What) working as an independent from home (the Where) with smaller companies and entrepreneurs (the Who). Possible action steps might be getting certified in web development software or seeking small-business training.

Of course, clients seldom have a clear game plan when they first come to see me. Instead, we get there through assessment—a structured interview, testing via relevant career assessment instruments, and further processing and discussion. The game plan then serves as a handy tool for capturing insights gained during the assessment process.

Career Counselors and Coaches Need Game Plans Too!

As career development professionals, we’re no different from our clients. We need to find a path that’s right for us, including knowing the skills or services what we want to offer, the work environment that feels right to us, and the type of clients we feel most comfortable serving.

In Game Plan: An Insider’s Guide to Effective Career Assessment (more on the book after this article), I put together my own game plan as an example—not so much to find a way forward as to affirm that I was still on track after 30+ years in the business.

Here are some highlights from my personal “What, Where, and Who” criteria (for my full game plan and game plans for my client Kevin and coauthor and collaborator Liz Willis, see chapter 8 in the book):

  • What. Analyze, implement, debrief assessment data. Counseling/coaching individuals in transition or those experiencing a loss. Presenting, facilitating or instructing groups on life/career topics. Work allows for a variety of functions and clientele.
  • Where. Private practice so I can control my schedule, variety, clientele, and type of work. Steady pace most of the time, but able to take on ‘crunch’ projects at times. Culture is open, respectful, with clear communication; nonpolitical in nature.
  • Who. People on the front lines, operations folks; individual contributors; some managers but few if any executives. Provide practical and tactical advice to people who are willing to try things out, follow through, and take ownership of issues that impact them.

Here are a few of the action steps I recorded for my plan: “Attend networking/professional organizations at least monthly. Find new speaking opportunities (aim for three a year), particularly related to career or bullying topics. Meet with Mastermind group each month for new/fresh perspectives.”

Because I’m currently comfortable with who I am and how I spend my time, my game plan criteria and action steps make sense for now. As I get closer to retirement, my game plan will undoubtedly change, and I’ll make adjustments accordingly.

The Link Between the Game Plan and Assessment

In putting together your game plan as a career development professional—especially if you’re new to the field—one of the most important decisions you’ll make is where you’re going to work. For me, private practice is ideal, but you may prefer the support and social network of a school, university, consulting firm, or government agency.

The “Where,” of course, also drives the “What” and the “Who” to some extent. What function you want to play? Do you want to be an independent, part of a team, or a leader or manager? Do you want to work with students in a school or university, or individual clients in private practice? Perhaps a consulting firm would be a better fit for you. Most importantly, what kind of clients would you be most effective serving?

Assessment can help you answer these questions.

Here’s an example from my own career. One of my favorite assessment instruments—one that I’ve had myself tested in several times over the years—is the California Psychological Inventory (CPI). The CPI is particularly useful for measuring leadership potential. While my own leadership potential has risen gradually over time, I prefer to advise and support others rather than lead or supervise them. This fits perfectly with my role as a career counselor, coach, and consultant.

To see how this plays out in my game plan, consider the second statement I make under “Who,” above: “Provide practical and tactical advice to people who are willing to try things out, follow through, and take ownership of issues that impact them.”

The bottom line: I enjoy supporting others who are willing to take responsibility for themselves. But I refuse to hold their hand or boss them around! This is in keeping with both my CPI results and results from other instruments that measure leadership in some way.

Once you find congruence between your game plan and what you’ve learned about yourself through assessment, not only will you be on your way to greater career success, you’ll also enjoy peace of mind knowing you’re pursuing something you’re well suited for.


If you’re new to career counseling and coaching and want to learn more about assessment, my new book, Game Plan: An Insider’s Guide to Effective Career Assessment, co-authored with writer and editor Liz Willis, is available to order from Amazon or your favorite book retailer. Part 1 of the book, Assessing Yourself and Your Career, is geared toward those new to the field, or working career counselors and coaches interested in adding more comprehensive assessment services to their offerings. It’s full of tips and strategies on specializing in assessment, assessing your strengths, and building your network—all from the perspective of someone who’s been there and overcome the hurdles.

The Great Resignation: A Great Time for Career Assessment

Career assessment—interviewing clients, testing them, and helping them define who they are and how they can best use their strengths in the workplace and beyond—is a valuable service we offer as career development professionals. And with the Great Resignation resulting in large numbers of people quitting their jobs and seeking new career opportunities, we’re at a moment when assessment services are more valuable than ever.

Let’s look at some of the numbers being reported on resignations, the likelihood of resignations, and movement towards self-employment.

4.5 million workers voluntarily quit their jobs in November 2021, 4.3 million in December 2021 (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2/1/2022).

40 percent of employees surveyed answered “somewhat likely,” “likely,” “very likely,” or “certain” when asked to consider the likelihood that they would leave their jobs within the next three to six months (“Great Attrition or Great Attraction: The Choice is Yours,”, 9/8/21).

9.44 million. That’s the number of self-employed estimated by the BLS, 500,000 more than at the start of the pandemic (“New Data Finally Shows Why People Are Quitting Their Jobs. It’s Definitely Not Because They’re Lazy,”

According to McKinsey, to attract and retain employees, companies often offer “quick fixes” in the form of bonuses, wage increases, and other material perks. But what employees really want is “a renewed and revised sense of purpose in their work”—a greater sense of connection, identity, and meaning. Similarly, according to Inc., the increase in the number of self-employed suggests that people are looking for more control and flexibility in their work.

How Career Assessment Can Help Us Meet This Moment

Over the last 30+ years, I’ve helped hundreds of clients fine-tune their resumes, gain greater confidence in selling themselves in interviews, and become more effective networkers. However, helping people through difficult transitions is at the core of what I do. And seldom do these transitions involve only career change or job search. Often other major life changes are happening at the same time—a new baby, a death in the family, a major illness, marriage, divorce, graduation, a new business.

When we add the Great Resignation with all its upheaval to these life events, we have a level of change occurring in the workforce we haven’t seen in decades. And when people are going through this degree of change and transition, some kind of rethinking and reevaluation is almost always needed. That’s where career assessment comes in.

First, an effective interview can unearth dreams, motivations, and patterns that shed light on what clients really want, and hint at what might be a better fit for them. When combined with other assessment components and techniques, the interview can provide clients with new insights and awaken them to new possibilities.

Second, a battery of tests, or formal assessments, can help clients discover—or reaffirm—objective facts about their interests, personality, personal preferences, and social needs, and this can often help inform their next career move or development opportunity.

Third, focused discussion and special tools can help clients “process” the information they’ve gained from assessment and turn it into a concrete plan of action. Nothing is more useless than assessment that leaves our clients unenlightened and unsure of their next steps.

Let’s Be More Intentional About Our Careers

When I interview clients, I always ask them how they ended up in the field they’re in. Several years ago I analyzed the responses of over 300 clients to this question, and I learned that 58% had arrived at their current work by happenstance—in other words, by following a pathway they had not consciously chose. Not surprisingly, that often led to career disappointment!

Today, with the Great Resignation putting more people in the driver’s seat, many are in a position to be more selective and calculated in their approach to their own career development and job searching. For clients who come to us for guidance, that’s where career assessment can be invaluable.

When our clients know what’s important to them, what motivates them, and what kind of careers and work environments best fit their needs, they’re able to create a more meaningful plan of action. They’re able to move forward with more vigor, with the fuel they need to get to their next opportunity.

Finally, career assessment is not just for our clients, it’s for us as career development professionals as well. In our zeal to help others, we often forget to attend to our own career needs. We, too, need to know what’s most important to us, what motivates us most in working with clients, and what kind of work best fits our interests and strengths. The Great Resignation has opened up unprecedented opportunities for all of us. Let’s not waste them!

Dean R. DeGroot is a licensed psychologist career consultant and owner of Innerview Consulting. His efforts have allowed others to gain new tools and insights and explore new possibilities for social and career connection. Dean has published journal articles in the UK on career practices. Recently he launched the book “Game Plan:  An Insider’s Guide to Effective Career Assessment”, along with his co-author, Liz Willis.

Three Strategies for Avoiding Career Isolation

If you’re feeling alone and isolated, chances are you need to reach out more to others. Here are three powerful ways to connect.

Do you ever feel like you’re cut off from the information you need to advance your career? That you’re
completely alone in your career quest or job search? What you’re experiencing is career isolation, and if
you don’t guard against it, it can keep you permanently on the other side of success.
Fortunately, you do not have to face the career search alone. There are many ways to connect with
others that can lead to new friendships and new career possibilities. Three proven ways are expanding
your network, finding a mentor, and forming a success team or advisory committee.

Expand your Network

Reaching out to others through networking is a proven way to expand your horizons and avoid career
isolation. When you think about networking, don’t just think about your job search. Think about all
aspects of your life—career, friendships, learning, spiritual growth, recreation, family, and community.
This is your “circle of connection.”
Now, think about ways you can start to connect in these areas of your life, and write them down. As you
do this, you will find that there is some overlap. For example, you may decide you want to make new
contacts in your field and also gain some key skills to revitalize your career. Joining a professional
association can meet both these needs, and also result in new friendships.
Perhaps the best networking resource I’ve seen in recent years is the book The 20-Minute Networking
Meeting. Marcia Ballinger with Nathan Perez provide a compact, step-by-step process for not only being
a more effective meeting manager but someone able to turn their network contacts into great
advocates or “evangelists” for your campaign.

Find a Mentor

When you’re in career transition, a good mentor can smooth the way by helping you identify your
strengths, point out opportunities you may have overlooked, and help you strategize your next steps. A
mentor can also help you distinguish “pie in the sky” from reality—invaluable information when you’re
on the outside looking in.
The keys to finding the right mentor are communication and trust. You should be able to discuss career
issues openly and honestly. So, start with a discussion about what the two of you need, and expect to
get, from the relationship. While you may have different personal styles, it’s important that you have
common interests and are comfortable working together.
Many professional organizations create mentoring-protégé opportunities. Today, it’s all about
development and quickly gaining real-world experience. A mentor may give you this kind of boost.

Form a Success Team

Another valuable strategy is forming a success team or advisory committee. In their book Teamworks!,
Barbara Sher and Annie Gottlieb describe the process of setting up a group of peers who can help each
other with brainstorming and problem-solving on career and other life issues.
Success teams are not only a way to get out and meet others, they are also an excellent opportunity to
develop your own leadership and mentoring abilities. In success teams, everyone benefits, because
many heads are put together to solve problems and offer solutions. Such teams are the ultimate
antidote to career isolation. They can also be “the family you wish you had,” providing support and
comfort when you’re discouraged or under stress.
Don’t let career isolation keep you from success when help is readily available. Use one or all of the
above strategies to reach out to others, and both your career prospects, and your life in general, will

Dean R. DeGroot is a licensed psychologist career consultant and owner of Innerview Consulting. His efforts have allowed others to gain new tools and insights and explore new possibilities for social and career connection. Dean possesses a master’s degree in Behavior Analysis & Therapy from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He has been involved in post-graduate work at the Carlson School of Management located at the University of Minnesota. Dean has published journal articles in the UK on career practices. He is also Past President of the Minnesota Career Development Association (MCDA).

Getting Noticed in the Employment Market

Focus your energy, expand your network, improve your presentation—and watch your job search take off.

Although we currently have a job market where there are more openings than job applicants, there’s always a challenge of getting noticed for opportunities that you wish to get noticed for. Here are three ways to ensure you’re moving forward and not just spinning your wheels.

Find a Focus for Your Search

As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? Do you know, for example, what your job target is? What skills, abilities, values, and interests you bring to a position? What demand there is for the work you want to do? An effective search demands focus.
To understand yourself better, do a career self-assessment, take time to reflect on past
accomplishments, and write down things you’re passionate about. If you’re not good at this kind of self-reflection, ask a trusted friend, family member, or colleague for feedback. What do they see as your strengths, weaknesses, and possible roles? This may be a difficult but usually beneficial discussion.

Some government agencies can also provide resources for you job search, such as this link from the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED):

To learn more about a job target or current trends in the job market, commit to doing some serious research. Doing research of some kind is imperative. Online articles from magazine or newspapers sources, blog posts at various career sites, and even going to the library can still be a valuable place to find directories on industries and professional organizations.

If you’re looking for employment trends, here are some great links to consider:

Occupational Outlook Handbook:

Career One Stop:


Reach Out through Networking

If you’re isolated from others, your job search will be that much slower. If you don’t currently have a network, don’t despair. Start by asking your friends, family, or colleagues for help or referrals. This will give your job search some much-needed momentum.
In addition, take advantage of job transition groups in your community. These groups, which meet at work centers, libraries, and other venues, allow you meet others with similar goals, share ideas, and start building your network. Even during the Covid 19 pandemic, various job transition groups have met virtually or in person. Here are two sites to consider:

Wooddale Church has provided transition/search resources for decades:

Career Force has job support groups (MN):

Perhaps the best networking resource I’ve seen in recent years is the book “The 20-Minute Networking Meeting”. Marcia Ballinger with Nathan Perez provide a compact, step-by-step process for staying focused in your networking meeting and winning people over as advocates of your search efforts.

Polish Your Presentation

As you start to get out there and interact with others, the way you describe yourself and what you offer becomes critical to your success. Two aspects of your presentation to be particularly aware of: articulating your key marketing points and polishing your nonverbal presentation.
To articulate your key marketing points effectively, you must have a clear idea of what you offer and how you’re different. This is where the focus mentioned earlier is critical. Know what value you bring that distinguishes you from the competition, and be able to communicate it concisely. Today, individuals need to understand the concept of “brand”, whether it’s in an interpersonal interaction or on your LinkedIn webpage. William Arruda & Kirsten Dixson illustrate the power of standing out in their book “Career Distinction: Stand Out by Building Your Brand.” As you interact with others during networking and at interviews, how you look, smile, sit, stand, and
make eye contact can all have a major impact. In addition, a positive attitude, confident voice, and good listening skills help drive your message and clinch that all-important interview.

If you’re a professional, most everyone uses LinkedIn to standout –a business/professional version of Facebook is how I describe to people unfamiliar with the site. According to Maddy Osman of the Kinsta Blog (February 17, 2020), there are nearly 740 million LinkedIn members across 200 countries, by far the best social network for lead generation that exists. People get noticed by writing articles/posts, making comments on others’ posts, and they can give you the appearance of being a “thought leader” or at least a capable expert. Each LinkedIn member provides a unique profile and this is where you can describe your strengths and “brand”. This will allow others to see what you “bring to the table”.

Regardless of good or bad market conditions, being focused, connected, and polished in your presentation, will enable you to be in a better position to get noticed and land the job that’s right for you.

Dean R. DeGroot is a licensed psychologist career consultant and owner of Innerview Consulting. His efforts have allowed others to gain new tools and insights and explore new possibilities for social and career connection. Dean has published journal articles in the UK on career practices. Recently he launched the book “Game Plan:  An Insider’s Guide to Effective Career Assessment”, along with his co-author, Liz Willis.

Five Steps for Discovering Your Personal Place

A key secret to career success is to discover who you really are and where you belong in life and work. Learn how.

Are you living out someone else’s idea of what you should be doing? Perhaps you’re stuck in a career
you worked hard at but that no longer makes you happy. Or maybe there’s something you’d really like
to do with your life, but the way you currently spend your days has no relation to that goal.
Finding your personal place is about living up to your potential. Below are five steps to get you moving in
that direction. By helping you see new possibilities and, in some cases, moving you outside your comfort
zone, these steps move you closer to your personal place:

  • Start with a career assessment. Trapped in a job that’s wrong for you? If so, you may not know
    your real strengths. By providing you with an objective overview of your aptitudes, personality,
    interests, and motivations, a career assessment helps you see yourself in a positive new light.
  • Tap into the wisdom of others. In their book Success Teams, Barbara Sher and Annie Gottlieb
    suggest forming a group of peers to give each other feedback on career and other issues. Success
    teams can help by challenging your beliefs, broadening your perspectives, and sharing invaluable
  • Test-drive a possible career. Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? Give it a try! In
    Working Identities: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing your Career, Herminia Ibarra argues
    that you can’t just think your way to a new career, you need to take action.
  • Get a reality check. It’s easy to spend our days in a fog, thinking we’re getting somewhere but
    really just spinning our wheels. A reality team—your success team or other objective advisors—can
    help you determine if what you’re doing now will get you to where you want to be.
  •  Consider your calling(s). As Greg Levoy explains in Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic
    Life, callings are those intuitive messages that come to us in dreams, longings, and random
    thoughts. If we listen closely, they can tell us important things about our place.
    As you can see, the ideas above—assessing your strengths, reaching out to others, trying new things,
    listening to your intuition—all involve increasing your awareness in some way. If you combine that new
    awareness with concrete goals and purposeful action, you’re sure to arrive at the place you’re meant to

Dean R. DeGroot is a licensed psychologist career consultant and owner of Innerview Consulting. His efforts have
allowed others to gain new tools and insights and explore new possibilities for social and career connection. Dean
possesses a master’s degree in Behavior Analysis & Therapy from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He
has been involved in post-graduate work at the Carlson School of Management located at the University of
Minnesota. Dean has published journal articles in the UK on career practices. He is also Past President of the
Minnesota Career Development Association (MCDA).

Do You Have a Velveteen Career?

This poignant children’s tale can teach us much about discovering our authentic selves and making the most our lives.

In The Velveteen Rabbit, a young toy rabbit feels different and less valued—less real—than the other
toys in the boy’s nursery. But when the boy starts playing with him exclusively, the rabbit suddenly feels
loved and appreciated. Later, however, as the boy recovers from scarlet fever, the rabbit is discarded for
a newer, cleaner toy.

Luckily, a magic fairy rescues the rabbit from the trash pile and takes him to the meadow where the real
rabbits live. There, she transforms him into a live rabbit, and suddenly he’s able to run, jump, and play
just like the other rabbits. Finally he is real.

Career Lessons from The Velveteen Rabbit

In the current job market, it’s easy to feel like the rabbit. Maybe your company is going through a
“reorganization.” Just when you’re feeling settled and loved and respected, out to the trash pile you go,
replaced by a younger, fresher, less worn-out newcomer.
Like the rabbit, your task now is to become more “real”—to discover work you’re passionate about and
an environment that truely suits you.
Here are three suggestions to help you in your quest:

  • Learn what’s “real” for you. What will give you “hind legs”? A brand new career? A job that
    affirms your key values? Work that allows you more control or influence? Greater work/life
  • Ask for help when you need it. Tap your network. In his search for an identity, the rabbit
    learned from others along the way: the Skin Horse and other toys in the nursery, the boy, and
    the magic fairy.
  • Identify your true “clan.” What field or work environment makes most sense for you? The
    rabbit never forgot his experience with the boy. But when he joined the rabbits, he knew he had
    found his true home.

Unlike in the story of the velveteen rabbit, there won’t be a magic fairy to rescue you, so you’ll have to
engineer your own transformation. But you do have it within your power to learn what you’re made of.
And if you follow your passion and connect with others who share that passion, you, too, can become
more real.

Dean R. DeGroot is a licensed psychologist career consultant and owner of Innerview Consulting. His efforts have
allowed others to gain new tools and insights and explore new possibilities for social and career connection. Dean
possesses a master’s degree in Behavior Analysis & Therapy from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He
has been involved in post-graduate work at the Carlson School of Management located at the University of
Minnesota. Dean has published journal articles in the UK on career practices. He is also Past President of the
Minnesota Career Development Association (MCDA).

Bullying References and Resources

This list provides a great overview of resources on the subject of workplace bullying along with strategies and coping behaviors to survive.

  • Davenport, N., Schwartz, R.D., and Elliott, G.P. Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American
    Workplace. Civil Society Publishing, Collins, IA, 2005.
  • Futterman, S. When You Work for a Bully: Assessing Your Options & Taking Action. Croce
    Publishing Group, Leonia, NJ, 2004.
  • Garms, E. The Brain-Friendly Workplace: 5 Big Ideas From Neuroscience to Address
    Organizational Challenges. ASTD Press, 2014.
  • Kusy, M. & Holloway, E. Toxic Workplace! Managing Toxic Personalities and their Systems of
    Power. Jossey-Bass (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), San Francisco, CA, 2009.
  • Namie, G. & Namie, R. The Bully at Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your
    Dignity on the Job. Sourcebooks, Inc., Naperville, IL, 2nd Edition, 2009.
  • Namie, G. & Namie, R. The Bully-Free Workplace: Stop Jerks, Weasels, and Snakes from Killing
    Your Organization. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, 2011.
  • Rozakis, L & Rozakis, B. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Office Politics. Alpha Books, Indianapolis,
    IN, 1998.
  • Ryan, K.D. & Oestreich, D.K. Driving Fear Out of The Workplace. Jossey-Bass Publishers, San
    Francisco, 1991.
  • Seligman, M.E.P. Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. Pocket Books,
    New York, 1998.
  • Simmons, R. Odd Girl Out: The hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls. Harcourt Books, San
    Diego, CA, 2002.
  • Sutton, R. The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One that Isn’t.
    Warner Business Books, NY, NY, 2007.
  • Watkins, M. The First 90 Days. Harvard Business School Press, Boston, 2003.
  • Workplace Bullying Institute: