What Is Potential & How Is It Measured?

Aug 24, 2015

You’ve been told you have potential but what does that really mean?

What Is Potential?

We’re often told we have potential, which is basically another way of saying that there is evidence that it is possible you can perform a task, do a job or go far in a chosen career. As a graduate looking for that first job you may not be there yet but you show promise. Before you can achieve career success, and certainly before trying to sell yourself to an employer, you must determine what you are capable of. Defining your potential involves listing your strengths and skills and deciding how far you can go in your career by leveraging those advantages. Perhaps you need to engage in extra training or develop a new skill to complement your existing strengths and reach your career goals.

Reaching your potential is not the same as getting to the top. Sometimes we can be so intent on getting onto the career ladder and investing every effort in climbing to the top, that we forget why we chose that path in the first place. You may have risen to a responsible position in your organisation, with the accompanying financial rewards, but you still feel frustrated and unhappy in your job. So, when considering your potential, focus not just on your capacity for succeeding in a specific career path but also on your own personal view of success.

Defining Success for You

If you are experiencing second thoughts about your career path or are even wondering why you chose it in the first place, stop asking how to get to the top and examine whether you are reaching your potential instead. This involves taking a long hard look at your own personal situation and deciding what classifies as success for you, before planning how you are going to get there.

Recognise that managing your career is your responsibility and don’t blame family, teachers, or anybody else for your career choices. Now step back and assess your career so far. Consider when you were at your happiest at work and what aspects of your job give you most (and least) satisfaction. This assessment gives you the material to determine what factors are important for your career satisfaction. Now plan the course of action that will give you optimal career success.

Measuring Potential

Intelligence, personality, belief and attitude are key characteristics in measuring the potential of job candidates, team members, and anybody trying to figure out their career path. The usual way to measure and assess these kinds of traits is with psychometric tests, such as personality profiles, ability tests, and motivation surveys. The point of psychometric tests is that they attempt to deliver impartial judgments for attributes that are generally judged using subjective methods, including personal observation and direct questioning.

Psychometric Tests

For a psychometric test to be effective it must give you fair and accurate results every time it is administered. This means that the test must be standardised, which means that it must be based on results from a representative sample of the group who will be taking the test. You must also ensure that this standardised test is given in the same way every time. The test should deliver consistent results and should not be unduly affected by factors such as a candidate’s stress while taking the test. Possibly the most important factor, however, is that the test must be a valid one that measures what it was designed to measure.

Different Tests for Different Jobs

Recruiters can use psychometric tests to assess the personality, knowledge, and aptitude of job candidates. Those involved in career development and training can use such tests to enhance the skillsets and performance of existing staff and to encourage team building and development, as individuals who understand themselves better are better placed to establish positive workplace relationships.

The key to knowing your potential and thereby deciding on the right career path and job is to understand the skills, interests and drivers you have and where any gaps may lie.

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