Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Mary Ita Heffernan from Health Service Executive to give some advice for people considering this job:

Mary Ita Heffernan

Social Worker

Health Service Executive

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Mary Ita Heffernan

Whilst in secondary school, I changed my mind many a time regarding the career path I wanted to pursue! I always knew that I wanted to work with people but was unsure about the profession which would most suit my interests and skills in this regard.

While in school, I definitely found that being unsure about the type or area of work you want to pursue is a very difficult and confusing position to be in, especially given the array of career choices now available and the pressure one feels in trying to make one’s mind up.

To this end, I would strongly advise anybody in this position to research courses and job descriptions well in order to make the most informed decision possible at that time in your life. 

I recommend one tries to gain as much work experience as possible as it will provide you with valuable insight into your skills, ability, likes/dislikes for certain areas of employment!!!!

Also I would research the courses and job areas as much as possible so that you can make an informed decision regarding your choices. If you can't gain enough information in school, contact the college directly or arrange to talk to somebody who facilitates the course. In particular, it would be really valuable to talk to somebody in the profession to gain a realistic and practical insight into the job.


The Social person's interests focus on some aspect of those people in their environment. In all cases the social person enjoys the personal contact of other people in preference to the impersonal dealings with things, data and ideas found in other groups.

Many will seek out positions where there is direct contact with the public in some advisory role, whether a receptionist or a counsellor. Social people are motivated by an interest in different types of people, and like diversity in their work environments. Many are drawn towards careers in the caring professions and social welfare area, whilst others prefer teaching and other 'informing' roles.
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Career Tests

In this section we take a brief look at the different types of assessment, what they are designed to assess, their strengths, limitations and some common misconceptions about them. Today there is a broad range of paper and online assessment tools and they are easily accessed.

It’s helpful to understand what they are about and how to make the most of them. Tests are sometimes referred to as tools or instruments.  Career assessment tools have been around for a very long time. Here’s an early example:

‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich man, Poor man, Beggerman, Thief! 

Nowadays though, things are a bit more scientific!

What's a Career Aassessment Tool?

Career Assessment Tools are designed to help people recognise and understand their personal attributes as they relate to careers. Assessment tools are typically used to measure some of the following:


The purpose of Career Assessment tools is to help people make more informed career decisions. The better a young person knows themselves – the more effective their career decision making will be.


What are the main Career Assessment tools used in Irish schools?

Schools vary in the type of assessment used. Factors taken into account are suitability for school population, cost, availability and accuracy of results for individual students. Here are some examples of the type of career interest profilers currently in use:


This instrument gives information about a young person’s educational goals, their interest in particular subjects and activities and career areas. It’s useful for helping young people to set and focus on their career and educational goals and to encourage them to explore various career options. CII is linked into the Differential Aptitude Tests giving an important link between Career Interests on the one hand and Aptitudes or Abilities on the other. CII takes about thirty minutes to administer to students. Note: Costs apply]




R = Realistic
I = Investigative
A = Artistic
S = Social
E = Enterprising
C = Conventional

Holland saw people as loosely falling into these six occupational categories with certain preferences dominating. People who choose careers that match their own occupational type are likely to be more content and fulfilled.  So a person who scores RIE for instance will have a strong leaning towards occupations that are Realistic, Investigative and Enterprising. RIEs will be satisfied, fulfilled and successful in careers such as Engineering, Science and Business where their occupational type matches the chosen livelihood.

The SDS test asks a series of questions broken down into five categories:  Daydreams, Activities, Competencies, Occupations & Self Estimates.

Taking the SDS takes about half an hour and when the results are scored it generates a three letter code = eg RIE. The code is then used to look at a number of career options. Note: Costs apply



An Irish adaptation of Holland's work using 8 Interest categories developed by CareersPortal, it investigates career interests and offers career suggestions based on responses. The interest test takes about fifteen minutes to complete and generates a good summary page with a clear visual bar chart showing occupational interests. On the basis of results the test indicates career options worth exploring and possible CAO and Further Education course options.

This test is free to use - you can take it yourself and discuss your results with those of your child. This is a good way of engaging with your teen on career matters. All you have to do is SignUp to create an account and then complete the Interest Profiler.



This is an assessment programme aimed at college applicants. It is used to assess interests, abilities and personal qualities. The student is then matched to potential higher education courses throughout Ireland, the UK and Europe. Suggestions are mainly at degree, HND or Diploma levels. Guidelines and work sheets are given to steer students through their course and career research. Centigrade also produces a personal action plan and Course Analysis forms.

Students receive a personalised workbook. Centigrade costs in the region of €25 - €30 depending on number of subscribers and the particular option chosen.



Career assessment tools are designed to cover as broad a range of career options as possible. Encourage your child to focus on the career suggestions that are of greatest interest them.

The same test taken at different stages in your child’s development may yield different results and suggestions. The important thing is that the young person is given opportunities to explore careers and consider their own interests and aptitudes.


There are lots of career and personality instruments on the internet. Those mentioned above offer good help in career development. However others are less scientific and can be misleading or not suitable to the young person.