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History of the Career Direction System


In the late 1950's, upon graduation from Texas Christian University with a Ph.D. in psychology, Dr. John L. Shirley opened offices in Dallas to provide business-oriented assessment and career counseling to individuals. Dr. Shirley and his associates used the standard assessments of the day in their practice. These assessments included the Stanford Binet, Wunderlic, 16 PF (Personality Factors), the Myers Briggs, Strong Campbell, MMPI (the Minnesota Multiphasic) and other tests that were available at the time.

Individual's completed the assessments in Dr. Shirley's offices. The tests were scored and analyzed by Dr. Shirley or his associates, the individual receiving the career counseling was interviewed, and a report was generated advising the individual of the jobs for which he or she would be a good fit.

Some well-known entrepreneurs who received career counseling from Dr. Shirley include:

Mary Kay Ash, who was in the processes of investing two thousand dollars to purchase the hide tanning formula that was to become the foundation of Mary Kay cosmetics.

Mary Crowley, and her son Don Carter, who went on to start Home Interiors and Gifts, Inc.

Ebby Haliday who started Ebby Haliday Real estate in Dallas.

David Zales and his father in law Ben Lipsky, who together started the Zales Corporation.

John and Jerry Thompson who started and built 7-11 Corporation.

These clients strongly believed in the testing and career counseling services provided by Dr. Shirley and wanted to utilize them in the hiring process for their employees. However, they objected to the costs involved in bringing a prospective employee to Dallas to spend up to two days with Dr. Shirley for the testing, interviewing and counseling process.

To satisfy his clients' needs for a more cost effective assessment tool, Dr. Shirley contracted with Dr. Raymond Cattell, the author of the 16PF, to head a group of psychologists to create the first job related test to be introduced in America. The team chosen included Dr. Shirley, Dr. James Moore of Purdue University, Roger Pryor, an MA in psychology, and two other psychologists, all under the direction of Dr. Cattell.

Their efforts resulted in an entirely new assessment instrument known today as the Achiever. The instrument was constructed with six Mental Aptitudes and ten Personality Dimensions. The instrument created was also the first test to include two internal validity scales to measure the accuracy of the test results.

When he began utilizing this new instrument, Dr. Shirley's practice had grown to include four psychologists who were testing, interviewing and providing career guidance to individuals of all ages and backgrounds. One individual Dr. Shirley tested was Charles Tandy. When Dr. Shirley tested Charles Tandy, Charles had returned from the Navy, became a part of his father's leather craft business but yearned for bigger and better things. Tandy's career assessment indicated his extraordinary entrepreneurial aptitudes and ability. Soon, Tandy had the opportunity to acquire Radio Shack, which was a small financially distressed company with only 13 stores at the time. Dr. Shirley's testing was utilized to determine who to keep and who to let go in the 13 Radio Shack stores. Next, it was utilized to establish a hiring and training system to build Radio Shack for the future.

For the decade of the 1960's, Shirley and his staff used the newly developed test along with the standard tests of the day in their career counseling services.

In 1972, Milt Cotter, who had a background in human behavioral analysis, primarily for the AEC, DOD, Army and Sandia Nuclear Weapons Laboratory, joined Dr. Shirley's team as Vice President.

Milt Cotter was responsible for utilizing the new instrument created by Shirley and others to create benchmarks for employers. Benchmarking is the science of testing people who are successful in a job to determine what aptitudes and behaviors they have in common. The common aptitudes and behaviors then become the standard, or benchmark, against which future applicants are hired or employees are trained and developed. In the world of psychology, this technique is also known as concurrent validation, which is considered the best form of validation by the American Psychological Association.

Benchmarking was used in 1972 with Sewell Village Cadillac in Dallas. The benchmark resulted in the selection of Jerry Griffin who went on to earn recognition as the nation's leading Cadillac salesperson for three consecutive years. This success story is documented in the book, Customers for Life by Carl Sewell and Paul Brown.

Benchmarking was next used in the turnaround of Kentucky Fried Chicken and played a prominent role in the growth of Popeye's Chicken, Church's Chicken, and Arby's franchisees.

While Cotter and Shirley saw tremendous opportunity for the implementation of testing and benchmarking in businesses, they continued to provide career counseling to individuals. Throughout the decades of the 70's and 80's, career counseling remained a significant focus even though testing by employers for use in the hiring process was growing at a rapid pace.

In the 1990s, it became apparent that schools, especially high schools, did not have sufficient numbers of counselors to assist students with career guidance. To meet this need, Cotter began work on a system to utilize the hundreds of different job benchmarks that had been compiled since benchmarking began in the 70's. Cotter's goal was to incorporate the benchmarks into a tool that would provide career guidance to individuals on a self-administered basis. Grants were received from Government Agencies to develop a Career Direction Report a student or individual could compile on their own. With funding exceeding $1 million dollars and over a decade of work, the online Career Direction system was developed.

The system allows individuals to compare their aptitudes and behaviors to those of tens of thousands of people who are successful in hundreds of different jobs based on the benchmarks in the system. Such a comparison allows individuals to learn which jobs they will likely be good at, enjoy and be productive and successful performing. As with any career guidance tool, the user must carefully consider the education, experience and skills needed to pursue a career recommended by the Career Direction Report.

The Career Direction system is unique in that it is totally objective. Unlike other career guidance systems that focus on an individual's interests, the Career Direction Report only considers the aptitudes and behaviors of an individual relative to the benchmarks in the system. And, the Career Direction system is fully self-administered. It only takes about an hour to complete, and the user immediately receives the Career Direction Report upon completion. The Career Direction system meets the critical need for a career guidance tool that is efficient, accurate and objective.