Remember back in high school when someone gave you some kind of "career aptitude test"? How accurate was that?
If you recall your results at all, it's probably because the test told you one day you'd be a chicken farmer when you hate animals, or a musical theater actor when you can't carry a tune. Given the inaccuracy of these tests, most of us muddled through choosing a career using hunches, advice from relatives, and maybe a few internet searches.
There has to be a better way to make one of the most consequential decisions of your life. Researchers in Australia think they might have found it in an unlikely place. Has your career destiny been hiding in your Twitter feed all this time?
You're giving away more online than you think.
The team of researchers were curious what would happen if they applied powerful machine learning techniques to analyzing people's tweets. Could computers figure out your personality and use that information to predict your profession? Turns out the answer is yes, reports Alice Fleerackers on Nautilus.
The team analyzed tweets from almost 130,000 Twitter accounts in order to create a personality profile for each user. They then compared these profiles to the actual profession listed in users' bio and discovered they matched up shockingly well. "The link was strong- so strong that the personality profiles could be used to 'predict' professions with more than 70 percent accuracy," Fleerackers writes.
"That means," University of Sydney computer scientist and study co-author Marian-Andrei Rizoiu commented, "that if you give me a random personality profile, without any other information, in three in four cases we can correctly guess their profession."
Twitter: the new way to choose a career?
That's pretty impressive, if also slightly creepy. The study is yet more evidence that we give away more information about ourselves than we generally intend to on social media, information that could potentially be used to manipulate us into buying a product or voting for a particular candidate.
But these researchers have another, less sinister use in mind. They believe that one day computers and social media could supplement more traditional career assessments. "My hope is that it would allow people to explore more and think about going beyond the typical way that we make [career] decisions," said Peggy Kern, the study's lead author.
"Kern believes that a refined version of the method used in the study could be developed to help people identify career options that truly fit their traits and values, based on the digital traces that they leave through their online behaviors," Fleerackers elaborates.
We're still a long way from a tool like this being ready for real-world use, but the idea seems promising. A big data approach to choosing a career couldn't possibly be worse than the 'multiple choice test and muddle through' method we currently rely on.