"Do you like to make out income tax returns?"
"Would you enjoy wrapping meat at a butcher shop?"
"Do you like running a meeting?"
Those are some of several hundred questions on skills, values, past work, education and personality traits that thousands of people -- students and people in mid-career crisis -- are answering on their computer screens as they try to decide what to do with their lives.
After two hours or so of punching the keyboard, they should know more about themselves. Some of them may even know where they want to go to college. Others may have a new career in mind.
The program, called Discover, is the work of a former Chicago high school guidance counselor, JoAnn Harris-Bowlsbey, who suddenly, in 1966, had the feeling she wasn't really helping her students much.
After discussing her frustrations with fellow counselors, she hit on a plan to start computerizing career choices, information on colleges and universities and a student's interests and goals in life.
Convinced she had a good idea, she eventually got a $500,000 grant from the federal government to work on her program.
Recently, she merged her nonprofit company, Discover Foundation, with the American College Testing Program. ACT markets Discover to colleges and universities -- 650 institutions participate now; 1,700 are expected by next year.
In addition to the computer program, video discs are included with brief vignettes showing what people in 425 vocations do all day.
With 1,000 job titles to choose from, a user of Discover can ask where people with those jobs work, what tools they use, how they get training, what personal qualities the job requires, what the salary range is, what people like or dislike about the job, how technology will affect the job, what the employment outlook is.
The computer disc remembers what each student tells it, using a Social Security number as identification, so six months later the student can get an update.
One segment of questions asks what values are important to the individual in a job. Examples might be staying mentally alert, autonomy, creativity or helping others.
One person who rated those high and who wanted to start work with a bachelor's degree was told to consider being an art teacher, a college professor, a drama teacher or a music teacher. But moving further into the program, the person was told that the employment outlook for such jobs is not good because of "keen competition."
One person who programmed in an interest in science and logic, working with people and ability to persuade and sell was told to look at jobs as a customs inspector, dietitian or educational administrator. Another was told to look at jobs as an FBI agent, executive housekeeper or exporter-importer.
Discover, which is free to students at participating colleges (others should write Discover, Hunt Valley, Md. 21031), doesn't assure a job or a successful job change, of course. But the interest in it by worried job seekers is undeniable.
According to Dave Landers, career counselor at St. Michael's College in Burlington, Vt., which just got the system, students have been standing in line to use it.