Relatively few adults approach their career choices methodically. Too often we pursue job titles, mimic a friend’s or relative’s career path or, in the current job market, just grab an available job. The average adult changes jobs 11 times and may change careers as many as seven times.
It’s rare when someone’s college major leads directly to a career path and they remain on that path for their entire professional life. Sadly, the few who do often feel unfulfilled. Others frequently change jobs to try to find a better fit, but repeatedly burn out.
The proverbial midlife crisis is sometimes the jolt that starts us evaluating whether we want to continue on the current path. Perhaps most telling is when we’re asked to describe exactly what we want to do, and we struggle because we’ve never taken the time to ponder it carefully.
There are assessment tools and resources available to help us understand more about ourselves, our inclinations and abilities. At first glance, some of these evaluations seem strange – with peculiar questions and exercises. Interestingly, though, almost everyone who has taken one, or a battery of such tests confirms – sometimes reluctantly – that the results seem on target, even if sometimes a bit unexpected.
Each of these evaluations is different. Some focus on aptitude, while others highlight skills, interests or personality gauges. Some tests even suggest the professions that closely match with your answers. The best part is that there are no wrong answers or bad scores.
People can use this information in a variety of ways. In the hands of professional career advisors, diagnostics can point toward one or several career directions that might not have been otherwise obvious. If you would prefer to undertake this kind of assessment on your own, it might be advisable to take several different types of tests and overlay them to inform your analysis.
So, now that you have this information, what next? If you’re interested in a different field or pursuing a new career, find a mentor in that area to speak with you about that industry. Set up informational interviews to learn more about that area. Volunteer with an organization to learn or hone skills and to make connections with other professionals.
You may also determine that you need to pursue educational courses or training. Several local universities have graduate certificates in a variety of fields. There are also excellent online resources and classes available from several different sources. Professional certifications may be another way to demonstrate skills and abilities.
While the Alexandria Small Business Development Center does not offer professional or career assessments, we recognize that many times this type of self-evaluation can lead one to open their own small business. Once you have a clear vision of your goals, the center can help with your business planning.
Most importantly, we are all creatures that thrive on passion and excitement. If you’re not getting that and a sense of accomplishment from your work, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate.
The writer is executive director of Alexandria’s Small Business Development Center. The SBDC can be reached at www.alexandriasbdc.org.