How To Choose the Best Career for You

Lindsey Novak on

Q: I am 35, and I have been in information technology since the beginning of my career. IT jobs are often well-paid and easy to find, but they are not what I want to do anymore. I am thinking about changing fields, but I am hesitant. I realize I will lose my seniority if I leave my job and my experience won't matter if I leave the field. Is it crazy to switch this far along in my career?

A: It is never "crazy" to search for a career that will fulfill you, especially when you are no longer happy with the one you're in. Your IT experience could transfer to a related field while keeping or increasing your salary, but if you want out of working in any position connected to IT, it's time to look into your choices. Keep your job while you are researching other areas of interest as well as the salaries involved in those areas. People can quickly change their minds about changing fields when they see how much less they might be making by switching. This shouldn't negate you wanting to find a position in a different field, but you will want to be able to support your current lifestyle while learning what kind of changes may be necessary.

The first step is to be open-minded to researching new fields. When discovering the various choices, gather as much information as possible so you don't end up substituting one dislike for another. Impulsive decision-making often ends up in regret.

Step two is to take various assessment tests to help you find a meeting of your interests, abilities and personality. All these aspects must be considered for the change in field to be successful. This likely won't happen to you, but this example is real. A college student who did not like studying and decided she was not interested in continuing her education thought she would quit the program and instead become a medical doctor. She had to be told that becoming a doctor required top grades, extensive studying and years dedicated to long hours of work.

Assessment tests can be administered by the career offices at community and local colleges, sometimes for free or for nominal fees. Private coaching companies sometimes offer assessment tests, but their fees cover entire coaching packages and can run into the thousands. Many of the assessment tests offer abbreviated samples of the tests online and range from free versions to fee-based, more informative and detailed versions.


Motivational Appraisal Personal Potential, or MAPP, career assessment recommends all interested to first take the free version. MAPP states it takes approximately 22 minutes, but it is not timed, so there's no need to worry about finishing it. The free version provides an overall view of one's career motivations, along with a top-10 list of vocational areas according to a person's responses. This free version can be ideal for employees who are burnt out in their jobs and need guidance for starters. The results can also help increase a person's confidence to discover they have a multitude of options or may reveal the person has been on the right path from the beginning and may just need a vacation. The categories rated are 1) interest in job contents; 2) temperament for the job -- how a person prefers to perform; 3) aptitude for the job; 4) people; 5) things; 6) data; 7) reasoning; 8) mathematical capacity; and 9) language capacity. Three more levels of detailed assessments can be ordered -- the starter, career seeker and executive -- and cost between $89.95 and $149.95. The fee-based versions offer different levels of benefits for matching the person to their top career choices and up to 1,000 ideas for careers from its database.

Different assessments are designed to focus on varying aspects of personalities and profile styles, so the greater number of assessments one takes, the greater one's knowledge becomes about their personal skills, interests and personality types. DiSC, which can be used by companies prior to hiring, can be taken online for free, as can the personality assessment based on well-known psychologist Carl Jung's theory, which offers 16 personality types.

Once you are satisfied with the knowledge gained through these assessments, you can follow through with books explaining the personality types with pros and cons of each one. This information is valuable for all, since many people know very little about themselves, especially when people have chosen careers based on salary. These assessments have been verified as valid and accurate, so you can feel confident in switching to a field that matches your interests and abilities. You may need to update your knowledge base through additional courses, but you should then be on your way to a positive career change that aligns with your goals for the future.

Email career and life coach: with your workplace problems and issues. Ms. Novak responds to all emails. For more information, visit, and for past columns, see




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