Getting Started

Use these 10 tools to figure out your ideal career

tools-to-help-you-find-your-ideal-career
Written by Kate Lopaze

If you’re one of those people who always knew what you were destined to do for your career, from fresh-faced recent grad to wise retiree, that’s amazing! You are already killing it, plan-wise. But chances are you’re more like the rest of us, and are less than 100% sure of what you want to do with your career. At that point, it takes a little more thinking, prodding, and questioning before you can move on to the career plan. Or maybe you’ve already gone down one path, and either don’t like it or need a change. Whatever the case may be, there are lots of great tools out there you can use to figure out what you should be doing with your career.

You’ve probably seen those Buzzfeed-style quizzes all over the place, promising to tell you your age, weight, and best life choices based on the pizza toppings you choose. I’m not here to say those aren’t accurate, but if you truly want to figure out what you want to do with your life, it pays to dig a little deeper. Luckily, there are some easy, accessible (and dare I say “fun”?) online tests and surveys that help you channel your personality and your strengths into a job that matches your greatness.

Why do personality and aptitude tests work?

Personality tests aren’t always career-related, but they can help you get a baseline handle on who you are, what you like, and what circumstances can help you thrive (or, alternatively, what your biggest challenges might be). All of these things are crucial for helping you figure out a long-term path. They also support a fundamental truth about professional life: you can have all the education and skills necessary to do a job, but whether you do it well—and whether it is fulfilling for you—is largely due to your personality. Your personality is often the forgotten part of the job hunt, lost in the shuffle with resume, cover letter, and interview prep. Yet it’s a major component of who you are, and who you’d be on the job.

Similarly, aptitude tests may help you define skill sets you didn’t realize you had, or didn’t know that you should emphasize. A little self-knowledge can go a long way, especially when it comes to finding a career path that works for you in the long run.

Let's look at a few of the assessments out there.

The Color Quiz

Believe it or not, your favorite colors can show what careers might be right for you. In this simple, five-minute quiz, your answers are analyzed and returned as potential career matches.

Cost: Free to use and get your results.

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Assessment

This is the classic personality test, used in many different professional and personal contexts to help people become more self-aware and make decisions based on their personal strength areas. It’s a questionnaire (which you can fill out either online or on paper) designed to assess how you see the world in four different areas: directing and receiving energy (extroverted vs. introverted); taking in information (sensing vs. intuitive); making decisions (thinking vs. feeling); and approaching the outside world (judging vs. perceiving). It reveals insights about how you form and approach relationships, as well as how you communicate—both factors that can help determine whether you become, say, a lab technician versus a stand-up comedian.

Cost: Insights don’t always come for free. The official test is $49.95, but there are also free versions available online as well. As part of the cost, you receive a detailed report analyzing your personality type and communication styles.

Truity TypeFinder Tests

Truity bases their personality assessments on the 16 different types originally outlined by Isabel Briggs Myers (whose name should sound familiar if you just read about the MBTI). They offer a general personality test (the TypeFinder Personality Test), but also a professionally-focused one (the TypeFinder for the Workplace). There are also smaller, targeted personality quizzes available on the site.

Cost: The general TypeFinder assessments (both personality and professional) are $29 apiece, but you can take the shorter personality quizzes on the site for free.

Pymetrics

If games are more your speed than filling out straight-up questionnaires, then Pymetrics might be a more fun way for you to learn more about your personal and professional styles. The Pymetrics method uses game design to help limit anxiety and biases that might be present in more traditional quizzes and surveys, allowing people to relax and make honest choices instead of overthinking or trying to figure out how to “score high” on a standardized test. At the end of the process, the Pymetrics reports match job seekers with a subset of potential careers based on neuroscience and their algorithms. This new wave of personality assessment is used by schools and many different kinds of companies to assess potential applicants and recruits.

Cost: It’s free to sign up and start playing the games, but there may be costs for detailed reporting and career matchmaking.

The MAPP Career Assessment

This assessment is a 22-minute “test” (flashback to those No. 2 pencils and scantron sheets!) that asks you 71 questions about your likes and dislikes to gauge your potential career interests. The focus is less on the “right” answer than on the instinctive one. This test bills itself as the “mapp” to your “true calling.” And unlike those old-school pencil-and-paper affairs, this can be done entirely online.

Cost: It’s free to get started and take the test, but it costs $89.95-$149.95 to get detailed reports and potential job analyses

Sokanu

Sokanu takes your answers from a 20-minute quiz, and compares your interests, personality, and preferences to 100 different traits. At the end of the test, you’re matched to a subset of 800 different jobs. Rather than make general recommendations like “astronaut” or “ballet dancer,” this test prides itself on using deeper data metrics to make specific career recommendations.

Cost: Totally free!

My Next Move

This is a very career-focused assessment put out by the U.S. Department of Labor. Also called the “O*Net Interest Profiler,” this test allows you to take your results and use them to search the U.S. government’s vast database of career information.

Cost: This tool is free to use (well, probably funded by your tax dollars—but no additional cost in the meantime).

Skills Profiler

If you’re looking for something more solidly skills-based than personality-based, the U.S. Department of Labor’s other career assessment, the Skills Profiler tool, might be a better fit for you. Instead of taking a personality type and matching it with a job, it lets you input either your current skills to find a matching career, or a job type to see what kind of skills you’ll need for it. This can be a good way to see if that job you want to apply for is a good fit for the skills you already have, or if you’ll need to do some building in the meantime.

Cost: This assessment is free to use.

PathSource

PathSource is a little different—instead of telling you which jobs you should pursue based on your personality or interests, it helps you figure out what kind of job you’ll need to support your lifestyle. It’s an app that assesses your personality and career interests, and also lets you know whether that job in library science is likely to support your caviar dreams. Or, more importantly, whether you’ll be able to pay back the student loans you accumulated in pursuit of your goals.

Cost: The app is free to download from the Apple or Google app stores.

So how do I use these results in my job hunt?

Think of this test-taking as pre-work. You won’t be rattling off your MBTI results on your resume or dropping hints in the interview that your love of the color forest green makes you perfect for this job as a firefighter. These are merely in the interest of understanding yourself better, and giving you potential starting points (or eventual goals) that you can use to target your job search or align your goals.

If you end up in a job or career that just doesn’t fit who you are, it’s likely that you’ll end up right back at this same place—trying to figure out what does make you tick, and how you can turn that into a more fulfilling job and career. Knowing what types of environments you thrive in, how you work with others, and how you approach the world in general can be invaluable information as you figure out which opportunities to pursue, and it’s an area that you can only access if you make the commitment to understand yourself better.

Don't forget, your resume is the next important step! You can also download free templates from our Resume Library to get started on your resume creation.

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