Figure Out What's Next

What Can I Do to Test My Aptitude for a New Career?

back to school career change mark gleason Aug 24, 2009
assessment with mentor

by Mark Gleason

photo by Amy Hirschi

Q: At this stage of my life, I am not ready to commit to going back to school to pursue the necessary skills for a new career that may actually not be a good match for me. What can I do to test my interest, aptitude and passion for a new career? —Miriam, Miami

Brian Kurth responds:

Miriam, school isn’t for everyone at ANY age, let alone once we get into our 40s and 50s. Spending time and dollars getting a new career or accreditation for something that ultimately doesn’t interest you is unwise. Hence, I highly recommend you do several things prior to signing up for a class:

1. There are many fine career and personality assessments available online for you to take, but my favorites are actually a bit more focused on defining one’s strengths. An example is Marcus Buckingham’s “Strength Builder and the Values-In-Action” (VIA).

2. I’ll say it once, I’ll say it a thousand times: Get a mentor in the field you’re considering. A mentor will show you the ropes and will help you decide IF taking classes are necessary and if so, where/when/to what level, etc.

3. Take or audit ONE class to test the waters. It can literally be just that: one class. Not a whole semester’s worth. Just about any professor or instructor will let someone sit in on a class.

Brian Kurth is founder and president of Pivotplanet, a career coaching firm, and also of VocationVacations, a firm that arranges a few “vacation” days on the job—on your dream job, that is—in a real company or organization, so you can get a firsthand feel for a profession that you’ve been considering. He also is the author of “Test-Drive Your Dream Job: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding and Creating the Work You Love.


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