It’s pop quiz time.

What percentage of people pick the right career on the first go-round?

A. 50 percent

B. 25 percent

C. 85 percent

D. 5 percent

Answer: D. 5 percent

According to Neil Howe, economist and historian, only five percent of people know what they want to do as soon as they start their career. They get the job, stick with the same field until it’s time to retire, and live happily ever after.

For everyone else — the 95 percent — the “happily ever after” still comes. It’s just preceded by some careers they’re not that into first.

All right, so if you’re in the 95 percent (and, statistically speaking, you probably are) how do you figure out what career is right for you?

1. Think.

What’s your personality like? Are you outgoing and extroverted, or more reserved and introverted? Do you base decisions strictly off logic and reason, or do you take into account emotion and circumstance? If you’re having trouble answering those questions, the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator assessment is a great tool to help you understand your personality preferences and learn how to apply it to your professional life.

How about your interests? If you had absolutely no responsibilities tomorrow — no work, no errands, no chores — what would you do? Whatever you choose, think about how you could parlay it into a career. For example, if you’d spend the day working on your car, you probably like cars. Would you like being a car salesman? A mechanic? An engineer?

Important to consider, too, is your lifestyle. If you want to star in blockbuster movies but you’re not willing to move or travel, then the silver screen probably isn’t for you. If you’re passionate about an idea and are fine with working beyond the average 9 to 5 job, then maybe you should open your own business.

Once you’ve figured out what’s most important to you when it comes to your lifestyle, it should be easy to eliminate potential careers from your list. Adding potential careers, on the other hand, can be a little bit trickier. This leads us to the next point.

2. Try.

You won’t find a career you’re happy with unless you actually try something new. Apply to a new job. Take a course. Shadow someone in a position you think you might like. Volunteer.

For the most part, trying is low risk. The highest risk, potentially, would be quitting your old job to start a new one, and the worst that could happen is that you don’t like the new job. But remember, you didn’t like the old one either! So, really, what’s the problem? As the proverb goes: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics online for insight into employment outlook and wage estimates for careers you’re considering.

3. Evaluate.

You’re in a new field, new job, new desk (or no desk). Are you happy? Do you find yourself watching the minutes tick by while you’re at work, or does time fly by without you even noticing? Do you feel challenged or bored? The faster time goes by and the least bored you feel, the better.

Of course, there are other things you’ll have to consider too. Salary, growth potential, benefits, work-life balance … the list goes on. You’ll know when it’s right for you.

Improve your marketable skills by taking college courses in a career field that interests you. In 1976, Saint Joseph’s College began offering distance education programs to adult learners. Today, the College offers over 30 online graduate and undergraduate programs in accounting, business, education, healthcare, nursing and theology. More than 3,200 people throughout the U.S. are currently active in these programs. Visit online.sjcme.edu to learn more about our degree programs.


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