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Take a career test, but first take inventory

Interested in a new career? Before you try an aptitude test,  figure out what you want for your life. Your Career by Eve Tahmincioglu.
/ Source: contributor

After my came out I got quite of few letters from readers wondering whether such tests can give them the magic bullet they need to figure out what to do with their careers.

Alas, I would have to say no. These tests alone won’t help you map out your career path. Unfortunately, it will take a lot more than that.

The first thing is figuring out what you want for your career and your life. What these types of personality tests can offer is a validation in terms of what kind of work environment or profession might be the best fit for you.

So please, everyone, if you use them, make sure they’re only a piece of the career puzzle and not the be all and end all.

Here’s a sampling of your questions:

I'd like to take a free online aptitude test but don't know which one to take as there are quite a lot of choices.  Which one would you recommend?  I'm interested in finding out if I should change careers.
— T.R., New Rochelle, N.Y.

Before you decide to change careers, and before you take a personality test, you should sit down and make a few lists.

One should include things you like to do on one side and things you don’t like to do on the other. Then, make a list of your best traits. Don’t hold back. Sing your own praises and fine-tune what you think are your strongest suits.

Finally, make a list of your dream jobs, whether that be working for someone or starting your own venture.

When you’re done, take a long hard look at what you’ve written down. Do your strongest traits and things you like to do jive with your dream careers?

With this information I think you’re probably ready to take a personality test, to help back up what you’re seeing on paper.

One critical point, none of the experts I spoke with would endorse any free online tests and I can’t either, so take the results with a grain of salt.

That said, Ben Dattner, a New York based management consultant and adjunct professor at New York University, pointed me to an online version of the International Personality Item Pool and to a site called CareerDNA.

Keep in mind some free test sites online often lead to a request to put in your credit card number, says Darrel M. Keesee, president of ACS Group Inc., a career consulting firm. “There is no free ride for most career changers,” he notes.

One non-online source Keesee mentioned, that I used many years back when I was trying to figure out my career, was a great book called "What Color is Your Parachute," by Richard Nelson Bolles.

And while we’re talking about books, my recently released book “From the Sandbox to the Corner Office” has a whole chapter on CEOs and high level managers who made a lot of career turns and twists before they made it to the top.

In the few years I see myself outgrowing my current position as a consultant for a small business. I would like to begin exploring my options as to where my current job experience can carry me. What suggestions do you have that may be helpful as I prepare and plan for the next phase of my work life?
— R.C., Hot Springs, Va.

You first have to figure out what you goals are. What will be your next phase of work life? Where do you want to be in one year, three years, five years? You need to think about where you see yourself. Once you know that, or have some targets, then you can figure out what your current job is or is not doing for you.