When I taught at Moorhead State University (as it was then called), I served as an adviser to students who had not declared a major. We had a wonderful dean who encouraged students to put off choosing a major until sophomore year, or later. I was on board with that philosophy since English was my third major. I managed to acquire two degrees without giving any thought to what I would do for a living. (That summer school typing course I took after 10th grade turns out to have been my foundational skill set.)

Occasionally I have interviewed someone who picked a career early on and stuck with it. A couple of times it was someone who selected a medical field because of an early, life-saving encounter.

Most of the time, though, people bounce around. If they’re happy, they’ve gotten some lucky break. And I tend to focus on people who are happy with their jobs.

There are ways of finding out what you’re good at. The Strengths Finder is an excellent assessment tool. When I took it, my five strengths were basically learn, learn, learn, learn and command. I realized that by stumbling into a career as a communications consultant, I had positioned myself perfectly–steep learning curves in a new client company every year or so and then a communication plan based on my findings.

I also had the good fortune to take an assessment offered by Jim Carr, of Right Connections, LLC. He contributed some interesting additional bits of information. I register unusually low in “compliance.” But I am also low in “control,” and actually a little above average in “stability.” In short, I don’t just think outside the box–I live outside it. But I’m happy to come inside if someone a) shows me where the box is and b) gives me a good reason to be there.

I am motivated, Carr’s assessment told me, by aesthetics. It’s not enough to stumble through to the end point–for me, the process itself has to be pleasing.

Once again, my consulting career made sense: I was the English major on the IT project, the one whose job was to be the voice of the end-user. And even though the utilitarians in the IT department would have been content to stumble through, they welcomed suggestions for a Happy Path.

Myers-Briggs, Strengths-Finder, Discovery Insights–all of these assessments are helpful. And while a master interpreter like Jim Carr maximizes their usefulness, you can get some insights from free online versions.

In short, be sure your job search includes some inner searching.

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