If you’ve seen a TV series set in a high school, you’ve likely seen an episode where the characters take a career aptitude test, get their results, and then hilarity and/or drama ensue. Whether you’re just beginning to figure out your future profession or you’re looking to make a career change, the idea that you can just answer a few questions and have a test spit out the perfect answer to “What should I be when I grow up?” is enticing. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. But you also don’t have to just drift along in a sea of choices: There are plenty of resources out there to help you narrow down your options and find a job where you’ll thrive. We’ve researched the best career assessments and job personality tests to help you identify which occupational fields and career paths might help you live your best professional life. Let’s get this out of the way: No test can guarantee it’ll tell you your “dream job” or your forever career. These quizzes will ask you about your values, interests, skills, and goals and give you some ideas for careers or types of careers to explore further—in other words, they’re a “jumping off point,” says Muse career coach Lynn Berger, who’s used these tests for over 20 years to help clients gain focus and direction in their careers. Some will also help you learn more about your working style or what type of environment you thrive in. Your results might even provide a little help for you in your current position—setting you up for success, no matter where you are in your career journey.
Free career aptitude tests
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, this free job quiz will help you identify where your career interests lie, then point you toward career paths that might feed those interests. The results section has a “Current Job Zone” where you can explore opportunities based on the experience you currently have as well as a “Future Job Zone” that showcases how much education and experience you’ll need to secure the job you want. Rather than answer questions on a sliding scale of agree or disagree, this free career test shows four photos (each picture depicts work associated with a specific type of personality) and you choose both your favorite and least favorite illustrated activity. After 15 questions, you get a “Holland Code” result, based on John Holland’s theory of personality types and careers, along with a list of suggested occupations that match your specific type. What’s unique about this test’s approach is that you’re asked to rank your skill set, interests, work style, and values, plus say how much money you’d like to make, what education requirements you’re looking to meet, and how much potential growth you’d like to see in your career field. The results are no-nonsense—with links to job descriptions as well as job openings. With this free career personality test, you’ll discover more about how you relate to others in less than 10 minutes. The results detail how open to new experiences you are, how much self-discipline you may have, how much of an extrovert you are, and how you handle stressful situations—not just how you imagine yourself to be. This intel is especially useful to understand when it comes to how you handle your job and coworkers and what kind of work environment would be best for you. Note: While the basic results are free, you’ll have to pay to see your full report. MyPlan.com offers four different assessment options—a career personality test, a career interest inventory, a career skills profiler, and a career values assessment—that together will measure your career personality and help you find your ideal career. You can still learn things from each test individually, though. For example, the “career values test” will give you a sense of what to look for in a position in order to find meaning, while the “careers personality test” includes 739 careers ranked according to how well they align with your personality. This comprehensive career test measures your interests, history and goals, and workplace and personality traits. Then it matches you along several dimensions so you can make an informed decision regarding your career. You also get personalized top career matches and insights. Note: While the basic results are free, you’ll have to pay to see your full report. This 60-question quiz not only helps to identify your personality strengths, but also applies the results to how to find the right career. While you can check out the free career test version for your core strengths and management style, in our opinion, it’s worth the upgrade for the premium 10-page report that includes the best career choices for your personality type, details about potential weaknesses, and info about your ideal business environments. Note: While the basic results are free, you’ll have to pay to see your full report.
The Motivational Appraisal of Personal Potential (MAPP) test focuses on your likes and dislikes and is designed to be taken quickly so that your answers are based on your instincts rather than letting you overthink things. There are various packages to choose from for more in-depth information, but the free results offer ample insights about career motivations and suggest 10 possible vocational areas for you to check out. Note: While the basic results are free, you’ll have to pay to see your full report.
Other career aptitude tests
The Self-Directed Search (SDS) is a career assessment test that matches people with jobs based on aspirations, competencies, activities, and interests. The result is a personalized report ranking and detailing how realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, or conventional you may be—a version of the Holland theory called RIASEC. Along with your personalized summary code, you’ll receive a list of careers with salary data as well as educational opportunities that best fit you and your results. The SDS also has specialized reports for veterans and students. Cost: $14.95 This test tells you which of the nine Enneagram types you are most like: the reformer, the helper, the achiever, the individualist, the investigator, the loyalist, the enthusiast, the challenger, or the peacemaker. Understanding more about your type can help you get along better with your coworkers and clue you in about which characteristics you need to look for in a career in order for it to be fulfilling. Cost: $12 Formally known as the Clifton StrengthsFinder, this assessment tells you your top five out of a pool of 34 possible strengths. Muse career coach Elena Pastore often uses it with clients to “help them synthesize and understand what they are actually good at, what they thoroughly enjoy, and how to identify a job that is aligned.” It’s worth noting that “CliftonStrengths is not a personality assessment, and therefore cannot and should not be used to push people to a specific career path,” Pastore says. “This tool is best used to help individuals identify their talents and then determine what they need to thrive and what they bring to teams rather than predicting a specific career.” After taking the quiz, you’ll get a customized report that lists your top five dominant talents, along with videos and supporting materials to help you achieve academic, career, and personal success. Cost: $19.99 and up Applicable across all areas of your life, the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) is probably one of the most-used assessments by career centers and managers alike. “Many companies use the MB test to evaluate counseling, leadership training, and work-team development qualities,” says Muse career coach Steven Davis, a technical recruiter and owner of Renaissance Solutions Inc. So not only can your results point you toward possible jobs, but they can also “be a powerful tool for advancement, receiving recognition, and promotions.” The MBTI gives you your personality preferences: where you get your energy, how you like to take in information, how you make decisions, and what kind of structure you like in the world around you. While these preferences can certainly point to careers that might suit you well, they can also give you a lot of valuable information about what kind of workplaces might be best for you, what your working preferences are, and how you can best relate to others at the office. When taking the test, Davis suggests that you “approach the test to discover more about who you are as a person,” as well as how you might communicate best and how others may perceive you. If you don’t want to pay to take the official test, you can take a pretty good (and free) online version here. Cost: $49.95 for a basic online report; $175 with personal feedback This nonprofit research foundation has been studying innate human abilities and aptitudes since 1922. Its goal is to help people make informed decisions about their career paths based on the idea that the career someone finds most rewarding is the one that uses their natural aptitudes and strengths. By identifying those aptitudes, they help you home in on the fields that are most likely to bring you career satisfaction. Unlike most tests that can be taken online, these tests are only available at 11 testing centers across the country. If getting to a center is not in your future (or the $850 price tag is too hefty!), you can get a taste for the Johnson O’Connor approach via a free career assessment test they developed for Oprah.com. Cost: $850 Here’s a bit more about career assessments and quizzes, with some insight from a few of our Muse career coaches.
What is the best career test?
There is no one best career test. And of course, nothing is stopping you from trying more than one… Different tools with resonate with different people, Pastore says. “Use that tool that works for you that you feel you can understand and identify with. If you don’t identify with any you’ve taken—that’s OK too!”
Are career tests accurate?
Career tests are helpful “to gain focus and clarity,” in your search for the right job, Berger says. Pastore stresses that “taking the assessment and receiving your results is just the first step.” If the results include specific jobs or paths, make sure you still do your research about what they entail before jumping in. Consider doing some initial reading online, and if the career sparks your interest, try setting up informational interviews with those already in the job to find out more. Or you could use your results to start a conversation with a career coach or counselor. You might even think of a career test as just part of the first step—you should definitely explore careers that don’t line up with your results if they interest you, and take all these tests with a grain of salt. You’re the only one who can truly decide what you want.
How will a career test help me?
“The purpose of [a career test] is to build self-awareness about what we are good at, how others view us, and what we bring to the table,” Pastore says. This insight may help you find new careers to explore or it may help you thrive in your current job. Regina Borsellino contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article. Updated 5/27/2022 11 Min Read | Jun 28, 2022 These days, having a case of the Mondays every Monday morning and being miserable in a boring 9-to-5 job is normal—but that’s no way to live. If being miserable at work is normal, then I don’t want to be normal. I want to be different. Because the truth is: It is possible to find your dream job and love what you do for a living. It’s called living the dream—and you can have that if you’re willing to work for it. My path to meaningful work is a seven-stage process that will lead you to your dream job. It will take time, perseverance and patience to work through, but if you stick with it, before you know it, your case of the Mondays will become a thing of the past. Are you ready to get after it?
7 Stages of Finding Your Dream Job
1. Get Clear
Before you do anything else, you must discover what you do best, what you love to do most, what results you want to produce, and where (industry, company, etc.) you can put those three components together to do work that matters deeply to you. Get Everything You Need to Land the Job You Love! I know that sounds overwhelming, so let me break it down for you: What you do best includes your natural talents, skills and character strengths. These should be tasks or roles that come easily to you and have been pointed out to you by others. Here are some examples: I’m a great writer. I can analyze numbers effortlessly. People have told me I’m an excellent salesperson. What you love to do most would involve any activities, tasks, and passions you look forward to and that make you come alive. For example: Working with kids lights me up. Helping someone work through a personal issue so they can take control of their life leaves me feeling energized. Solving complex problems makes time fly by. What results you want to produce is about considering what problems you love to solve, what solutions you love to create, and what people group you most want to help. For example: I enjoy helping young mothers (people group) get through the first year of parenthood (problem) by teaching them how to schedule their days (solution). I love when a small-business owner (people group) is able to free up time to scale their business (problem) because I’m managing their payroll and bookkeeping (solution). Where you can put those three together involves doing some research. Look around (starting in your zip code) for industries, companies, nonprofits, etc. where you might be able to do work within the intersection of what you do best and what you love to do most. By the way, I call that intersection your sweet spot. Once you’ve got a list that includes these four things, get feedback and confirmation from three to five people who know you and will be honest with you. If these talents and passions are seen by others in your life too, you’ll know you’re headed in the right direction. If you need help nailing down your top talents, passions and results try my free Career Clarity Guide. It’s a worksheet that will help you get clear on who you are so that you can step into the work you were made to do.
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Discover where your talent, passion and mission intersect to get clarity on the perfect role for you! Get the Career Clarity Guide
2. Get Qualified
Once you know what you want to do and possible places where you can perform that role, you’ll need to get qualified to do the job. Maybe you already have the education and/or experience you need to do the job you want to do—that’s incredible. Feel free to skip this step and move on to stage three. If that’s not you, no sweat. It’s not as hard, scary or expensive as it seems to get qualified to work in your dream job. First, you’re going to put your research hat back on. Based on potential job opportunities you found, what qualifications are necessary to do the work? Make a list of anything—from certifications to supervised hours—you need for the job. Then, find out how much it will cost to get those qualifications. It doesn’t have to be exact—just come up with a rough estimate. Finally, based on your budget, create a realistic timeline for when you think you’ll be able to cash flow getting the qualifications. There’s something really important to remember when you’re in this stage: Don’t assume you need a degree—even if the job posting says you need one to get hired. Now, there are some career paths that absolutely require you to have a degree (think doctor, lawyer, registered nurse, industrial engineer, etc.). If you want to pursue one of those degree-dependent paths, just know that you don’t have to spend a fortune to earn that degree. Adjust your timeline to fit your budget—because you should be cash flowing this degree, not taking on debt for it—and look for affordable options like community college and state schools over expensive, private, out-of-state universities. If you find out you can land your dream job with some experience and maybe a few certifications, that’s the ideal situation. If that’s the case, there are so many creative ways to get qualified:
- Take an online course or workshop.
- Find a boot camp or crash course you can take in the evenings or on weekends.
- Ask someone in the field if you can intern or shadow them for a few months.
- Borrow books from the library and download podcasts on the topic.
- Attend a local conference where you can learn and make connections.
You’ve got zero excuses. In our day and age, there are endless opportunities to get the skills, knowledge and know-how to do the job you want to do.
3. Get Connected
This is arguably one of the most important stages in the whole process, and it’s where The Proximity Principle starts to make magic happen. The Proximity Principle says: In order to do what you want to do, you need to be around people who are doing it and in places where it’s happening. It’s not hard to do—you just have to be willing to seek out people and experiences that put you in close proximity to your dream job. What does that look like? Take someone to lunch. I know the introverts reading this are getting queasy right about now—but hold on! It’s just a conversation, like any other you’d have with a friend or colleague. Ask your friends and family if they know of anyone who has a job that’s similar to the one you want. Mutual friends are the best ways to make connections. Then, simply reach out to that person and ask them if they’d be up for grabbing a cup of coffee or lunch because you have some questions about their career path. You’d be surprised how many people want to help others step into a career they love. When you meet with them, ask them questions like:
- How did you get to where you are today?
- What qualifications did you need and what did you learn on the job?
- What do you recommend I do to land a job similar to yours?
- What does winning look like at your company?
- What do you like and dislike about your position?
- Who else should I connect with? Will you connect me with them?
You never know where that relationship could take you—I’ve talked with many people who’ve gotten job leads and interviews after a one-hour lunch! Entry-level positions: Sometimes, you have to take on a role that’s in close proximity of your dream job, even if it isn’t ideal. This is what people like to refer to as “getting your foot in the door.” But if you knock it out of the park, this role will lead to bigger opportunities. Job shadowing/internships: Shadowing someone in your field or taking an internship at a company you might be interested in working at might feel “beneath you,” but that’s the wrong attitude to have. This is not only a learning opportunity, but also a chance to get in close proximity to lots of people in the industry you want to transition to. So, while you’re job shadowing or interning, keep your focus on the relationships you’re building. One day, those relationships might turn into personal recommendations, referrals, or even a dream job offer. Volunteering: There’s so much value in having an attitude that says, I don’t want anything. I just want to learn. If you have the time and financial ability to do so, volunteering is a great way to gain experience in your field. When you get around the right people and in the right places, the right timing will happen on its own.
4. Get Started
Making the right connections will be your launching pad to the right stepping-stone opportunity. What I mean by that is: The job you land in this stage might not be your dream job, but it should be a stepping-stone in the right direction. While you’re in this stage, make sure you upgrade your resume and cover letter so that it actually gets noticed. A recent study found that the average amount of time a recruiter spends on a resume during an initial screen is 7.4 seconds! Folks, that’s crazy. But it’s exactly why you have to create a resume that’s going to get a recruiter’s attention. Now, if you have the entrepreneurial bug, then this is also the time you start the business you’ve been dreaming about as a side hustle. Launch your website, start asking around for clients, and get practice under your belt. These are important baby steps that will help you launch and grow a business without debt and with less risk. If you need more tips on standing out in the hiring process, check out my Get Hired Digital Course. It’s an online video course packed with 11 lessons to give you the tools and strategy you need to get noticed and get closer to your dream job.
5. Get Promoted
This is an exciting stage because you’re seeing the results of winning in your role, which gets you closer and closer to your dream job. You’re winning because you: Know your role: This isn’t about your job title. Knowing your role is about having complete clarity around what your leader expects from you. Sit down with your leader and walk through your job description bullet by bullet so you know exactly what success looks like in each area. Accept your role: It can be challenging to accept the role you’re in today when you have your eyes set on a “better” job. But it’s important to see where you are today as that stepping-stone we talked about earlier. You never know how important this role will be in your next role. Focus on winning in the present and have an attitude of gratitude toward the work in front of you today. Maximize your role: Maximizing is all about the effort you put into executing your current role. You get noticed by your leaders, your peers and your customers by going above and beyond your role. Help a colleague in another department or step in to help a big project get across the finish line. Don’t wait for an opportunity to go above and beyond—make one.
6. Get Your Dream Job
As you keep rising in rank, you’ll eventually land your dream job—and let me tell you, it’s an incredible feeling to actually get excited about going to work every day. When you get here, you’re officially “living the dream!” But your work is far from over. Growth shouldn’t stop just because you’ve achieved this accomplishment. You should keep learning, keep developing yourself, and keep growing in your industry by taking on new challenges. Continue looking for ways to increase your knowledge and sharpen your skills—and keep this up until the day you retire.
7. Give Yourself Away
Remember when someone took the time to give you advice, connect you with an opportunity, or share their learnings over lunch? Now would be a great time to do that for someone else by giving your time, talents and resources away! Become a mentor to someone coming up in the ranks behind you and help them land their dream job. When your work has meaning, it should never really be all about you. Your gifts are given to you with the purpose of helping others. So, how can you keep using your talents and passions to serve as many people as possible? This world will be a much better place once we’re all living and working like no one else. Folks, I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you: Finding your dream job isn’t easy, and it’s not going to happen overnight. You have to want it badly and be disciplined enough to get up every day and work toward your goals. But I know you have what it takes. And when you do reach that place, there’s nothing like the joy that comes from doing the work you were put on this earth to do. Press on! About the author Ken Coleman Ken Coleman is America’s Career Coach and author of the national bestselling book From Paycheck to Purpose and the #1 national bestseller The Proximity Principle. He hosts The Ken Coleman Show, a nationally syndicated, caller-driven show that helps listeners discover what they were born to do. Ken makes regular appearances on Fox News, and he co-hosts The Ramsey Show, the second-largest talk show in the nation with 18 million weekly listeners. Through his speaking, broadcasting and syndicated columns, Ken gives people expert career advice, providing strategic steps to grow professionally, land their dream job, and get promoted.
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