How to Find Your Perfect Career

A study environment composed of like-minded colleagues also can make all the difference to a lonely, shy or overwhelmed student. And isn’t there also a community in recovery?

There are four approaches to identifying the individual preferences, talents and natural aptitudes that can help students match personal interests with academic majors: the internet, with all the economies and dangers attendant thereto; a professional career counselor; Johnson O’Connor; and your college or high school career planning office.

The Internet

Google “self-assessment” or “career interest inventories,” and you will be swamped with assessment tools and career choice psychological theories. Spend enough time on these sites and you’ll be dangerously conversant with Jungian constructs, temperament indicators, and a babel of conflicting information promising to tell you the best way to find your way to a rich and fulfilling career.

The trouble with this torrent is that it’s difficult to convert it into a useful academic planning tool. This is especially true for students with learning or mental issues such as dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, spectrum disorders, depression and anxiety as well as those who may already have had some real-world work experience or

high-level advanced academic skills. The internet cannot help the out-of-sync student find curricular balance. The web will drown you.

Professional Career Counselors

A competent professional career and educational counselor will be trained and certified to not only give advice about a wide variety of work types and environments but also use an array of copyrighted assessment tools, such as Myers-Briggs and The Birkman Method. These counselors also will spend time with each client to review school, work, family and personal histories. The good ones also will spend time, often alone with students’ families, to gain an understanding of the culture, expectations and support of their extended family system. Many will also have done behavioral and mental health counseling, possibly including work in addictions. They should be able to understand you and your specific guidance needs.

Professional guidance counselors charge for their services. It’s usually money well spent as it can save you time and distraction. Before hiring someone, it’s always a good idea to call at least two references to compare pricing, the scope of services offered, their experience, and their areas of special interest and competence. Remember, you want a specialist who can advise you about college placement and course planning, not someone whose sweet spot is counseling mid-career professionals. Be tough with your questions about their typical client, and always call references unless the professional has been recommended by someone you know and who knows your family.

Johnson O’Connor

This is the granddaddy of career interest and aptitude testing. It’s also the most comprehensive. Administered in a growing number of U.S. cities (13 at last count), the Johnson O’Connor process is unique because the tests must be administered in the company’s offices. Testing includes manipulatives, auditory challenges, pencil and paper exercises, picture recall, and spoken work. There are no right or wrong answers. The staff explains to clients the many possible links between natural aptitudes shown in the test results and a hierarchy of recommended study and work options. They will suggest possible careers based on your test response patterns.

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