Are you in the right job for you? If not, you aren’t alone. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, 70 percent of American workers are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in their work. One survey states that 68 percent of working Americans would be willing to take a salary cut to work in a job that better applied their personal interests.
How can you find a role that is a good fit for you and your personality? With the advice to “do what you love” and “follow your passion” abounding online, many strive to match their vocations with their personal interests in an effort to be happier at work. Conventional wisdom suggests that people who are good at and enjoy what they do – while they may be in the minority – are happier and more successful in their jobs.
How can you be one of those people? Philip Hardin is the CEO of YouScience, a scientific, online profile that measures aptitudes and interests and helps students set a direction for their educations and careers. He believes the key to taking control of your career path is finding a career at the intersection of what you’re good at (aptitudes), what you love to do (interests) and what the market needs you to do (opportunity). These are his tips to help identify your path:
1. Understand your aptitudes. Hardin defines aptitudes as the foundation for skill development. He asks: “Have you noticed how easy it is for you to acquire skills in certain areas, while in others – no matter how hard you try – you end up average?” Understanding your natural aptitudes allows you to play to your strengths and focus on those areas that will give you a true competitive advantage. “Everyone could use a competitive advantage in this tight job market, but every career requires a different blend of natural aptitudes.
It’s easy to assess your basic skills. For example, are you a strong communicator, or are you good at math? Read job descriptions carefully and map your skills to what the employers want. Some skills are a little less obvious. Do you think in 3D? (What are your spatial relations skills?) How quickly can you diagnose and critique a problem? (Do you have inductive reasoning capabilities?) Knowing your unique portfolio of aptitudes provides you with a foundation to help target your education, skill development and career.
2. Identify your interests. Wouldn’t it be ideal if you could do what you love at work? Challenges to this proposition, which include not being very good at what you love and there being few prospects in the field you love, can make it tough to accomplish this goal. Hardin notes: “Doing what you love is one important piece of the career puzzle, but your interests are relative to your experience. Your interests evolve over time as you gain life experiences. They are important when considering a career, because they influence your choices and should direct how you apply your natural aptitudes.”
3. Find the opportunities. The marketplace is constantly changing on an international, national and local level. Whether you are 18 or 50, before you focus on a particular career, it’s a good idea to assess the landscape and opportunities. “Is the tide coming in or out for a particular industry or occupation? You have a set of natural aptitudes and interests; it is your job to find out how best to apply them,” Hardin says. “The job market is a moving target. If you are stagnant, it will hurt you.”
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Don’t worry, you don’t need to get out your crystal ball or hone clairvoyant abilities to succeed. However, you do need to recognize when the world is changing. When you plan to invest in a career, take a long-term view. What does the job growth look like for a career 10 years from now, and what skills are required to compete? Keep your eyes open to trends, and read news in your industry. Ask people in fields that interest you what they believe to be the trends that will affect the industry and work.
Hardin suggests: “When doing your research, be sure to think globally, and try to understand how changing demographics and technology might affect your industry.” Position yourself to take advantage of opportunities as a result of new technology.
Awareness is a big step in the right career direction. Focus on your skills and how they fit the market that interests you, and you’ll be on a quicker path to job search success.
Originally appeared on U.S. News & World Report