The expression, "finding your passion," seems easier said than done, but many have made that discovery by simply testing their aptitudes or natural, inherited abilities. It's something individuals rarely stop to evaluate, but the results, experts say, often conclude the specific types of work we're meant to do, the jobs that make us happy.
Take Kelli Longshore. After several years working as a consultant in the pharmaceutical industry—a job she said came with many "pros," she ultimately felt dissatisfied, unchallenged and bored. "It just didn't fit," she said. She decided to come to terms with her career unhappiness by taking an aptitude exam at a local branch of the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation in New York. The seven-hour test —spread over two days—required her to take on various activities: assemble three-dimensional jigsaw puzzles, fold paper, listen to musical tones and memorize slides of physical objects. Such steps were meant to check for things, like manual dexterity, musical ability, spatial visualization and memory for numbers.
[See also: Deepak Chopra: Money Can't Buy Happiness]
In the end, Longshore's instincts proved right; she had been working in the absolute wrong field. While her previous line of work required a great deal of organization and structural visualization, she was actually better suited for a career where she could generate ideas. She learned she has a high propensity for what's known as "idea production," a key aptitude that correlates highly with career happiness.
"It took some courage, but through my results I was able to see myself in a broader way, to see more opportunities and potential for myself," says Longshore. "It felt good, it felt right." Today, she is finishing her master's degree in sociology with plans to become a licensed clinical social worker.
"You meet a lot of people who have followed poor advice and find themselves miserable in their work. They come in for testing and realize they're not tapping into their natural abilities," says Stephen Greene, director of Johnson O'Connor's New York office.
But finding happiness at work should be a priority, considering we spend three-quarters of our day on the job, he continues. Some of the best aptitudes that can lead to career happiness, according to Greene, include idea production, or the inclination to generate lots of ideas, similar to Longshore's test results. Those with high idea production are well suited for careers in journalism, writing, teaching and selling. Structural visualization is another key aptitude, the ability to picture three-dimensional structures and forms in the mind's eye. Those who use structural visualization at work include engineers, architects and mechanics. Other important qualities that have proven to generate happiness in certain fields of work: concept organization, inductive reasoning, foresight and numerical reasoning.
Curious to learn what you're good at and what can make you happy? Professional aptitude tests, like the one at the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation, do require an upfront investment. The exam costs $675 in 10 of the non-profit's locations and $750 in its New York facility. You can also take free "career tests" at sites such as livecareer.com and careerexplorer.net.