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Personality is key to career

What did you want to be when you grew up? A dancer, firefighter, rock star? Or maybe an astronaut?

When I was 10 I told my mom I wanted to be a TV preacher. Then she informed me that I'd probably have to join a church, so I gave up on that plan.

Thus began a stream of well-intended, horrible career advice from authority figures.

Unfortunately, things haven't changed much. As the mother of two teens, I continue to be shocked, appalled and saddened by the way most schools approach career guidance.

Advance warning: This is going to be a bit of a rant.

Here's the big, stupid mistake we continue make -- We try to help kids figure out jobs instead of trying to figure out themselves.

From elementary on, schools spend time and money exposing students to various careers. Yet they rarely give kids the self-assessment tools that would reveal their own unique personalities and talents.

It's absolutely bizarre. It's totally backward. What's even weirder is, the solution is easy and free.

A simple online Myers-Briggs test ( will tell anyone over age 10 about 75 percent of what you need to know about yourself before considering career options.

This classic test assesses whether you're an extrovert who's energized by people or an introvert who produces her best work alone, whether you'll thrive in a loose environment or a hierarchical structure, whether you process things using facts or feelings, and other key personality indicators. There's no good or bad; it's just who you are.

This single test can save you tons of career missteps and heartbreak. Yet I'm amazed at how few people have taken it.

I did a Myers-Briggs on both my kids before they were 5 by utilizing the tools in "Nurture by Nature: Understand Your Child's Personality Type -- and Become a Better Parent" by Barbara Barron-Tieger.

Yet when my eldest daughter took AP Psychology in 11th grade, she was one of the few kids who had even heard of it.

Here they are in high school, and no one has ever exposed them to the idea that different personalities are good at different jobs. What's worse is, only the kids in AP Psych are learning it.

The rest of the crew is bumbling along like I did.

I didn't take a Myers-Briggs test until I was 27. Within five minutes of getting the results, I realized I was in the wrong job.

As an ENTJ, I was born to work in a high-energy environment selling big ideas and interacting daily with lots of people. Yet what was I doing? Working alone, selling a very static product to customers who didn't want to collaborate.

No wonder I hadn't broken past middle management. I changed jobs six months later. I joined a training company, selling concepts to creative customers and within six months I was the top performer.

If you've ever been miserable in a job, you know how hard it is to become something you're not.

No matter where you are in your career, it's not too late. Take the test; knowing yourself better will help you make great choices going forward.

And if you know young people, tell them to take the test before they decide one more thing.

Oh, and that idea I had about being a TV preacher? It turns out there's a job called professional speaker that is just about the same thing.

We already know who we are. Sometimes we just need reminding.