choosing direction

Choosing a career path is no small choice. So naturally, switching careers is no simple task either. We hear inspiring and anxiety-inducing stories of professionals who, one day, quit their current soul-sucking job to seek greener pastures.

Recently, I ran across one of those on LinkedIn that went something like this:

In 2016, I Left my job as an electrician.

  1. Interned unpaid at a marketing firm to learn some new skills.
  2. Took on freelance jobs.
  3. Hired part-time as a video editor at another firm.
  4. Started my own business.
  5. Learned from mistakes and built revenue.
  6. In two years, I achieved a six-figure income.

I was fed up with my old life and job. The risk was worth it.

-Inspired Guy On LinkedIn

These epic chronicles of career change follow a perfect hero’s journey formula. They ultimately triumph, with these professionals nearly always starting their own business and achieving their dream job (otherwise, no one would share them). However, something bothers me about these tales. They often overlook the noble struggle and resilience required to stay in a challenging job. Though not ideal, there’s dignity in persevering in a job you hate, primarily when it supports you or your loved ones. In many instances, it’s worth staying and toughing it out.

Yet, sometimes a career switch is necessary. Occasionally specific jobs just aren’t the right fit. This could be due to demanding tasks, difficult coworkers, or a toxic work environment.

Navigating this crossroad can be daunting, but you’re not alone. There are tools designed to assist in these situations. Aptitude testing can guide your decision-making when considering a career switch. This post will explore how aptitude testing can guide your decision-making.

Limits of Aptitude Testing

Aptitude tests can offer valuable insights. At the risk of sounding dramatic, the insights aptitude tests give you can be career-changing. However, it’s essential to first note what they can’t do. If you’re suffering in your current job due to a toxic work environment or too long of a commute, an aptitude test won’t help you. Those are factors that exist outside the realm of your immediate control.

However, if your grievances lie in the actual work you do, then an aptitude test can help with that. First, understand this: aptitudes aren’t skills; they’re talents. Humans learn skills through practice and repetition. Aptitudes are a different animal. We’re born with them. We need not train or develop them. We simply use them, or we don’t. The crux of aptitudes is this: they demand use. In other words, you will feel vague dissatisfaction if you don’t use them.

Imagine how an artist would feel if they worked with numbers instead of images. On the flip side, an accountant is struggling to paint watercolors. A full-stack engineer would most certainly feel disjointed writing a corporate contract, while a corporate attorney would pull their hair out writing computational software.

These things happen when our aptitudes aren’t in line with our careers. And when they happen for a prolonged period, we start to hate our jobs, which often traumatizes our quality of life.

Aptitudes wire our brains to excel at specific tasks, making other jobs harder. Think about the last time you said, “I could never do that for a living.” Different versions of this statement exist:

  • “I’m not wired like that.”
  • “It takes me longer than other people.”
  • “I can’t see myself ever doing that professionally.”

You get it. Specific responsibilities seem beyond our ability to master. Or, at the very least, they come more naturally to others. That’s because the gap between incompetence and mastery isn’t solely decided by practice. It’s also influenced by aptitude.

Benefits of Aptitude Tests for Professionals

Thus, aptitudes are cognitive talents that predispose you to excel at specific tasks. When you pick a career that aligns with your aptitudes, you’ll master the fundamentals of that career more quickly. And after a while, and with the acquisition of skill, you’ll build upon that talent with experience and refine it with technique.

Identify Your Work-Related Frustration

frustrated woman with hands upNaturally, after taking an aptitude test, you’ll likely be able to identify better what bothers you about your current career. For example, I worked with one student whose parents convinced him to major in finance. Long story short, he hated his finance classes. When I tested him, we discovered the young man possessed potent spatial reasoning aptitude or mechanical aptitude. In other words, this guy’s brain was wired to build things and handle materials. There’s not much of that in finance, and our college student wasn’t impressed.

Majoring in finance hardly optimized this student’s talents. After learning more about his aptitudes, we settled on industrial design. There were other boxes that this major checked that I wouldn’t go into.

Finance isn’t a terrible major. I’ve worked with several finance experts and students who’ve found wonderful careers in the finance industry. However, these professionals possessed different aptitudes than the aforementioned college student. I’m no clairvoyant. But if I were, my crystal ball would forecast doom and gloom for this student’s career in business finance. As a designer, he’s utilizing his inborn talents that urge to express themselves.

How Adults Can Use Aptitude Testing To Switch Careers

Most adults aren’t interested in going back to college. They need a job now to bring in the bread they break, support their families, and maintain their independence and professional dignity. Thus, if an aptitude test reveals a person would make a great radiologist, that doesn’t mean that a professional must attend med school, earn a medical fellowship, and then complete a residency. That’s ten years of schooling; most adults don’t have time.

The Case-study of Kevin, an HR Specialist Turned Programmer

A person can learn a skill to pair with their education that builds on their aptitudes. And often, knowing that skill can make you far more marketable. Take my friend Kevin, for example. Kevin earned a business degree from Brigham Young University. After he graduated, he began his career in HR. However, something needed to be fixed as he settled into the profession.

The work was meaningful (more or less), but there was a concrete component his job lacked. HR work is a social service. The information you work with is fuzzy and often involves feelings, morale, and job satisfaction. Kevin discovered he had an interest in programming. He enrolled in a coding boot camp and learned Java script. While the education was intense and stressful, he learned how to code. Learning how to code not only made him more marketable, it made him happier.

Kevin now works for a tech start-up in Provo, Utah. He’s a full-stack web developer and software engineer. Kevin didn’t have to return to college for another bachelor’s degree. He simply earned a credential that qualified him to complete work that was far more meaningful to him. That doesn’t mean the work is easy. Work is work, after all, not a vacation. But what we do daily to earn our living should ideally capitalize on our strengths. Otherwise, the slow cancer of hating our work sets in. This should be avoided for obvious reasons, but sometimes the reasons are not so obvious.

The Consequences of Ignoring Your Aptitudes

I’d like to briefly refer to some wise words by my friend and colleague, Luke Ciciliano. Luke works as a front-end web developer[1] and contributor to Free Code Camp.[2] Luke mentors aspiring developers, particularly those seeking to start a business or work as a freelancer programmer. Luke and I discussed this on the FreeCodeCamp podcast. In that discussion, Luke dropped this piece of wisdom.

Liking your field also likely leads to a happier home life. The realistic chances that someone can be miserable in their workplace all day, and come home in a happy mood are essentially zero. This leads to problems with your significant other, children, and so on.

Hating your job can also lead to higher rates of alcoholism, substance abuse, and poor mental health. Add to this the fact that you’ll be more likely to struggle financially, and the importance of liking what you do should become clear.[3]

In other words, what you do professionally matters. When you pick a career involving projects that appeal to your interest and lean into your strengths, you can follow a trail of dopamine to a much happier life. If you don’t, Luke said this:

A person who hates their job might also end up being the person who has an ex-spouse and only sees their child half the time because it ruins their marriage and everything else.[4]

While this borders on hyperbole, Luke says it with an engineer’s candor. And he’s onto something. Ignoring your interests and aptitudes can be compared to ignoring your fight or flight reflexes. While working in an unfilling job may not risk physical trauma, it can undoubtedly risk the slow grind of mental trauma. Such subtle stress wears on the mind and rots the soul.

How to Find Your Talents and Test Your Aptitudes

While the technology used to test aptitudes is complex, taking the test is simple. You start with determining which career aptitude testing service you’ll use. You have three options: the Johnson O’Connor aptitude test, the AIMS test, and the Highlands Ability Battery. When choosing which test is best for you, you should consider cost and accessibility. Below is a summary of each aptitude test and how they differ.

Johnson O’Connor Aptitude Test

The Johnson O’Connor Aptitude Test is a well-respected tool in the aptitude testing industry. They’ve been in the game longer than anyone else, with over a century of research and administration. This test measures a person’s natural abilities, providing valuable insights for career navigation. The test requires two visits to one of their research centers, each lasting approximately 3 hours, and a final debriefing session. The cost of the Johnson O’Connor aptitude test is $850. However, it’s important to note that this does not include travel expenses, which could significantly increase the total cost if you don’t live near one of their testing centers.[5] Check out the table below for a list of all the Johnson O’Connor Locations.

Johnson O’Connor Locations

City State City State
Austin TX Atlanta GA
Boca Raton FL Boston MA
Chicago IL Dallas TX
Denver CO Houston TX
Los Angeles CA New York NY
Mint Hill NC San Francisco CA
Seattle WA Washington D.C.

Click the following link to learn more about the Johnson O’Connor Aptitude Test.

AIMS Aptitude Test

The AIMS Aptitude Test is an advanced aptitude assessment that specializes in helping students pick their college major and plan their careers. AIMS test is the most comprehensive aptitude test, measuring the most aptitudes of the three assessments. The entire testing experience takes ten hours to finish, with an additional follow-up discussion that lasts three-to-four hours long. The cost for testing, analysis, and recommendations is $925. This cost makes it the most expensive of the assessments. Sadly, while an inarguably advanced tool, it’s the least accessible due to its only location in Dallas, Texas. You must schedule an appointment and travel to their testing center to take an AIMS aptitude test.

Highlands Ability Battery

The Highlands Ability Battery (HAB) is a powerful alternative to the AIMS aptitude test. In many ways, the HAB is the golden standard of aptitude assessments. At almost half the price and the flexibility to take the evaluation remotely, the HAB remains the most accessible option for families seeking quality aptitude testing near their homes. The HAB has many other benefits, such as permanent access to an aptitude specialist, interactive reports for thorough career planning, and flexibility to take aptitude tests over several sittings. These features make the HAB an excellent choice for adults considering a career change. You can read our “What is an aptitude test?” article to learn about every aptitude the HAB measures.

Which Career Aptitude Test Should I Take?

All three of these career assessments offer reliable guidance. If you go with any of them, you’ll learn valuable insights into your unique combination of talents and how to match them with careers. However, you must consider three things to find the best aptitude assessment: cost, location, and the level of guidance you want.

Aptitude Testing Cost

If you’re on a budget, the Highlands Ability Battery saves you money without sacrificing quality. How much does the Highlands Ability Battery cost? Remember, it’s almost as half as expensive as the AIMS test, coming in at around $500, depending on the consultant you work with. Additionally, when you pay for the HAB, part of what you’re paying for are the integrated reports. The HAB makes the most sense for most professionals, especially those with jobs or on a budget.

HAB=$500, Johnson Oconnor=$850, AIMS=$925

If you want to go to an aptitude testing research center, you have two options: the Johnson O’Connor or AIMS. If cost is your biggest concern, then the Johnson O’Connor is cheaper than the AIMS test. However, remember that you’ll still need to pay for travel expenses to get there if you live far away from a Johnson O’Connor testing center.

Accessibility and Testing Locations

For accessibility, the HAB wins again. It doesn’t require any travel time since adults can take it remotely. Taking an aptitude test remotely dramatically appeals to most professionals. Jobs tend to make people busy. And when you’re busy, it’s tough to drive across state lines for professional development that your job isn’t paying for. Thus, most professionals need more flexible options.

Guidance on Career Aptitudes

If you want a highly quantitative experience, the Johnson O’Connor or AIMS might work best. After all, they’re research centers. When younger professionals attend centers, they emerge from an incredible coming-of-age experience. It’s like getting sorted into your Hogwarts house as an adult, albeit in a much more scientific way.

The HAB might be better if you want to work with someone one-on-one. That guidance would come in the form of a career coach or an executive consultant. If you’re interested in long-term or personal advice, an aptitude consultant can give you further career guidance beyond your aptitudes. This is one of my few criticisms of AIMS and Johnson O’Connor. They do their job too well. They focus too much on aptitudes.

The Role of an Aptitude Specialist

Aptitudes are vital. However, they’re not everything. Case in point, let’s say you possess incredible mathematical talent, but you hate math. In this instance, your aptitudes don’t align with your interests. I see this a lot. I see college students with powerful visual abilities who have no interest in drawing or design. I encounter adults with powerful foreign language abilities who can only speak their mother tongue. This isn’t usually the case, but it happens regularly. Interests matter. Your values matter. To say nothing of your goals, beliefs, and the skills that make you marketable and employable.

All these components matter. Aptitude specialists or certified highlands consultants undergo rigorous training to harness each dimension. Suppose you’re considering ever contacting your aptitude specialist who reviews your results. In that case, I will go with the HAB because you can access a consultant accustomed to helping people consider every variable in the career equation.

Schedule Your Aptitude Test Today!

Taking an aptitude test is the best place to start if you’re an adult looking to switch careers. There’s nothing quite like finding objective data on your talents. Click the link below to schedule your aptitude test today with one of our aptitude testing consultants.

Schedule Your Test Now


[1] Our Web Developers & Marketing Team, Modern Website Design – accessed at on 28 July 2023.

[2] freeCodeCamp, accessed at on 28 July 2023.

[3] Should I Be A Developer? How to Pick a Career as a Programmer., freeCodeCamp – accessed at on 28 July 2023.

[4] Should I be a developer? How can I become a programmer?, freeCodeCamp – accessed at on 28 July 2023.

[5] Locations Archive, Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation – Accessed at on 11 January 2023.


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