It’s easy to miss your most rewarding and satisfying career opportunities.

Why? Most people assume that there are no better alternatives to whatever they are doing or planning. Such assumptions are almost always wrong.

If people who are quick to assume they know about all the choices would just check and double check their assumptions about there being nothing better available, they would routinely find more interesting work to enrich their lives.

Let's consider how some people end up gazing fixedly at a self-defined small box of limited opportunities. Many career alternatives aren't very visible to young people. Consequently, most youngsters are only aware of relatively few choices: occupations that they've seen others do.

What about all the careers that are invisible to young people? Well, these kinds of work need to be identified and then checked out to determine which ones are interesting to and rewarding for a particular individual.

Fortunately, more people than ever are writing about unusual careers, and online search engines are good at finding what they have to say. If you can describe a type of work, you can probably find a blog, an article, or a book that describes some good ways to engage in that occupation.

With the advent of so many online videos, investigating potential occupations is also easier than ever before. You can see, listen to, and have a closer encounter with someone doing the activity than what reading can provide.

If what you read or see sounds attractive, it's good to try it out. Many occupations are hard to imagine without experiencing them.

Chances are excellent that someone will allow you to test your interest through an internship working with others in the field. After adding that perspective, you can decide if you want to learn more. If so, you can ask those you interned with what to do and how to prepare for such a career.

I've found that many people can also benefit from taking tests designed to help them appreciate what kinds of work fit well with their interests, personalities, and preferred working styles. I well remember taking such a test in the eighth grade. Two occupations came out tied based on my responses: being the head of a small business and teaching.

Well, here I am leading my own consulting firm and teaching as a part-time professor at Rushmore University. I find both kinds of work to be appealing and rewarding. The test's prediction ended up being quite accurate for directing me. I'm sure I wouldn't have explored nearly as many teaching options as I did without having first gained that insight.

Such tests are far from perfect. Let me share a personal example.

My least favorite activity as a youngster was writing. While I enjoyed thinking about ideas, organizing the words to express my views was painful, difficult, and more frustrating than anything else I did.

Yet, here I am midway through writing my fourteenth nonfiction book, having the time of my life doing so, and looking forward to writing at least two more books in the next 18 months.

How did that shift happen? Well, writing articles and books in middle age gave me a chance to discover that I love writing. I simply hadn't done enough writing as a youngster to gain sufficient skill and facility for my interest to have a chance to bloom.

While my writing has plenty of room for improvement, I could write all day and be filled with more energy at the end of the day than at the beginning. While many writers stare at blank screens for hours, words just pour out of me: I'm a marathon man when it comes to writing.

Who would have thought that such a result would happen? Certainly I didn't. And no tests recommended that untapped interest to me.

Similarly, there are at least some activities you've never investigated sufficiently to know that you would love doing them. How will you ever find out?

Well, I suggest that you look into a much broader range of careers. Then, check and double check what's involved in all career activities where any aspect of them has ever appealed to you.

When you learn more, you may find that the rest of what's involved in some activities includes just what you adore doing. Sometimes you'll just have to try a career to realize there's a wonderful match with your personality and interests.

To reinforce this point about the value of looking into doing new things, let me tell you some surprising information about my esteemed faculty colleague at Rushmore University, Professor Les Livingstone, who is the author of more than 20 well-written books.

Les was raised on a cattle ranch that he describes as being "isolated ... in the middle of nowhere." As a youngster, he knew what it meant to raise cattle, but virtually nothing about any other careers.

When the time came for college, there was no money for tuition. Rather than stick with ranching, he decided to study subjects with better income prospects: finance, accounting, and economics. Like many young people before him, Les assumed these subjects were dull and boring ... but provided the redeeming virtue of paying better than many other fields.

To his pleasant surprise, accounting paid well, but finance and economics proved to be immensely interesting and challenging. New questions arose in his mind, and he gained many valuable tools to address them. Here are some examples:

For instance, companies employ vastly different strategies. Some (like supermarkets and emphasize adding more sales while operating on very slim profit margins (profits/sales). Other companies emphasize high profit margins, but have fewer sales (such as Tiffany's and Mercedes-Benz). What are the financing and operating implications? Which strategy pays off best for investors?

Some activities seem to work better when conducted by government (such as the military and the courts) while others seem to work better when the government has a limited role (such as in providing food, clothing, and vehicles). What are the lessons? How do those lessons apply to providing health care, for instance?

Due to his own fascinating experiences with such engaging questions in finance and economics, one of Les's greatest joys today is introducing students who know little about finance and economics to the unexpected pleasures of applying these disciplines.

Teaching also wasn't on Les's list of desirable careers. His unanticipated love for finance and economics caused him to appreciate that he could help those who were avoiding these fields make the same rewarding discoveries that changed his life in so many wonderful ways.

As one indication of how committed he is to getting the word out, Les is a co-editor of The Portable MBA in Finance and Accounting, a resource that often serves as the introduction to these disciplines for new business students.

As the head of his own national firm offering litigation services, he's kept quite busy and interested while finding "how to solve the baffling problems that come with each new assignment." Such work is always fascinating and fun for him. Consequently, he teaches as a part-time activity, allowing him to enjoy an ideal balance of interesting work.

Many people don't realize that finance, accounting, and economics require practitioners to check and double check their work in order to find the best answers. While one perspective will reveal part of the truth, combining perspectives in effective ways, much as a balance sheet brings assets and liabilities into harmony, permits ways to avoid errors, as well. Broader perspectives should also be brought to bear in selecting careers.

Professor Livingstone advocates that professors and students work together one-on-one. From the point of view of appreciating career alternatives, such interaction is great for helping students identify and learn more about options they would not otherwise consider. The happy result is good for one and all.

So what choices are you ignoring that would light up your life? Isn't it time you found out? Here are some suggestions:

1. Make a list of your favorite activities.

2. Identify what it is about these activities that you most enjoy.

3. Make a list of what else you like that you seldom have opportunities to encounter or do.

4. Start asking people with different careers where people are able to do more of what you like.

5. Conduct online searches to check out career alternatives.

6. Try the more promising alternatives.

7. When you find something promising, turn it into a regular small part of your life.

8. If you are pleased with the experience after several months, look into making a full-time shift into your newly discovered favorite career.

What are you waiting for?

Author's Bio: 

Donald W. Mitchell is a professor at Rushmore University who often teaches people who want to improve their business effectiveness in order to accomplish career breakthroughs through earning advanced degrees. For more information about ways to engage in fruitful lifelong learning at Rushmore University to increase your effectiveness, I invite you to visit