When I was 6, I was convinced I would be an opera singer when I grew up. I thought about being a doctor or an astronaut, too, but the last thing I thought about being was a writer. In college, I was uncertain about my major, but I wound up with a B.A. in communications and art history. Great. Now what? After working in retail, being a receptionist, going to graduate school, managing an art gallery and fundraising, finally at 40, I figured out that I like writing. Not having a more defined sense of what I wanted my career to be, I’m lucky I didn’t change my major in college. That could have been an expensive mistake. But wouldn’t it be nice to get from there to here without so much restless trial and error? For my own children, I do think this is more of a possibility because of a product I’ve recently discovered called Latitude. youscience_latitude_chalkboard Latitude is an online platform designed to help young adults in their “defining decade” (ages 16 – 26) make informed decisions about two “C” words—college and careers—that will have a huge impact on the rest of their lives. Based on 90 years of science, Latitude assesses your natural abilities and interests and suggests careers that are strong fit. If you’ve heard of the Johnson O’Connor aptitude test, then you’re familiar with part of what Latitude does. It’s interesting to know what you’re naturally good at, but even better to know what you can do with those innate abilities. And it’s this second part that makes Latitude a game changer, in my opinion, especially given the rising cost of a college education and that so many recent graduates are underemployed or unemployed. (Try 54%. Sobering.) A college degree doesn’t guarantee career success, or even happiness, for that matter, but having a degree in something you’re hard-wired to excel in and that you also enjoy sure could minimize the guesswork about which path to follow. Information is power, after all.

I know about Latitude because my family recently participated in a beta test before the product launched last week. (Interestingly, Latitude was developed by a Brentwood, TN-based company called YouScience.) I have a high school sophomore under my roof and a clock ticking down to his launch from the nest, and since his answer to the career question ranges from architect to soldier to music producer on any given day, I couldn’t wait to find out what might be a good fit for him. In the process, my family learned lots of things that have helped us understand each other better, and we’ve gained good insights that will be useful as we navigate the college process.

The test itself is intense. It’s a two-hour inventory of fourteen natural abilities that are the most closely related to career choice. At the risk of over-sharing, here’s a little of what I learned about myself: styleblueprint_latitude_aptitudes As it turns out, I’m good with words and I’m a creative problem-solver (very helpful in the start-up digital publication world I live in). I’m okay with basic math, but please, don’t ask me to do trigonometry proofs. If you try to teach me Russian or ask me to remember your passwords, I’ll need a moment to fish my notebook and pen (constant companions) out of my handbag to take notes. I’m also relieved to know that my lack of athleticism does not make me a failure as a human. Hand-eye hand coordination is simply not my strong suit. (This explains why I always got hit in the nose playing dodge ball in P.E. and why I’m glad step aerobics as an exercise trend is history.)

What Latitude has revealed about Child #1 is equally fascinating. Where I’m a generalist in terms of interests, he’s a specialist: I’m okay with the top line of information on a wide variety of subjects, but in his case, he wants to know everything about a few topics. This is helpful information to have discovered as he begins to look at colleges. In my mind, I had him pegged as a small college kind of guy. (Maybe because that was my experience.) What he may actually need, however, is a university where he can have access to plenty of specialized classes that go deep into his field of study.

Regardless, I feel sure we will spend plenty of time considering the interesting range of careers that are a strong fit for him. Here’s a snapshot of just a few suggestions from his assessment:

styleblueprint_latitude_careers

What you can’t see here, but what is incredibly helpful, is all the detailed information for each career, like what a day in the life is like, how your abilities and interests stack up against the requirements for the job and what kind of majors in college lead to a career in this field.

We certainly don’t have all the answers yet, and we’ve got a lot of digesting to do to understand the vast amount of information Latitude provides. We have started the process early, though, which is helpful. The client specialist who walked us through our results said it’s important to take in the information in small bites when you’re ready.

Do know that this tool is not a replacement for college counselors, or parents, or other wise people in your child’s path. But the same way knowing your blood type is important, there is great value in discovering what itch you need to scratch in terms of choosing a career.

And take heart if your 21-year old arrives home from semester exams, unsure about what’s next. They haven’t missed the boat. Latitude is as relevant for young adults questioning their major or looking at internships and jobs as it is for high school students considering college.

To learn more about Latitude or to enroll, visit the YouScience website: www.youscience.com. (Assessments are $399 for your child—a bargain, in my view, considering what an investment college is.) Here’s their short video, as well: