Of all the different aspects of the career transition process, I’d argue that the toughest and most confusing challenge one can face is trying to come up with a workable answer to the “what should I be now that I’ve grown up?” question.  What steps should you take, in other words, to brainstorm a new career avenue for yourself when your traditional career path just isn’t cutting it or meeting your needs anymore?

Alas, throughout my 25 years in the career coaching field, I’ve seen very little in the way of useful, actionable tools offering practical help with this challenge.  Sure, there are lots of feel-good inspirational books that will encourage you to follow your passion and get you psyched up to go figure out the job of your dreams.  There are also many personality tests and assessments that will validate the type of person you are, in general, and whether you prefer a workplace that’s a little more organized or a little more ambiguous.  But at the end of the day, many career-changers try all of these resources and still find themselves no closer to answering the underlying questions of which specific, current career paths would fit them best and which ones they might have a realistic shot of breaking into at this stage of their life.

In most cases, getting meaningful answers to these questions requires a serious amount of homework, effort, and research — and isn’t something best done overnight or when you’ve found yourself between jobs, since your career planning efforts in such cases usually get thwarted by the more immediate need for a paycheck and the insecurities that can go along with being unemployed.  Additionally, it can be very helpful (although obviously not required) to work with a professional coach or counseling professional who can help structure your exploration plan, offer objective feedback, and suggest career possibilities you, yourself, might have overlooked.

But if you’re still holding out hope for instant gratification?  Or looking do some initial quick brainstorming, at the very least, just to see if you can turn up a suitable option for yourself?  In those cases, I’d encourage you to check out the following three websites, which in my opinion are the current best-in-class online offerings for helping people explore new career options and possibilities…

Chegg Career Center (www.chegg.com/career-center)

While there are dozens of similar and more well-known career research tools out there, largely sponsored by colleges and government agencies, this “hidden gem” seems to have a far deeper pool of modern career options than most sites.  While most sites would tell a person with writing skills that their main options are novelist, copywriter, or technical writer — for example — this tool turns up a whopping 116 options including blogger, literacy coordinator, and content strategist.  For best results, try searching it by specific keywords representing your skills, strengths, and interests versus using the rather limited built-in choices on the left side of the page.

Payscale “Best Jobs” Tool (www.payscale.com/data-packages/best-jobs)

While not nearly as comprehensive as the Chegg site, above, this simple tool is operated by Seattle company Payscale.com and has the advantage of being able to draw on a wealth of real-time career data generated through the site’s salary survey functionality.  As you’ll note, you basically just answer a six-question quiz about your career interests and the site displays some jobs it thinks might be a good fit.  Make sure you note that there’s a slider on the top right of the results page (it’s easy to miss!) that lets you advance through a list of suggested positions and see if anything strikes your fancy.

Indeed Path (https://path.indeed.com)

The newest entry on the radar, the powers-that-be behind the world’s largest job database have thrown together this compelling new tool that allows users to either see where their current job might eventually lead — or pick a job they’d one day like to hold and see what the typical job progression is to break into it.  The results are presented in a very colorful and visual way — along with a breakdown of the skills/education it usually takes to attain a certain position, as well as the typical salary a given role commands.  It’s a pretty neat concept.  And if you’re really into it, perhaps compare it with a similar tool, GigZig, you’ll find here.