In the third article of the series Embarking on a New Career: Develop Self Knowledge First I discuss the Importance of  Interests in Being Happy at Work.  I  profile how two accomplished women (Mika Brzezinski and Su Knoll Horty) discovered theirs and then boldly acted on that self-knowledge.  This is the link to the full article in the Delaware Business Times or you can read the whole text here:

"Essence" by Su Knoll Horty Oil on Canvass 30x40
“Essence” by Su Knoll Horty
Oil on Canvass

I have been strongly encouraging those who are about to embark on new careers—whether they are seeking a change from a current job or embarking on a new pursuit as a result of retirement—to develop sufficient self-knowledge about individual interests, strengths and needs in a work environment, so that the chances of that work leading to happiness and success are maximized.

A series of articles were recently circulated on LinkedIn in which individuals described “the road not taken,” e.g., career paths they did not go down, and why. An article about Mika Brzezinski, cohost of MSNBC’s Morning Joe—who knew at the very young age of 13 what her passion was and thus what her career path should be—fascinated me. Based on that self-awareness, she courageously chose not to pursue lucrative paths for which she was recruited, even when times were tough for her.

 It is my experience that many people do not have the clarity of Brzezinski at such a young age. Regardless of age, however, it is discoverable.

Consider the story of Su Knoll Horty of Delaware. She had a very successful career in marketing and sales. She sold everything from Volkswagens to high-technology Bio Skins.

In the late ’80s, she began to explore an interest in art by taking a class. This particular class focused on drawing, which turned out to be of less interest to Horty than painting. So she dropped the pursuit for another 15 years as she concentrated on her sales career.

Soon after turning 50 and being encouraged by a friend who shared a similar interest, Horty resumed exploration of her passion by taking several more classes. She had a similar experience as before, learning once more that she was not “drawn” to drawing and figurative work. But instead of giving up again, she began to test these observations with her husband, Peter.

He encouraged her to follow her interest differently and go to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts to take classes in abstract painting. And from that experience, a new career has grown. Horty has just completed a monthlong solo exhibit of her work in Philadelphia and has gallery representation. She is not only a regular at juried shows, but she has even been a judge at one.

Horty emphasizes that her art career builds upon strengths she discovered in her sales career, specifically a relentless curiosity about what she has engaged in, as well as a disciplined, goal-oriented approach to her work. The curiosity has enabled her to continuously learn about the art world and those who are succeeding in it. The journey has been one step at a time, with each step leading to a new goal. Throughout, she has tested her thinking with her husband and coach, Peter.

Perhaps you are somewhere in between Brzezinski and Horty in terms of age and self-understanding. Perhaps you know more about what your interests and strengths are. Perhaps you do not want to wait until you are 50 to fully explore this. There is good news for you, as well. There is a variety of tools and assessments available that can assist you in jump-starting the process of developing this self-knowledge, and I will share some of them in a later article. n

Dr. Sarah E. Brown recently retired as a managing director of Accenture, where she focused on talent-management challenges for multinational corporations. She is now authoring a series of self-help books, available at her website

Next in the series —- Where to start in determining interests, strengths and needs.