1 - Evaluate Your Work Style
The right career for you will be suited to your work style. Are you a self-starter who accomplishes goals on your own, or do you need the discipline of a structured work environment to do your best? An honest evaluation of your work style will help you decide whether a career where you work independently is right for you. If you're naturally a daydreamer or a procrastinator, you may do well in a career where a supervisor help you stay on task.
2 - Know Your Talents
Do you have a hobby or a talent that you love and are good at? Think of ways to transform activities that come naturally to you into a career. Working with wood, playing an instrument or trying different hair styles can lead to careers as a custom furniture marker, a musician or a hair stylist. Doing what you love can lead to a rewarding career.
3 - Set Financial Goals
One of your goals should be to choose a career where you can earn enough money to meet your financial goals. If you want to own a vacation home on every continent and fly to these homes on your private jet, a career as a retail clerk will probably not help you achieve your goals. You may have to make some compromises along the way, but generally speaking, the career you choose should allow you to meet your financial goals.
4 - Do the Math Before Going Back to School
Before you pay -- or, worse, borrow money -- for college or graduate school, make sure the career you choose is worth the expense. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the cost of an undergraduate college education rose 25 to 37 percent between 2000 and 2010. If you need to go back to school to qualify for your dream job, look into programs that repay your student loans if you work in a public service position for a few years after graduation.
5 - Assess Your Social Needs
You'll spend one-third of your life with the people you work with, so choose a career that's a good social fit. If you're a loner who doesn't enjoy social interaction, you may be well-suited to a career where you work independently or work from home. If you love to meet new people, you may find a career in sales fulfilling, where you work with the public.
6 - Conduct Informational Interviews
A 15-minute informational interview with someone who has a job you think you want can help cement your career choice. Many people will be happy to meet briefly with you to talk about the pros and cons of what they do and tell you whether they would make the same career choice if they could turn back time and choose differently. Start and end the meeting on time, ask probing questions and listen carefully to the answers.
7 - Use Self-Assessment Tools
Use do-it-yourself resources to help you narrow your career choices. Take online quizzes to help you assess your aptitude for certain types of work. Review online job descriptions and career information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to help you understand what the education and training requirements are for different kinds of jobs. Many books and workbooks are also available to guide you through the self-assessment process.
8 - Hire a Career Coach
If do-it-yourself tools aren't right for you, a professional career coach can help you measure your aptitude for success in different professions and navigate your transition from the job you have now toward your dream job. If you feel like you're stuck on your current career path, a coach may provide the counsel you need to jump-start the process and move onward and upward toward success.
9 - Get Real-Life Experience
Follow the example of companies that use interns and temps to evaluate an individual before they extend a job offer. Real-life experience in the work environment where you think you want to work can help you make up your mind for certain. Job shadows, internships and temporary assignments give you a realistic view of a day in the life of a profession.
10 - Be Patient
Finding the right career is a process, not an event. An entry level position in your field may not be your dream job, but it can give you a foothold on the career ladder you want to climb. It takes time to develop your career, but setting goals and following a plan to achieve them can help you fulfill your career aspirations.