When you think about how many of your waking hours are spent at work, doesn’t it make sense to choose work that you love, find meaningful, and that matches your interests and values? Even in a rapidly changing world of work and tough economic times, it is possible to find this by taking some time to think about what really matters to you and creating a successful plan to pursue it.

You have options in how to start this journey. Some choose to set off primarily on their own, while others prefer to use the expertise of a career counselor. Whichever approach you choose, the key will be accessing a variety of valuable resources to provide you with useful information and insights and help you make a decision that is right for you. This article will briefly address the exploration phase of choosing a career.

Begin by investigating what skills you have and enjoy using, your work-related values (making a positive difference, making large sums of money, etc.), the kinds of environments you like to work in (e.g., office, outdoors), and so on. Like a jigsaw puzzle, you can put these pieces of information together to create a picture of potential career fields and jobs that appeal to you. A variety of books and online resources deal with topics related to career exploration and provide useful exercises to help with this crucial step (please keep in mind, the quality and value of resources may vary greatly; select carefully). One of my favorite resources is What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles. This inspiring book will be an excellent companion on your career journey and is filled with useful information and exercises you can use to identify and move toward your goal.

Once you have selected a list of possible careers, the next step is to learn more about them. O*NET OnLine is a great starting point http://online.onetcenter.org/ You can also research careers by reading books and articles describing them, arranging informational interviews with people already working in those fields, and (if possible) shadowing people who do the kind of work you wish to learn about. These steps will help you gather enough important information to decide which careers might best match your interests and needs and what steps you’ll need to take to prepare for your chosen career.

A rewarding career is well worth pursuing and the hard work you put into this pursuit pays off in the wonderful feeling of excitement you’ll have when doing work you are passionate about. Begin today by exploring which careers might spark that passion in you!

Shahrzad Arasteh, M.A., helps people create and pursue their career search plan using 10+ years of experience and a holistic approach to career counseling.  She is a Certified Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Practitioner, a Master Career Development Professional, a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, and a Certified Global Career Development Facilitator.  If you are ready to create your career search plan and find your meaningful work, visit http://www.careerconsultmd.com or contact her shahrzad[at]careerconsultmd.com

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