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Finding the Career That is Right for You

There’s a difference between a job and a career. While a job can help pay your bills, it may not give you much fulfillment. The right career, on the other hand, can give you a sense of purpose and make getting up and going to work each day more rewarding.

Career Advantages
Having a career you’re proud of can bring increased stability to your life. In addition to an income and benefits, a career can offer opportunities to advance and learn new skills. You may also feel a sense of achievement as your career develops over time. However, if you’re a person who doesn’t like being tied down to any one position for the long term, you may be content working at different jobs that don’t follow a specific career path.

How to Find the Right Career
It’s important to find a career that makes the best use of your skills and interests. Though you may have an idea of what you’d like to do, a career aptitude test can help evaluate not only your interests, but your style of working and how you interact with other people. A career aptitude test can be useful for people who are just starting out in a career and for those who are contemplating changing careers. You can find a variety of career assessments online or you can work with a career counselor or coach.

When considering different careers think carefully about each the following:
��������� Are you a people person who thrives when working as part of a group or team?
��������� Are you a self-starter who works well with little supervision?
��������� Are you an analytical person who enjoys solving problems?
��������� Are you better at seeing the big picture or focusing on smaller details?

Continuing Your Education
The amount of education you have should also determine which type of career you pursue. If you already have some work experience, you may be able to change your career path with little effort. However, completely changing careers may require you to go back to school to receive additional training or certification. In some cases, you may be required to earn a degree. For some careers an associate’s degree can help you get an entry-level job, while more advanced positions may require a master’s, PhD, or professional degree.

Depending on the course of study you choose, you may be able to take classes online. Studying for a degree or certificate online is a good way to test the waters of a new career if you’re already in the workforce. Continuing education courses can also help you explore different careers without a huge commitment of time and money. If you plan to stay in your current career, getting a degree could help you move up in your field and obtain more responsibilities.

Switching Careers
Moving to a second or even third career can require that you step up your networking game. While going back to school can help you gain new skills, it still can be difficult to break into a new career. Switching careers can require starting at the entry-level point again and taking a pay cut.

One way to get the lowdown on a career you’re considering is to talk to people who are currently working in that field. A mentor or two can give your career efforts a boost. Look for approachable people on your current job or ask friends and family if they know anyone doing the type of work you want to do. If you’re in school, visit the career center to get help from a counselor.

To learn more about a career, you can also volunteer. Some people find that moonlighting while still holding a regular job allows them the freedom to decide if a career change is really the right move. You also may be able to work as a freelancer or consultant on the side but make sure this work doesn’t conflict with your current job.

Evaluate Your Lifestyle
Many people decide to change careers to find more balance in their lives. If having a set schedule with little or no overtime is your goal, you may need to look at careers that allow this. Other issues that can help determine your career choice include:
��������� Whether you’re a parent who needs a flexible schedule
��������� Whether you’re looking for a career that allows part-time hours
��������� Whether you have to take a large pay cut

It’s Never Too Late
While starting a new career can be challenging as you get older, it’s not impossible. According to a recent survey by D. Hart Research Associates, about 8.4 million baby boomers (ages 44-70) are starting new careers, with large numbers moving to jobs in the nonprofit, education, and health fields.

Is Entrepreneurship Right for You?
Another option for a second career is to start your own business. If you’re dreaming about working a couple hours then spending the rest of the day at the beach, keep dreaming. Running a business is hard work and more than likely you’ll work longer hours than if you were working for someone else. Before becoming the boss, ask yourself these questions:
��������� Are you good at multitasking?
��������� Are you comfortable working alone?
��������� Are you a strong manager?
��������� Are you willing to work for little to no pay while getting your business up and running?

Being the boss means that you’re responsible for any employees you hire, your own health insurance, retirement contributions, and other benefits. On the other hand, you can have more flexibility if you need to take a day off to go to the doctor or attend a function at your kid’s school. Entrepreneurship has both pros and cons, so do your research before taking the plunge.

Starting a second career requires careful planning. Make a list of your goals and form an action plan to achieve them. If you’re fed up with a dead-end job, there is hope for finding a fulfilling career. Change won’t come overnight, but putting together a workable plan may be the first step to an exciting new career.

Publish date: September 3, 2008