Sometimes it requires some thought!

Often it's difficult to know what to do with your life. Whether you're just starting out and trying to pick a major for college, or you've been downsized or fired, or you are entering the work force for the first time, it's always nice to have a little help to focus your efforts and find a career in which you will be truly happy. If you can't wait to start work every day, your stress levels will be lower, you'll be easier to get along with, and you'll have a much better life.

What to do?

The first thing you need is to decide what you really like to do. For that I can't recommend anything better than What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles. I had been training for a career in a specific field in medical research from the time I was two until I graduated from college--and when I went to apply for medical school, all research funding for every university in the country was cut, right in the middle of my application process. So, on the advice of a friend, I picked up this book and diligently went through all the exercises. Thanks to that, a few months later I started my career as a classical musician, and I have been happy in that career for twenty-eight years to date, and have never once had a day where I didn't enjoy my work, and I get paid quite well for it, too!

The book has two major parts: informational interviewing, and the flower exercise. The flower exercise is designed to help you identify the skills you enjoy using and where you use them; the informational interviewing is to help you decide in what capacity to use those skills. It's very important to your potential happiness and earning power to do the exercises well.

This Book Changed My Life!

What Color Is Your Parachute? 2015: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers
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I know it sounds dramatic, but there's really no other way to describe the impact What Color is Your Parachute? had on my career choices and the steps I took to get there.

The Flower Exercise

The flower exercise starts off with your writing about the projects in your life you most enjoy doing, and then gives you a long checklist of skills for you to decide if you used those skills in any of those projects. There are also choices to be made about indoor vs. outdoor work, where you will live, and many other factors on which your career happiness will depend. I recommend completing the flower exercise before going on informational interviews.

Informational Interviewing

Informational interviewing is going out to people who already have a job that uses those skills, and asking them about working conditions, how they use those skills, and trying to find out whether that kind of job suits you. This is not a job interview, and therefore you will not need a resume; this is simply to find out whether you will fit in best in a large company or a small company; whether you want a job with a lot of interaction or whether you prefer to work alone; and how these jobs fit in with your preferences. You'll also discover what kind of training you need for a particular job or career, and how much that will cost; how long you will have to study; and any licensing or other requirements you will have to meet. The other goal this will help to you achieve is the beginnings of learning to network and creating a list of contacts for different businesses, who may be able to help you find your dream job when you are ready to begin your job interviews.

Although doing this will take a long time (in my case, even when I was unemployed, it took almost two months, and I worked at it several hours each day), the benefits are really worth it. Your career satisfaction and your pay will be higher and you'll look forward to the workday, where we all must spend a significant portion of our lives.