What do you want to be when you grow up?
It's not just a question for kids. We adults often need to re-evaluate who we are and what we want. I've done it. It took a while but after a few years, I landed one of those "they pay me to do this?!" fulfilling positions doing what I love!
Here are some guidelines that may help others get there faster.
Once you know what you want, see the post, "How to Find the Perfect Job."
First suggestion is to do it soon. The process for finding new passion is best done like losing weight -- gradually and for a long time. The sooner you start, the sooner your mind will be processing possibilities instead of dwelling on how something is missing.
What Do You Want — and Is It Achievable?
The hardest part in this quest is balancing desire and reality. On one hand, you don't want to be held back by limitations that exist only inside your head, by false notions of humility or weak self-confidence. But on the other hand, we all know people who fail and fail and fail because they are looking for something beyond their ability. If you watch a show like American Idol, you see it over and over: the people who don't have what it takes, everyone but them knows it, and they can't hear the feedback. "I don't care what these judges say, I know I have what it takes and I will never give up!" Persistence and commitment are good traits but you need honest assessments of your talent.
Your goal here is to find something you love and are good at. It is probably not going to be easy and you probably don't know how to get there (or you would have). But at the same time, you need a measure of reality. While I believe in impossible dreams, you also need to recognize how the world works.
This can be hard. You need to learn to hear and integrate feedback from multiple sources.
A good career counselor or coach is very likely to help. You can do it yourself but honestly consider: You have been in your current career for how long? And you haven't done it yourself so far. Get a little help from someone who knows what's out there and is skilled at telling people the truth.
But an important warning. There are a lot — and I mean a lot — of incompetents and swindlers out there. It's a ripe field for charlatans because we are dealing with people who are desperately married to their dreams — those "never give up" American Idol types.
Be especially careful around anything that is expensive. There are numerous counseling and placement companies that charge a small fortune. Avoid any recruiter who wants to charge you a fee. Be highly skeptical of any school or technical institute that charges a fat fee and makes promises of how "our graduates find high-paying positions." Especially be careful of anyone who trades on lofty hopes, especially in areas where we all know there are many, many more hopeful people than there are opportunities, like art or acting.
The best resources I found were non-profit organizations that do career counseling and charge little or nothing. These are usually funded by foundations or government programs.
When I did that a few years ago, I went to the (now-gone) Career Action Center and enrolled in a couple of workshops. I recommend that. Look for a workshop where there is enough structure to guide your journey but enough flexibility that you are finding your way. And I recommend something that throws you into a group with other seekers.
There is an author, Barbara Sher, who has written some books and done some videos. What I like about her is that she motivates but is not some fluffy motivational speaker type with idealistic ideas. She encourages you to think outside the proverbial box but in a grounded way, with realistic advice about how to get started doing what may seem impossible at first.
Sher originated "Success Teams." Groups of people like you who are looking for new directions, they use structure and exercises Sher developed. They are free or inexpensive and widely available.
Consider aptitude testing. A friend of mine did this and thinks it's great. He used Johnson-O'Connor in San Francisco. I have heard other positive experiences with them.
Private coaches can also be good.
Whatever you do, get personal recommendations — like finding a maid, a painter, or a dry cleaner, our best advice is always from someone who has been there.