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Career choices may well be more difficult today than ever before, for three reasons: there is infinitely more to choose from; career definitions are more fluid and changing; and the levels of expectation are rising. Most men and women entering the workforce today can expect to change careers three or more times during their working lives. Here are ten steps that will help ensure that your choices are good ones.

Start with your values
What's important to you? What do you like to do so much that you would almost feel guilty getting paid to for it? These questions are designed to help you get at one of the key elements in career choice: values. Your values are the emotional part of all that you do. If you find a career that corresponds to your values, it is much more likely that you will it a satisfying one. Begin your career search by sorting out your values and writing them down as clearly and succinctly as you can.

Identify your skills and talents
A skill is something you've learned while a talent is something you've been born with. It's important to recognize the difference between the two. You may not enjoy something that you skilled at but chances are if you are naturally talented at something, there will be a correspondence between that talent and your values. Incorporate these skills and talents into your career choice.

Identify your preferences
Everyone approaches life and its challenges in different ways. The way we perceive others, how we think and make decisions, whether we prefer concepts to people, and the extent to which we are comfortable with risk in our lives. These preferences operate at a subconscious level, but they can strongly influence the way we function with others. This type of assessment will ask you questions such as: Do you regard yourself as highly intuitive? Are you extraverted or introverted? When faced with a decision, do you rely on facts or feelings? One of the best tests for learning about your preferences is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which is a self-assessing instrument that helps clarify these issues.

There's no substitute for experience, the more the better. If you're new to the job market or if you are considering a career change, the best thing to do is talk to people who are actually doing it. If it's possible get a job or a part-time job in the industry to see if you like the work involved. Try to get as much and as varied experience and opinions as you can. If you're committed to finding out about a certain career, you may want to consider volunteering in order to gain work experience.

Generalist or Specialist
While specialization is necessary in today's job market, becoming too focused in one area can be dangerous and eliminate your chances for new opportunities or career changes later on. Not to say that you should remain a generalist, but certainly try not to close any doors and keep the larger picture in mind. Learn widely about the industry you are involved in and then specialize in the field of your choice.

In your first job, opt for experience first, money second
A good way of deciding between several opportunities is to ask yourself: "Which position will offer me the best chance of becoming excellent at what I do?" And that may not be the one that pays the highest initial salary. But with solid experience, you will be able to negotiate a better salary later on.

Give 100%
Modest dedication and average performance are unacceptable today. With downsizing and an increased number of recent graduates, you have to be the best to get the job and you have to maintain that level of excellence to keep it. If you are interested and passionate about what you do, it will be much easier to remain dedicated.

Build your lifestyle around your income, not your expectations
Chances are that in a few years you will be making more than you are right now. However, don't spend as if you are already receiving the paycheck you want. This will protect you from job loss and provide you with some security should you want to change jobs or locations. Although incredibly difficult, starting early and investing regularly and wisely are probably two of the greatest secrets of wealth accumulation.

Invest ten percent of your time, energy, and money into furthering your career
Always maintain key contacts and keep your ears open for new and exciting opportunities even if you love the job you have now. Even with a stable job and income, you never know what may happen and if you stay plugged in to jobs, opportunities and maintain your network of contacts, you will be much better placed should something unfortunate happen.

Be willing to change and adapt
Be open to new opportunities even if they don't seem perfect right away. And have confidence in your abilities.


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