Maybe you're in a job that's making you miserable or you're just bored but can't think of a fulfilling career. Maybe you've lost your job and are unsure what to do next, or a student who can't decide on a career path. Maybe you've just got itchy feet or an irresistible urge for a completely different direction altogether, but don't know where to start.
You might have signed up with a load of recruitment agencies and read tonnes of job adverts. But sometimes, it's still hard to decide which role or area might really suit your skills and personality.
Here are my tips on how to narrow your search and choose the right career for you...
One of the best ways to plot your potential career is to sit down with your partner, parents or best friends and really brainstorm without boundaries, preferably over a bottle of something nice. Sometimes, those closest to us know us better than we do ourselves, and they might surprise you with some of their suggestions.
Making a mind map can really help. Think of it as a list, but on steroids. They've been proven as a highly effective way to get information into and out of your brain. This is a form of radiant thinking which suits the way your grey matter works much better than a linear list.
You can use online tools to create mind maps, but I prefer doing them physically. You need a big blank sheet of paper and a pen - or, even better, a load of different coloured pens. You may find as your mind map grows that you need more space, but that's fine, just keep going and let all the ideas flow. Just add more paper if necessary.
In the middle of the sheet, write 'new job/career' in a big circle. Then consider all the kind of roles you're willing to do. Write all of those in boxes to the right and draw arrows from your central circle to them. Maybe one of the things you'd like to do is 'work in finance'. If that's the case, then think of the type of financial institutions you'd like to work in and what role within those institutions you're most suited to.
You might want to ask yourself what kind of company culture might suit you best, what size of business, what environment, what culture. If there's a company you've already decided you would quite like to work for, identify your reasons why and write those down. Then think which other companies might offer the same and write those down.
Think about your personality and passions. Are you outgoing and enjoy a high energy atmosphere whilst striving to hit big targets? Or more of a creative type who enjoys getting to the bottom of issues and problem solving in a slightly less frantic environment? Write everything down and link from your central 'new Job' circle. Then think of all the jobs that might fit with those personality traits and passions. Again, write them all down, and link with arrows and make sure you focus on your interests rather than your qualifications or any previous work training. Every career has low-level entry points and mind mapping is all about blue-sky thinking.
Feel free to doodle as you go - images actually really enhance mind mapping.
Also think about what kind of salary you'd like, whether you prefer to work alone or as part of a team, how far you want to travel to work and where you see yourself in five years' time. All of these things could have a bearing on what might be the job of your dreams.
And don't worry if it ends up looking like a bit of a mess on countless bits of A4 - I guarantee you will get some positive ideas out of it.
Once you've identified some areas you might be interested in, I can't overestimate the benefits of doing some thorough research. Hit Google, connect with people and companies on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Inspiration can sometimes come from the unlikeliest sources after all.
Use social media like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, and identify people who have jobs that interest you.
Ask them how they started out in their career, what they enjoy about it, and any advice they might have or if they think there's anyone else you should be talking to. You'd be surprised how helpful strangers can be - most people are flattered to be asked career advice and are more than happy to offer it.
Take a test
There are a host of free online quizzes you can take that might help point you in the right direction or give you some ideas. Just search for 'career tests' online. They can be very enlightening and if nothing else, certainly make you think.
Update your CV
September is International Update Your Resume Month, so now is the perfect time to get your CV in shape. Don't forget that when you've decided what your next job or career is going to be, you need to tailor your CV accordingly. I've written about how to get your CV in shape this September here.
Good luck! Believe in yourself - the perfect job is out there somewhere...