Choosing a career is one of the most important decisions most of us ever make. Depending on the individual, the choice of career may be decided by following in the footsteps of a parent or taking over a family business. For others, it is the pursuit of a passion or lifelong dream. Whether your path is clear or uncertain, careful planning may lead to the job of a lifetime. Examine Your Interests The first step in choosing the right career is to think about your interests. Decide if you prefer analyzing numbers to working with your hands. Evaluate your creativity or your desire to work with people. Don't worry if you have the education or experience for a specific career or how much money you might make. Use an interactive interest profile like that found on the My Next Move website. Created by the U.S. Department of Labor, the profile will help you identify possible career paths that agree with your interests. The Career Path website provides similar services. Focus Your Search After you've identified your interests, search for occupations. For example, if you like children or reading, explore a career in early education or library sciences. Careers such as daycare worker or pediatric nurse are also options that allow you to work with children. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides information on thousands of jobs including salary, requirements and work environment. Evaluate Your Preparedness Now that you've focused on a specific career based on your interests, identify the education, knowledge and skills it requires. Some careers may be started with a high school diploma; others may require a two-year or four-year degree. Some fields require certification for your chosen path. For example, if you chose a career in project management, you may find that certain positions require a certification. Explore Careers Your next step is to explore job possibilities in your chosen career. Online job boards are useful tools to see if jobs matching your career path are available in your area. Look across different industries to see how the jobs vary in terms of salary and responsibility. Ask friends and family members who work in your chosen profession if you can job shadow them or visit with a human resources associate at their companies. Other Resources Local colleges and universities provide career information to their students. If the service is open to the public, visit the career services department. Ask the staff to provide you with information on employers in your area. Also, investigate state or local employment agencies in your town. These agencies work closely with local employers and may provide training for certain careers. When you decide on a specific career path as a result of your research, make the decision to secure the necessary education and skills for the jobs in your field. With proper planning, you should be on your way to your dream job.