You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want). As I think about the arc of my career and the direction in which I'm heading, this classic Joe Jackson tune resonates loudly.
I've yet to find any kind of work (full-time or contract) by being open to whatever the universe should happen to send my way. "I'll take anything" has never generated much by way of results in the job market -- and in tough times like we face at present, the lack of clarity that such a perspective reflects is even likely to result in more frustration and fewer tangible results.
Getting clear on what you want requires hard, even painstaking effort for most people. I've found that there are few shortcuts. I was helped immensely in this effort by participating in a guided program offered by Life's Work Center in San Francisco. I worked alone and in groups as I engaged in a process of self-reflection and discovery based on exercises included in What Color is Your Parachute?, perhaps the most celebrated job and career exploration book in print today. This process, which I completed in 2003, helped me clarify my interests, skills, and optimal work scenarios, and has been indispensable for helping me find my current position, decide to return to school to earn a doctorate, and put together a long-term career plan.