OK… so here’s my take (three bits of it, in this case) on how to get on the right career path:

Negotiate for a “rotating” job situation

Before dedicating yourself to a fixed career, negotiate with a promising employer for an opportunity to “rotate” between departments in his/her company. That way, you can get exposure to multiple endeavors and environments. Now I’m not suggesting you do this just for the sake of trying out different things, but rather to test out how and where your career interests will fare in the real world. If you do this, be sure to allow yourself some time and reflection to see where your vocational strengths and interests truly lie.

Career DirectionA minor caveat: because of the tight job market that still exists in this United States, asking for rotating assignments could in fact result in an employer deciding on some other “more grounded” candidate. Then again, if your primary goal is first to figure out what you want to do professionally, the rotating job tactic may be a risk worth taking.

Conduct informational interviews

Identify and make contact with knowledgeable people in your target areas of interest—then request and organize informational interviews with them. This strategy will require you to come to the table having already researched a particular industry or company, and its background. Then when you find a person willing to share his/her insights, you will be in a better position to ask intelligent questions and obtain an authentic sense of working in a particular industry or company. For example, you might ask of your interviewee: “What’s a typical day like for you?”; “What’s most enjoyable about your work?”; “What would you change about your work or your career if you could?”; “What types of skills are most valued in this line of work?”

Seek regular appraisals

Once you’ve landed in your targeted work environment, get yourself appraised…often. Some companies offer end-of-year employee appraisals, but you might negotiate for quarterly appraisals instead. This kind of regular, official evaluation will provide you with significant feedback. It also will provide for you an opportunity to voice your own concerns, suggest changes or adjustments. Appraisals can help the still-searching-for-a-career individual to take a step back and see if what s/he is doing is truly fulfilling. It will help you to take stock of yourself and your prime work talents. Not to mention, feedback from an employer who has actually witnessed your job performance is the best guide for helping you travel up the career path meant just for you.