Picking the career that best suits your skills and interests is one of the most important decisions you can make. Whether you're a recent college graduate, or someone who's been working for years and come to the realization that you've chosen the wrong career, there are ways to better discern the employment path you should be taking. There are a tremendous variety of career types out there, so narrowing your focus is key to making the search more efficient and more likely to succeed. What's important during this focusing process is to be honest with yourself in assessing who you are and what you can do.
Many of us latch onto employment based on pay, often ignoring what our driving passions and interests are. While choosing the right career will certainly involve money considerations, of equal importance is determining what you genuinely love to do voluntarily. Think back to the serious hobbies, projects and interests you've had in the distant past, or which you continue to have. Write all of these past and recent interests down, with no self-editing.
The skills and intelligence required to engage in most hobbies and interests are usually translatable into paid employment, whether you're working for someone else or yourself. Take into account how you genuinely enjoy spending your time, and what projects and activities you hate to tear yourself away from. At this point in the process, it's also extremely useful to get honest appraisals and input from friends, family and career counselors regarding what your personal strengths and weaknesses are. Skills you've had to use in the past which translate into other careers include written and/or oral communication skills, leadership and management abilities, research, public speaking, computer literacy, familiarization with specific tools, and specific art and craft abilities (e.g. fine art painting, sewing, silk-screening, etc).
Additional career researching can be done by taking online tests which help determine what your strengths, weaknesses and interests are, and using this information to offer suggestions regarding which career direction to take. One popular example of such a test is the RIASEC/Holland interest scale, which recognizes six different types of careers that workers feel drawn to, and which fall under categories such as artistic or investigative. These six general categories are further delineated into specific careers, which you can then further investigate in terms of job requirements and average entry-level salaries for those jobs.
When you've narrowed down your career focus to a handful of possibilities, you'll want to start extending yourself socially by communicating with people who work in the fields in which you're interested. You'll want to gauge during your communications what you can expect from the sorts of careers you're considering, and not only whether you're up to the task, but also whether you're as interested as you initially thought you were before you were advised. The great potential side benefit of building a friendly rapport with a career contact is that this contact may also be able to serve as a reference to help get you hired. Another great way to get your foot in the door with a new career is to take a part-time intern position, which serves the triple purpose of making multiple career contacts, gaining career-specific experience which can be mentioned on a resume, and giving you a direct sense of whether the intern work you're performing is something you can see yourself doing full-time for the rest of your life.