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Dana WilsonKnowing which companies are hiring is meaningless if you’re unsure which career path to take.

Everyone knows dabblers who have tried their hands at countless jobs yet never settled permanently into one they really love.

There are many reasons for job wanderlust. It often stems from impatience. The result is never sticking around long enough to give a job a chance and to find the reasons why you like or hate a job.

If you fall into that vague career zone, don’t consider it a personal failing. If it’s any consolation, you have plenty of company. Nevertheless, it’s a frustrating place to be.

If your career has been limping along and you’re barely making ends meet, there is no better time to put yourself on the right track. The one thing you want to avoid is randomly applying to dozens of jobs on national job boards. That’s as fruitless as spitting into the wind. You might land a job or an assignment, but what good is it if it leads nowhere?

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Few of us are fortunate enough to be able to knock off for six months or a year in order to find a career we love. But, with some planning and belt-tightening, consider coasting on a modest salary that covers your costs so you can free up time in the evenings and on weekends to explore the career marketplace.

Unsure or confused about what career path to strike off on? The tried-and-true process of elimination is a proven way to begin. Make a list of all the jobs you’ve had over the past three years, and immediately eliminate the ones you hated. Of the remaining ones, which ones would you go back to and try again because they weren’t given a fair chance? Even if nothing comes of it, it’s a place to start.

Once you have some direction, begin the search. In no particular order, the keys opening the doors to opportunity are education, information and experience.

Education. The pulse of the career marketplace can be accurately taken by plugging into courses, degree programs and certificate programs taught at community colleges because community-college training programs and courses are often fashioned around employers’ needs.

Also explore online training programs. The amount of free material available online is staggering. You’re foolish not to take advantage of it.

Information. Tap everything available – friends, print and endless online newspapers and e-zines.

Experience. What better way to test different jobs or companies than by registering with a temporary staffing company and pursuing short-term assignments? The work will practically come to you if you have readily marketable skills. Most employers are looking for good communicators who can read and write and have basic computer skills. Bilingual candidates have an edge.

Make no assumptions about the marketplace. Approach it with an open mind and a positive attitude. The only thing you can count on is change, which is particularly true of technology jobs. Stick to what’s hot. In IT, you can’t go wrong pursuing networking and security jobs. Organizations are all about keeping their employees connected. That spells constant demand for project managers and network and software engineers, to name a few.

Small company, large company? All organizations, regardless of size, are hiring. Small ones are desperate for fast learners who can do everything. If you are a quick study and willing to work hard, pursue high-potential small companies with under 100 employees.

Pack your bags. It often pays to travel when opportunity knocks. It could mean a long commute at first and possibly a relocation later on. It might be worthwhile to seriously consider relocation should a special job surface. Do you want to risk passing up a great opportunity, counting on something better coming along?

You could wind up regretting your decision.

Dana Wilson is a freelance writer.

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The opinions expressed by our columnists and contributors are theirs alone and do not inherently or expressly reflect the views of our publication.

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