Our professional lives are full of important transitional periods that should be handled with careful preparation. Early transitions include graduating from high school and leaving for college. Both of these are preparatory steps that eventually lead you into a fulfilling career.

Career planning begins with an awareness of your talents and interests. You should take the time to ask yourself a variety of self-reflecting questions, including the following:

  • What skills do I already have?
  • Do I possess any special talents that might be valuable in a specific industry?
  • Are there any fields that I am fascinated to learn more about?
  • Where would I be proud to be employed?
  • Which career best aligns with my long-term goals?

It’s perfectly fine if your professional interests and hobbies intersect. For example, if you’re an artist and aspire toward practicing your chosen artform professionally, then your interests and professional pursuits have aligned.

This is not absolutely necessary, but it is ideal to begin with an idea of what you’ll be passionate about. Think about what you would still enjoy doing five or ten years from now. If you despised everything about your customer service job in high school, chances are likely that you should avoid affiliated career paths and degrees.

Dedicating time toward personal development and goal-setting before you enter college will give you a leg up over peers who take longer to commit toward a particular field of study. Look to your future and spend time reflecting on your educational and professional aspirations.

According to a 2015 Gallup poll on employee engagement, only 32 percent of U.S. workers are engaged in their jobs. The reasons for this are varied, but the fulfillment any job brings is certainly a factor and highlights the importance of caring about the work we do. Many millennials value leadership based on the core values of engagement and collaboration, so it is important to seek out opportunities that provide both. Perpetuating our own career unhappiness should be avoided whenever possible. Finding that passion for your career can even lead you into a different field entirely.

If you’re already out in the workforce and want to change industries, your situation has inherent advantages and disadvantages. You will likely possess more experience and perhaps you have already built secondary connections in the industry you’d like to join. On the other hand, you may lack the necessary experience and skills to compete with your peers. To overcome this obstacle requires demonstrating your value.

When approaching positions in a different field, presenting a tailored resume is the key. You can include positions in technically unrelated fields, but use this as an opportunity to highlight a specific skill or experience that is applicable to this position. Nearly anything can become applicable if approached from a relevancy-first mindset.

Perhaps as a project manager for a small startup you helped design and order brochures or other printed company materials. Definitely mention this if you’re applying for a publishing or graphic design position. You could also use how you handled a specific project or problem in an unrelated field as an example of how you perform under pressure. It’s all about how you frame your response. To convince a hiring manager that you want and deserve to be there, you must genuinely want the position.

The bottom line is that choosing a career requires looking inward at what motivates and drives us. Don’t arbitrarily choose a career path that doesn’t align to your interests and talents. Our workforce already has enough disengaged workers. Demonstrate how much you value yourself by choosing to pursue a career that you’ll be fulfilled and engaged in even a decade from now.