It's easy to fall into the first career that will have you. And it can be difficult to break into the one in which you feel you truly belong.
Whether you're just beginning your career or have been toiling away for ages, following your passion rather than settling for a ho-hum job can be immensely gratifying.
Aside from the satisfaction of doing meaningful work, passion may very well be a prerequisite for success -- defined as truly mastering a skill.
Time commitment"Research shows that you have to put a number of hours into an activity, in engaged focused practice to get better," says Rick Smith, author of "The Leap: How 3 Simple Changes Can Propel Your Career from Good To Great."
It's a lot of hours of practice -- 10,000, according to the research of Dr. K. Anders Ericsson. His study of violinists at the Berlin Music Academy was recently cited in "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell.
"Passion comes first in the equation. It's not just a nice thing to have in a job -- it's a prerequisite for people who have really excelled in what they have done," Smith says.
Remember that just because you are passionate about something does not mean it will be lucrative. But nearly everyone who has been wildly successful at something was passionate about it.
So what's an office clerk with dreams of designing skyscrapers to do? Give up and accept your lot in life? Never! But don't quit your job tomorrow and enroll in an architecture graduate program. Do some research and come up with a plan for success.
Will your skills pay the bills?"There's this idea out in our culture that if you follow your passions, that will always lead to financial success. In interviewing people, I didn't see much correlation between how much people earned in their careers and how passionate they were about their work," says Martha Mangelsdorf, author of "Strategies for Successful Career Change: Finding Your Very Best Next Work Life."
That's why research is important. You need to ask: What is the demand like for what you can offer? Is there a market for what you want to do or what you're selling?
If starting your own business is your dream, the Internet is a great place for burgeoning entrepreneurs to launch it.
To find out if your service or product has potential, check out the number of people advertising on the Google search pages in your area of interest. The ads are the pay-per-click blurbs that run down the side of the page and sometimes across the top.
"You want to see a healthy volume of advertising. If there is no advertising, that's generally a sign that people have tried to advertise and it wasn't worth it for them. So that could indicate that there's not a strong enough market," says Jonathan Fields, author of "Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love."
Different approach for employeesIf you're considering switching to another profession as an employee, researching what's out there requires a different approach. There may be a way to bridge the career change in your own organization.
For instance, say you're working as a customer service representative at a bank and think you may be better as an art director in an advertising agency.