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When Choosing Your Career Path, Pick Your Passion

Determining which career path to tread is a hot topic, no matter who you are. From teenagers to college students to mid-career professionals, most everyone grapples with the career path question--and it's a recurring theme throughout life.

Consider today's Wall Street Journal, where Sue Shellenbarger writes about encouraging kids to do what they love when choosing a career path. A column in the University of Florida's newspaper urges students to seek internships to guide their career paths. And an InformationWeek blog explores career paths for CIOs.

But how do you go about choosing a successful career path?

Savoring the Journey

Writing about career change myths, Jeffrey Levine, founder of the Clarity and Action Partnership, says success hinges on enjoying your career path:

Successful people have made an important discovery - that the journey itself is even more important than the goal.

It's also critical, he says, to follow your passion, and not just to "pick a career in order to make enough money to someday quit and do what you really want to do."

It's true: doing what you love ultimately pays off, both personally and financially. If you focus solely on money, or where others say you should go, you'll likely feel unfulfilled at the end of the day. While the job market is increasingly competitive, it's also increasingly dynamic, full of opportunities unimaginable a generation ago. Today's workers have the good fortune of being able to change jobs and careers a number of times, without worrying about the blight of "job hopping" on their resumes.

Wherever you are on your career path, hard work and dedication are key. Give your all to the task at hand, and everyone benefits--you, your boss, coworkers, customers and anyone else affected by your work.

College Students' Career Paths

While career paths are important for everyone, they're a constant concern for most college students. Internships have become ever more vital to helping students shape their career paths, many say, and to helping them land gigs after graduation.

A column in the University of Florida's The Independent Florida Alligator explains:

A summer internship is the absolute best opportunity college students have for hedging the threat of post-graduation unemployment. Freshmen, sophomores and juniors should consider spending every summer possible developing networks in the industries that interest them. Finance majors should work at banks. Pre-medical students should talk to doctors. Journalism majors should work for magazines. At the very least, students will learn whether they really want to go into a particular field.

A telling indicator of how important internships have become is a Web site called "Intern Memo," which offers interns a free newsletter and career advice. According to USA Today:

Intern Memo also focuses on social activities in New York City, where the site is based. As landing an internship increasingly becomes the doorway to the world of work, Intern Memo is tapping into a nationwide need to share experiences. The Bressmans [creators of the site] hope to expand to other cities.

"In the last 10 years, internships have become a prerequisite for entry-level jobs," says Jamie Fedorko, author of The Intern Files: How to Get, Keep and Make the Most of Your Internship. "You can't get one without" an internship.

So if you're internship-searching or soul-searching, remember that choosing your career path also means choosing how you spend your life.

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