IT IS ALL VERY well talking about career plans, but what is the point if you cannot even begin to define your dreams. When you are stuck in career no man's land, it's a struggle to summon even the slightest enthusiasm for your future. You dread being asked the question: 'So what do you do?' And, despite hours of research, every idea falls short of your expectations and you wonder how you will ever find a career that inspires and excites. It is easy to feel like a loser. Try looking at it another way. In my experience, the people who find it most difficult to define their career goals are often those who have the biggest dreams and the greatest talent. They just find it difficult to bring these dreams into the open. Think of the talented artist who believes design to be an unsuitable career choice. Rather than using his abilities, he hides away unhappily as a sales executive working for a music company. He may be in a creative field, but is not doing what he really wants to. Or, consider the gifted counsellor who, instead of using her talent to help others in her own special way, has chosen to follow her parents' dream and become a lawyer. Difficulty in finding a focus can boil down to having low self-esteem or a shortage of confidence in your abilities. If, though, you are completely honest with yourself, you will often realise you know exactly what you want from life, but have simply convinced yourself it is too difficult to achieve. So what can you do? Firstly, make sure you have spent sufficient time exploring your career preferences and the opportunities around you. Sometimes career indecision comes from having too many opportunities and not enough focus; adopting a systematic process for considering options will help. But, after a period of reflection, if you are still unsure what you want and feel scared and totally stuck, then it is likely your indecision stems from certain core beliefs and the way you see the world of work. For example, parental influence might have led you to believe that job security is more important than excitement. Deep down, though, you crave new challenges and an adventurous lifestyle. This conflict between beliefs and desire is likely to wear you down and create a state of inertia. The key to unlocking your potential is to identify the self-limiting beliefs and attitudes that are holding you back. If you have the time and money, why not engage the services of a career counsellor or coach who will help you to work through your belief systems, identifying career blocks and developing a plan of action. For those who are strapped for cash, there are a number of useful books which deal specifically with this subject. One of the best for people starting their careers is I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It by Barbara Sher with Barbara Smith. For those with a little more experience but who do not know what to do next, try, I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Gratifying Work by Julie Jansen. Both books provide innovative exercises to help in identifying the issues that are holding you back and offer practical suggestions to help move past any emotional blocks. Bear in mind that both depression and anxiety can contribute to career uncertainties. If you think this may be a possibility, do not be afraid to seek advice from a doctor or therapist. It is better to deal with these conditions head on than allow them to have a long-term detrimental impact on your chances of success. Tackling your career indecision will take time. But there is no reason to stagnate while waiting for inspiration to strike. Instead, it is vital to keep the brain active and your skills well honed. To move forward, make the best possible guess about your preferred direction, even if it does not feel exactly 'right', and then set some goals. By working towards these objectives, you will maintain a sense of achievement and be developing career and job skills that might prove useful when you finally find your direction. Taking action is one of the best ways of dispelling feelings of despondency or depression and you might find that your 'best guess' career suits you more than you originally thought. Besides that, focus on developing generic work skills. Whatever your final career choice turns out to be, you will undoubtedly need to work effectively with others, manage your time and specific projects, and use IT systems. Why not set the development of these skills as career goals for the time being? However, be careful about the jobs you accept during this period of indecision. While it might be tempting to accept the first opportunity that comes along, this can lead to even greater unhappiness if the job fails to match your inherent skills and preferences. Try to choose jobs that make the most of your strengths and are aligned with your values By sticking close to your values, you will be closer to finding an ideal career path, even if you do not yet know precisely what it is. Finally, do not make the mistake of believing there is a perfect job just for you because even the most successful careers are built on compromise. Survival Tip # 6 If you are not sure of your direction - don't just sit around. First, try to identify the beliefs and attitudes that are holding you back. Then set some goals, and work towards them. Even movement in the wrong direction is a learning experience.