NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Friday we'll get the latest snapshot of jobs in the U.S. And the picture is expected to be just a bit brighter. If you've been waiting to transition out of your job, this could be a good time to start preparing for that career switch.
1. Use your time now to determine where you'd be happy later
The first thing you need to do is self-assess. Even if you want a new career, you might not be sure where you want to go. There are a lot of consultants out there that can help you determine your best career fit, but why pay for what you can get for free?
The Web is full of great sites that can help you assess your personal skill set and find jobs that might be both fulfilling and rewarding. Careeronestop.org offers free online self-assessment tests and up-to-date employment information on a range of industries.
Careeronestop.org is a great website with tons of information about sectors that are actually growing, what salary you can expect ... and it even has an entire section devoted solely to career-changers.
Another great way for you to assess your skill set: ask the people who know you best. You might be surprised by what talents your family and friends see in you that you may be overlooking.
2. Find a way to do the job before you commit
While these websites will definitely help you narrow down your options, the truth is you never know what a job is going to be like, hour-by-hour, until you've actually seen it up close.
Check out this page Careeronestop.org to view videos of people working in specific vocations -- you can learn what skills are needed in industries that are looking for workers.
Try to find mentors in the industry you wish to explore and ask if you can shadow them. Look for part-time internships or volunteer opportunities that you might be able to fit into your regular work schedule.
For those who are willing to pay for a career test-drive, check out vocationvacations.com, a service that pairs job seekers with established professionals in a diverse range of areas. But be forewarned, it comes with a pretty hefty price tag: shadowing a TV producer for just 2 days, for example, will set you back nearly $1,500.
3. Hone your marketable skills now
To really make the most of this recession, spend your time developing the skills that will most appeal to future employers. That doesn't mean you have to commit to another four years of school. Try to use your current position as a launching pad: See if your employer offers training opportunities for any skills that might be transferable to another job down the road.
Look at class offerings online and at local community colleges, many of which tailor programs to what local industries are looking for in job candidates.
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