Essentially, a goal can be defined as a desired outcome that you are committed to. Broadly speaking the question you are attempting to answer is “what would make me happy?” It may seem simplistic, but it is not actually an easy question to answer!
Often the best place to start is by answering some fundamental questions about your happiness:
- What has made you happy in the past?
- What do you enjoy in your life right now?
- What would you like to change?
The answers that you come up with will likely touch upon the 3 main elements of self assessment:
Understanding what you are looking for in each of these areas will help you when you start researching career options to determine what will be a good fit
This diagram puts it all together:
Notice that the ideal job is at the intersection of the elements. It is important to remember that it is not necessary that all of your needs, skills and interests be contained within your job. In fact, it is not likely that one job will have everything you want. Additionally, you may not want to have all of your needs fulfilled by your career -just because you have a particular skill, does not mean you have to use it in your career!
myplan.com provides descriptions for hundreds of jobs at every level, and also has online assessment tests that will try to match you to career options. The values questionnaire is free and the others cost $10-20. You can create a free account that will allow you to save your searches and the results of your assessments.
Career Development Peer Groups (CDPG) is a great program at Yale to consider if you are in the sciences.
See also Researching Careers -Getting Started for additional resources.