[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/04/willis.gerri.cnn.art.jpg caption="CNN Personal Finance Editor Gerri Willis says the recession may be a good time to start exploring new career options."]
From CNN Personal Finance Editor Gerri Wills
If you’re working but desperate to find a new career, the recession is a good time to start exploring options.
Use your time now to determine where you'd be happy later. Even though many companies are in hiring freezes right now, the recession is a perfect time to focus on your career goals, so that when the economy does bounce back, you can be ready to apply.
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. The web is full of great sites that can help you assess your personal skill set and find the best job for you.
Online.onetcenter.org and careeronestop.org both offer free online self-assessment tests and up-to-date employment information on a range of industries. Careervoyages.gov is a great government-run website with tons of information about sectors that are actually growing.
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.
Find a way to do a job before you commit. Now the truth is you never know what a job is going to be like, hour-to-hour, until you've actually seen it up close. Go to careervoyages.gov to find videos of people working in specific vocations - you can watch bakers, geologists, even fashion designers doing their thing. Try to find mentors in the areas you wish to explore and ask if you can shadow them. Look for 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 Vocation-Vacations-dot-com, a pretty neat service that pairs job-seekers with established professionals. But be forewarned, it comes with a pretty hefty price tag: shadowing a TV producer for just 2 days will set you back nearly $1,500.
And once you've found the job you think you want, you might want to consider shortcuts to a four-year education.
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 4 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.