But getting from the aptitude and IQ tests we did at school to the point where we finally do what we really, really enjoy can be a long and hard road.
'Most people choose careers without finding out what they will like and dislike about their jobs,' says Dr Louise Holman, an industrial psychologist with a doctorate in commerce from UNISA and MD of SeriousChoices, a web-based career testing and advice service that will be introduced to schools and career counsellors shortly.
'They know they have a vague interest in something, and assume this is the only thing they want to do, without exploring the options or finding out about them. The result is they get into jobs they don't like and think they have to stick with them or they'll do better if they changed companies (doing the same job), instead of finding out exactly what is making them unhappy.'
How do you find what's right for you?
Before you can embark on a career that suits you, you have to really get to know yourself and analyse your abilities, strengths, weaknesses, values, attitudes, skills, qualifications, likes and interests.
'Choosing a career is a matter of matching self-knowledge with knowledge about jobs,' says Dr Holman. 'Every job needs a different set of personality and other characteristics. My research and experience has shown there is a perfect job for everyone.'
Where can I be tested?
Psychologists involved with career counselling (between R800 and R1 500 per test) and counselling professionals and teachers at schools and tertiary institutions (often no initial charge) offer career assessment tests.
And, increasingly, occupational therapy is moving to the World Wide Web, enabling you to do a career and/or self-assessment test from your own desktop.
With the relevant information at hand, individuals can consider what they know about themselves, and their feelings about the kind of person they are, to see whether a specific career option is likely to suit them. The results of a job-personality test can also be linked to relevant courses and career databases depending on where you get tested.
Once you've done an assessment, draft a CV. This will lead you to basically 'brainstorm' your career. Drawing up a CV from scratch will force you to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses in a positive way. You'll have to assess the gaps in your qualifications, skills and experience and ultimately define your goals and plan how you're going to achieve those goals.
Start investigating your options
Jot down the career options suggested by the test and find out as much as you can about them in career files and websites, books, trade magazines, newspaper articles, pamphlets and videos. Follow up on all the leads you come across.
Remember that the same job can be quite different in different settings, and you need to decide not only what you want to do but also where you want to do it. Start to research various organisations that might employ people in your proposed field. Take note of their core business and where it is conducted, their vision for the present and the future, their commitment to staff and scope for promotion within the company. Compare everything you learn with the results of your self-assessment: How does each company match up with the things you consider important?
Now that you've done all this reading and exploring, you'll know a fair amount about the career(s) you're considering. The next step is to go out and talk to people actually working in those fields to obtain an insider's perspective that reading cannot give you.