As a recruiter, it’s my job to assist people who are asking themselves, “What is my career path?” and “How do I find my career?” If you are asking similar questions, it may be time to think about what’s not working for you in your current position and what it would take to make it right. A job change should improve your quality of life—however you define it. Here are six steps that can help you figure out how to choose a career path and find your dream job.

Identify what’s wrong now
Are you tired of being micromanaged, or having your ideas shot down? Maybe you like your company but you don’t have opportunities to advance. If you take time to examine what’s wrong with your current job, you can start identifying the specific qualities of the career you want.

Get the behind-the-scenes story
There’s more to a job than what’s expressed in a job description—ask a recruiter or someone in your network to find out the real story. Before you say yes to what looks like a step up in your career, learn how the company is structured, what the people are like, and why one company might be better for you than others. Otherwise you might find yourself hopping from one job to another instead of advancing in your career path.

Consider what’s keeping you at your current job
Does your company have a hold over you? For example, do you have stock options that are waiting to vest? If so, perhaps another company would give you a signing bonus as compensation, plus equity. The point is to try to visualize opportunities instead of limitations. Think about what it would take to make you move—ideally to your dream job.

Reflect on your career aspirations
What roles and responsibilities are you looking for next? Many people prefer an environment where they can wear more than one hat. As you reflect on your career goals, look beyond the obvious monetary or equity draws to consider other determining factors. Do you want to live somewhere else? Enjoy a shorter commute time? Work from home on Fridays? What’s the “recipe” that would make you jump from your current situation to a better one?

Don’t wait to be happier
If you are one of the many people who go to and from work “siloed” in their own little world, you might be having a difficult time gauging your happiness. Even if you think you’re satisfied with your career, it’s always worthwhile to learn about other opportunities. Being able to consider other jobs while having the option to stay at your current position takes the fear out of the search process. You might find yourself wishing that you had started looking around years ago.

Consider risks and ask “big picture” questions
Imagine you’ve found your dream job…then two years later the company goes under. Or you show up one morning to find your company’s been acquired. No matter the size of the company or how promising it seemed several years ago, anything can happen. Consider the risks associated with your career path choices and develop a plan that can help you adapt.

Whether you decide to relocate if the landscape changes, or to change jobs if the marketplace gets tough, if you’ve done the hard thinking about your career path beforehand, you’ll be ready to act when the opportunity arises.

What has guided you on your career path? Please add your comments to the discussion.