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The path to happiness; It's not always easy making career choices that stick

Career paths can change at the drop of a hat.

For anyone who has set out over the hills and through the woods on a road toward a particular career, life experiences are instrumental in getting there.

The same life experiences can be a guide when wary workforce wanderers reach a crossroads at any stage of their careers -- whether they are getting off to an uncertain beginning, or find themselves unhappy, unchallenged or simply unmotivated by what has become the daily grind.

The journey, or process of job placement, begins at the wood's edge.

Knowing what a person wants to do in life is key when it comes to choosing or changing a career, but it is not always that simple. There is also the matter of what sort of life experiences have led to that decision and the skills a person has.

Those factors influence the way educational institutions go about serving as guiding beacons to students who are just setting out for college, and others who are returning after a year or two in the workforce when they find they are not happy with the course they've chosen.

What we do is start when the students are freshmen. We try to talk to them about their strengths and how to capitalize on them, said Jeanne Gracon, a guidance counselor at North Colonie Central School District's Shaker High School.

Over the past 20 years, the way high schools have sent their graduates on a course to college and career has changed. It had to. The work force has diversified, new fields of work have sprung up in the Internet age, and colleges have expanded to meet the new intellectual demands that face John Q. Graduate.

At the high school level, counselors like Gracon began to take into account that they were sending students off to make a decision that would affect the rest of their lives, with essentially little life experience. Not that they hadn't worked toward gaining the experience, said Gracon, it's simply a matter of age.

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