1. Find out what you're good at
It seems basic, but start by making a list of what you are good at. Do you have skills which are transferable? Write down everything you do in an average week at work, however basic a task, and then start thinking about which skills you excel at and which you want to ditch. Also have a think about hidden talents you're not currently using at work, but would like to utilise in the future.
2. Be passionate
You're going to be far more successful in your new career if you're doing something you love. What are your passions? What interests do you have? When do you get fired up and what really turns you off? If you can identify what makes you tick, you'll be nearer to finding your dream career. And it might be that you're already closer than you think - if this is the case it's probably worth speaking to the Human Resources department where you work to see if there are any openings you could consider.
3. Try a psychometric aptitude test
Don't assume you know all there is to know about yourself. There are several psychometric tests that will help you find out what your aptitudes are and some even suggest suitable careers. If you do decide to test yourself, be honest - there's no point trying to talk yourself up at this stage!
4. Do your research
Once you've got an idea about the career you'd like to aim for, now's the time to find out what you need to do to reach your goal. What skills do you need to get into that field? How do you go about getting them? Are there online courses or evening courses you could do?
5. Speak to someone who's already working
Speak to people who already work in that industry, and if you don't have any contacts, go on to relevant message boards or for extra help speak to a careers advisor at a local college or university. Sign up for trade magazines and email newsletters and read the job sections in the papers and online rigorously to find out how many jobs are around and how fast-moving the market is.
6. Gain some work experience
Write to the companies you are interested in working for to see if you can do some work experience. Take a week's holiday from your current job if need be, that way you can get a flavour for the industry. If that's impossible, find out as much as you can about the company - your local library might be able to help or take a look online.
7. Make financial plans
If you don't have any savings or a partner who is willing to support you in the short term, make an appointment with a financial planner to evaluate how you could make a career switch and maintain your financial security.
Keep your salary expectations realistic. Many people stop their job searches because they are disappointed with prospective salaries.
8. Talk your decision through
Before you make any decisions, talk it through with your family. Be realistic about changes to the amount you'll be able to contribute to the household income or the amount of time you will be away from home. Will you need to relocate? How will your lifestyle change?
9. Write a plan
Follow your dreams, but do it with a guide. Write down, step by step, how you are planning to get to where you want to. When you're ready to start, ensure your CV is bang up-to-date and that you've rewritten it to appeal to your new employers, focusing on all the transferable skills you have that will be relevant. For advice, try a CV workshop.
10. Be patient
The process of changing careers is one of trial and error. It doesn't happen overnight. You may even face a few disappointments and failures along the way, but the key to persevering is simply to have realistic expectations. Try to keep motivated and to keep focused.