Editor’s Note: I like to welcome Dennis as this week’s guest.  We will be sharing a guest with you each Friday.  I’m looking forward to learning from each of you.

Whether you just graduated or are frustrated with a dead-end job, finding a new career can be a frightening prospect. With 9% unemployment across the country, leaving one job to find another can seem like jumping off a cliff without a safety net. But if you are going to spend over half of your waking hours at the office, you deserve to work in a place that makes you happy and stimulated. These six elements of workplace happiness will help you narrow down and find your ideal work environment so you can start looking for the industry and career field that will most suit your personality, preferences and needs.

1. Determine Your Talents and Interests

You may already know what you are good at and what you want to do, but you may have skills or talents that are still untapped. Books like What Color Is Your Parachute? (affiliate) and other career advice books can help you determine what untapped potential you should be exploring. Think about your hobbies and talents outside of your work industry.

Do you have a knack for decorating or organizing closets? Do your friends come to you to help them choose diamonds for their engagement rings? Do people ask you to look over their reports and papers? Think about what you’re good at, and explore the option of turning that interest into a career.

2.  Think About Your Work Style

Depending on your preferred habits and schedule, you may do better or worse in different work environments. If you know you need flexibility and a loose work environment to feel comfortable, cross any top-tier law firms off your list. But if you know that you thrive under pressure and can perform in a high-stress situation, consider applying for that high-level position that will make your heart race and feel fulfilled.

3.  Where Do You Want to Work?

Do you need to stay put for family or personal reasons, or would you be willing to relocate for a promising job prospect? Are you looking for a job with an easy commute, or would you be willing to spend an hour on the train or in the car to make it in a demanding industry.

Until you can draw a map of your potential job landscape, you won’t know where to start looking. For some people, a long commute can make even a great job miserable, while others would never be able to focus when working from home.

4. Can You Have a Work and Personal Life?

Working women (and men) have always struggled with the question of whether they can really “have it all.” Can you really have a career you love as well as a satisfying personal life?

When looking for the career that you will really love for the long term, consider what work-home balance would be most appealing to you? Do you need plenty of time off and flexibility to be with your family, or will you be happy immersing yourself in work until late in the evening?

5. Does Work Match Your Values?

Studies have proven that the people who are happiest in their careers are the people who match work with their values. As glamorous as being a lawyer or Wall Street executive can be, you might actually be happier as a baker, teacher or nurse.

Do you get rave reviews for your custom-designed three stone engagement ring? You might have a future as an Etsy jewelry designer. Do your friends love your homemade jam and chocolates? You might think of starting a small web-based business.

For some job-seekers, the most important element of job satisfaction is the feeling they go home with at the end of the day. Will you feel satisfied and secure in your job if you know that your company shares your values and is working to support the same ethical, environmental or community goals that you believe in?

The knowledge that you are doing something you believe in has also been linked to long-term job satisfaction, so it is well worth your while to consider an industry that matches with your belief system.

6.  Consider the Role You Are Comfortable With Taking in a New Job

Do you want to be working primarily on your own, solving problems or creating new ideas, or do you thrive when working with a group on a specific goal? Are you going to be happy as a public community member, or are you better behind the scenes.

The same skill sets can work in more than one role—for example, if you are a great teacher, but don’t see yourself in that kind of public setting, you might consider working in an informational or educational capacity in a retail environment.

Your Turn

Each of these pointers can be applied whether you are currently job seeking or currently employed.  What is a tip you have for finding a career you’ll actually love?