Setting Goals For Your Dream Job

Are you miserable at work? Well, you’re not alone. According to a 2007 survey conducted by The Conference Board, less than half of all Americans are happy with their jobs. For young adults below the age of 25, the numbers are even more striking: only two out of five people in this age group are satisfied with their careers. Like it or not, you spend 40 hours a week or more at work. Most people see those 40 hours of misery each week as just another fact of life. But what if you could change it? What if you could do something else, something you actually wanted to do? Even though it may seem like you’re stuck right now, you’re not. By using an organized process of setting goals, identifying what you need to accomplish to meet those goals, and acting on your objectives, you can break free from your current job and land the job of your dreams.

Things You Like
First, you need to figure out what you want to be doing instead of your current job. Obviously, your dream job is going to be something that you enjoy. You may think that getting paid to do something you enjoy is impossible, but in reality almost anyone can find a career that they like if they look hard enough. In fact, you’re much more likely to be successful if you enjoy your work. The easiest way to pinpoint your dream job is to use visual aids, like a list or a mind map (goal mapping software is a great option). It doesn’t matter whether you use a pen and paper or a computer program – getting everything written down where you can see it will help you get a clear picture of your job goal and what you need to do to get there. So, start by listing the things you like to do. What interests you? What do you do in your spare time? What is your passion?

Your Skills
Next, you need to identify your skills, the things that you’re good at. Are you a whiz at math? Are you the person people call when their computer breaks down? Everyone has their own personal skill set. Start thinking about the things you do well and make a list. Don’t forget to include skills that you’ve developed in your current career. However, don’t limit yourself only to skills that you have formal training in, either. Once you have a list of skills, try to identify which of the skills on the list you are best at. If you’d like, you can assign each skill a number, using “1″ for your strongest skill and going from there. Now that you’ve identified what you like to do and what your strongest skills are, look over the two lists to see if there’s any correlation. Then, find a job that involves doing something you like using the skills you are strongest in. If you’re stuck, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook can help you get a sense of what’s out there. A job that you enjoy doing that capitalizes on your natural talents — now doesn’t that sound like a dream job to you?

Specialize
Now that you’ve identified your dream job, what do you need to do to get there? It’s time to start identifying the objectives you need to accomplish to achieve your goal. Most careers require a specialized skill set. Even though you should have the basic skills and aptitudes to be successful in your dream job, chances are that you don’t yet have the specialized knowledge that the field requires. So, think about what you need to do to get that knowledge. Do you need to go back to school? Do you need to attend a training seminar and get a certification? The first objectives you set will be related to obtaining the training and skills you need to succeed in your dream career. This is where getting your dream job can start getting stressful, because it takes real effort to learn additional skills when you are already working a full-time job. However, if you stick to your guns, you will eventually be rewarded. Make a list of what you need to do to get those specialized skills, and start creating objectives and deadlines for yourself. For example, let’s say you’ve decided your dream job is to be a pilot. Here’s what a list of objectives might look like:

Save money for flight school/investigate financial aid options: within the next six months.
Enroll in flight school: within the next year.
Apply for pilot’s license: within the next year and a half.

If you identify what you need to do to become qualified for your dream job, break it down into a number of smaller tasks, set deadlines to complete these tasks, and follow through, then sooner or later you’ll be ready to take the next step forward.

Create a Proven Record
The next set of objectives involves creating a convincing résumé for yourself, so that employers will feel comfortable hiring you for the job you want. You should start working in your field as early as possible, even if it’s only part time or volunteer work. The more experience you have when you actually apply for your dream job, the better off you’ll be. Depending on the job you’re going for, you may be able to start working or volunteering in your field while you are still obtaining the necessary education and training.

Stand Above the Average
What else do you need to do to snag your dream job? As soon as you can, you need to start creating a demand for yourself. If you’re working part time or volunteering, don’t just put in your time and go home. Make yourself stand out from the crowd by doing an above-average job. Whenever you are given an assignment, complete it to the best of your ability, and don’t be afraid to take on additional work if you see an area where you can make a difference. However, even while you are “wowing” people in the field, try to maintain a cool attitude. Don’t try too hard to please — it smacks of desperation and will make people think that you lack confidence in yourself. Putting in extra effort early on will pay off when it’s actually time for you to go for the gold and start applying for your dream job. You’ll be armed with an above-average résumé that demonstrates to potential employers how hiring you will benefit them. After all, that’s what companies are interested in when they hire new employees: the benefits that the candidates will bring to the company if they are hired. A good personality helps in an interview, but nobody is going to hire you just because you “seem nice.”

Social Networking
However, there are times when knowledge and experience can only take you so far. Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? Sometimes, that really is the case. Having a strong social network can give you an “in” on your dream job. If you know people with good connections, they can help you get your foot in the door and even help you find out about job opportunities before anyone else. To build your social network, you have to build social links, or connections, between yourself and other people. If you have a friend who knows someone in the industry you’re trying to break into, have your friend introduce you to that person. Another way to meet people is by going to professional conferences in your field or joining professional associations. Also, it’s important to advertise yourself a little bit when you meet new people. Just make sure you know when to stop talking about yourself — you don’t want to seem self-centered! However, you do want to make sure that people know what you are good at and where you’re trying to go. That way, if they’re ever in a position to help you get your dream job, they’ll think of you. It’s also a smart move to print off some business cards. They are a convenient, professional way to give potential contacts your phone number. Of course, social networking is about more than effective self-promotion. In order for it to actually be effective, you have to make people want to help you. The best way to get help is to give it. Why should anybody try to help you if you’ve never done anything for them? By taking the time out of your life to do something unselfish for someone else, you’ll give that person a reason to do something unselfish for you later. As the saying goes, “One good turn deserves another.” To expand your social network even further, consider the Internet. It’s not hard to set up your own Web site, and there are companies that will host your site for free. Knowledge of HTML is helpful, especially if you want to create your own site from the ground up, but don’t be intimidated — it’s certainly not necessary. Many companies have templates you can use and customize when you set up your site. The same is true for blogging. There are plenty of easy-to-use sites, such as WordPress.com, that will host your blog free of charge. The Internet offers unlimited social networking potential, but it’s up to you to take advantage of it.

Now Get to Work — That You Love!
The most important thing to remember about getting your dream job is that it won’t happen overnight. It won’t necessarily be easy, either. You may have to be willing to wait and work hard to get into the career of your dreams. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though. Plan for the long term, but don’t procrastinate when it comes to getting started. The first steps you take toward your goal are often the hardest, but if you don’t start moving, you’ll never get anywhere. So, what are you waiting for? GO!

Setting Career Goals: Taming the Monster

Setting a course that leads you to, and through, a great career is one of the most important tasks you will ever take on. The mileposts along that course are the goals and objectives you set. Choosing the right ones is clearly critical to your success.
Everyone wants to be successful. But what is your definition of success? Is it only a matter of making a lot of money? Does it also require spending your working life doing things that matter to you, that you love, that nourish your heart, mind, and soul? Several recent surveys of working Americans (e.g., Taleo, 2/08) say essentially the same thing: about six out of seven hate either their job, their boss, or both. Does that sound like success to you? Think you’re stuck with it? If you do, read on.
The popular view in the developed world, and probably beyond, is that hard work at something you may not enjoy is the key to success. The problem is that it just doesn’t fit the facts. Here is some evidence to support that assertion.
Srully Blotnick did a study with 1,500 business school graduates, following up with them 20 years later (from 1960 to 1980). In the beginning they were each asked which of two career approaches they would use. Category A (1,245 graduates, or 83%) advocated making money first so that they could enjoy it later in life. Category B (255 graduates, or 17%) favored doing what interested them most, what they loved, in the belief that the money would follow.
In a follow-up survey 20 years later they found that of the 1,500 participants, 101 became millionaires. Only one of them was from Category A. The other hundred were from Category B. In other words, among those in the study, those who did what they loved were 488 times more likely to become millionaires within 20 years. It doesn’t get any clearer than that.
The author of the study observed that “the overwhelming majority of people who have become wealthy have become so thanks to work they found profoundly absorbing…Their ‘luck’ arose from the accidental dedication they had to an area they enjoyed.”
Clearly it is critically important to choose your goals well, and choose them on the basis of what you are most passionate about. Start with one grand vision. What would you just love to be doing by the end of your career? Initially, forget how you are going to get there. An ounce of passion is worth more than a ton of discipline, because you will do things for your passion that you would never do by forcing yourself.
“Divide and Conquer” is a well established and successful method used by the business and technical communities. It means that any project, no matter how extensive, can be broken down into smaller sub-projects. And these in turn can be further broken down. By following this process, you eventually arrive at tasks which can be done right now–today! Having practiced this approach in a wide variety of situations, I can say without a doubt that it really, really works. What seemed overwhelming at first, once broken down far enough, becomes simple and manageable. Career building is certainly no exception.
Start by finding the heart of the matter: where do you want to be at the end of your career? Then backtrack and list the things that will have to happen before that is possible. Then, starting at the earliest point, break each of them down into smaller and smaller increments, prerequisites if you will, until you arrive at tasks that can be put on a schedule and accomplished more or less immediately. When you have finished those, you will be ready to go after the next level. When you have done it all, guess what? You’re there!
For example, say your true love is floral design. You want to be a highly regarded expert with your own TV show. A lot will have to happen to get you there. Let’s look at just one part of one sequence: knowledge. You might take a 2-year course from a local Community College. That begins with finding a school, then registration, then completing the coursework. Each of these is a sub-goal leading to the final goal. If you want your own TV show, you will need to learn about visual presentation, public speaking, etc. As always, just break it down until you can schedule it.
Although it is not always possible or practical, it is very helpful to express your goals in terms that are measurable in some way. What will you need to know? How much cash do you need to accumulate? How much education will you need? With measurable goals, it is much easier to know when you have successfully met them.
The larger the project–and crafting a career can be pretty extensive–the more you need good tools and a command of their use. In the 21st Century, many of the tools will involve computers and software. Basic skills like typing, good written communication, online research, facility with spreadsheets and word processors are among them. When it comes to creating things, like a career, there are also specialized tools designed to facilitate creativity and organization. Spend some serious time collecting the tools that best suit you and learn to use them well. It will be more than worth the effort.
Whether you are just out of school, or a grizzled old veteran, career building is a virtually lifelong process. The skill you develop in this pursuit will cast a long shadow over your entire life. Take it seriously, but don’t forget to have fun, too. In important ways, your life depends on it.

Ceiling Height Can Influence Your Thinking. Really?

Yes, really! Researchers from University of Minnesota and University of British Columbia have indeed shown that ceiling height can affect your thinking. They argue that low versus high ceiling can activate different concepts in your brain, and this will affect the way your brain process new information and do problem solving. A high ceiling would evoke concepts of freedom (abstract, relational thinking) while a low ceiling would evoke concepts of confinement (attention to details). By no means should you have the idea that one thinking method is better than the other. They are just different tools that can be used to solve different kind of problems.

The research results are about to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research. The researcher web page can be found here, and a copy of the research paper can be found here.

Now, if ceiling height can affect your thinking, what about your office color, layout, and furniture?

What about the software tool you use? Do some experiments yourself. Try to remodel your office space, and test different software tools until your find a best fit, which really improves your performance.

Building an Accomplishment History

There is no doubt that in order to accomplish a goal you must firmly believe that you CAN and you WILL accomplish it.

So, the next step is “How to put my brain in the right mood, to firmly believe it.”

You can try to repeat to yourself all day “Yes I can, Yes I can, Yes, I will”, but research has shown that the best way to do it is by building yourself an accomplishment history. The best predictor of your future behavior is your past behavior.

Banks and other financial institutions are well aware of that. They are seriously in the business of making money, and they can’t afford to take risks. They make the decision of weather to lend you money or not based on your credit history. The way you behaved towards paying your bills in the past is used to predict how you’ll be paying your bills in the future. Is this always true? Not necessarily, but for most of the cases, it is, and that’s what matter. They cannot afford to play with individual cases.

The same way you need to make your bank believe you’ll be paying them back, you need to make your brain believe you are capable of doing it, and that chances are high that you will eventually do it.

The best approach to do it is by building yourself an accomplishment history. Start small and let it grow over time. Set yourself small goals and learn how to appreciate what you have done by the end of the day. Keep it consistent. The results will be amazing.

Being Adaptive

Habits are good, but what would life be like if there were only “habits”? Boring! You don’t want to be a robot spending most of your life following programmed behavior patterns, do you?

Habits are good to free our brain to execute more noble and challenging tasks such as “adaptation”. That’s what make us humans so special, we can be amazingly good at that.

Most people are anxious about adaptation because it’s usually seen as a threat, causing us to feel insecure. However, when seen from a different perspective adaptation can be fun. Video games are all about new challenges and adaptation, and people love them, so, why not try some of that in real life?

You had planned a short weekend trip to the country side. Your goal was to be at “This Cute Little Town” before noon. You’ve made a perfect plan: what roads to take, where to stop for gas…and if you are like Jack Nicholson in “As Good as It Gets”, you had even planned “when to play your favorite songs”. It’s 10:30 AM, you’ve been driving for 3 hours and you’re now half way to your goal, …then you find out that Highway 83 has been blocked because of a landslide! What do you do now? Get angry? Cry? Give up your trip and go back home?

Well, the most important thing is to realize that your original plan WON’T WORK anymore, but there is no reason to despair. Now it’s your chance to exercise some of your “adaptation muscles“: if Highway 83 is blocked, what can I do to reach my goal (“This Cute Little Town”)? Are there other roads? Which one should I take?

Successful people have good habits, they know what their goals are, they are determined to reach their goals, they make good plans, but what really sets them apart is that they are very adaptive! They embrace new challenges and quickly adapt to the new conditions.

Forming New Habits

So, what’s the secret formula to form a new habit?

Creating a new habit  can be seen as creating a path of worn grass in a public lawn. If you walk through a path once, it won’t do anything to the grass. If you walk for 5 days, you might get something that resembles a path, but if you stop doing it, the lawn will quickly recover and your path will disappear. What if you walk through the same path, everyday, during a month? You’ll probably create a permanent “worn grass” path!

The key is repetition: you have to repeat the behavior consistently, until the pathways become etched in your brain. Avoid skipping, you should do it on regular basis.

How long should it take to get a habit?

It takes time, and you should be patient.  Again, back to the grass analogy, you can’t create a path by stepping on it just once. A week is not enough either. Maybe two weeks?  I’m pretty sure you can do it in three weeks!

What else can you do to facilitate the process?

Reward yourself. Associating some form of reward  during your habit formation will make the process much easier. You can be creative and setup any kind of reward you can think of.   For example, allow you to browse your favorite websites, play  your favorite video game, eat your favorite snack, only after you’ve performed your daily dosage of your “new habit”.

Keeping track of your progress is also a form of reward, it gives you a sense of control. Write down a list stating your progress “Day 1…Day 2…Day 3…” and post it somewhere  in the house where other members of the family can see it. Making others aware of your accomplishments can be a valuable reward.

The Power of Habits (the good ones)

Think about something you can do very well without thinking. How about breathing? Isn’t it amazing? You can breath slower, faster. You can breath deeper, shallower. But even if you don’t think about it, you can still breath. You can read a letter, eat, talk to your friends, drive a car, watch a movie…and still breath.

Imagine if you had to think about breathing all the time: “OK, now I’m going to breath in..OK I’m done, now I’m going to breath out.”. This would be so time consuming that you wouldn’t have time to do anything else. How would you pay attention to a movie if you had to think about breathing in …and breathing out….breathing in … breathing out…. How could you drive cars, read letters, eat, talk to friends… it would be almost impossible. Imagine how exhausted you would feel by the end of the day.

Breathing is not a “habit”, but it is very close to being one. It shares the same properties. A habit is a form of learned behavior that you do without thinking. Breathing is also an automatic behavior, which you can do without thinking. The only difference is that it is innate (you don’t need to learn how to do it, is already hardwired in your nervous system when you are born).

So, a habit is a behavior you learn, which can work the same way as breathing. How powerful that is! You have the power to do it, so take advantage of it. Use it for you own benefit, this feature is sitting there in your brain, waiting for you to program it. Creating good habits could save you so much time and release your brain to do much more interesting things.