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?
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?
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.”
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!