Maybe you’ve just graduated from college and are struggling to figure out what your dream job might be. Or perhaps you are already working a 9-5 job but are feeling unfulfilled in your current role. Finding a career you love may seem like a daunting task but it can be done with motivation and persistence.
“Do what you love” is pretty common career advice but how do you get that career you actually love?
Finding a career you love can be as individual as you are. You will first need to identify your dream career or the qualities of the career you want and then focus on getting the necessary skill sets and education for the job. As unattainable as a dream job may seem, with the right amount of thought and preparation, you can do what you love. Here are six tips to get you started:
1. When You Know It's Not Working, Quit
Many people hate their jobs and know that they want to do something different, but stay in that job for a long time. It’s hard to discover what you love doing while staying in a job you hate. If your current situation isn’t working, you need to find something else. Leaving a job is never easy and it may be a bit uncomfortable, but it can also be incredibly powerful because it frees you up to invest all of your energy into finding the next thing.
If you hate your job but can't leave it due to the income, make a plan to get out. Start brainstorming and figure out the direction you want to go in. Then, make a plan of attack to get out. Take courses in your off time, study online, and start portfolio projects so you can get closer to where you want to be and closer to leaving the job you hate.
2. Don't Make Money Your Primary Consideration
If money were no object, what would you do? Would you travel? Spend all of your time with your children? If you’re looking to spend your life doing something you love, the best way to start is to treat financial concerns as secondary. Of course, money can’t be ignored, but don’t let financial pressures dictate your choices if you can help it. Your career should ultimately lead to financial security, but if financial security is the defining motivator, it’s unlikely you’ll end up doing what you love. If you allow yourself to pursue your curiosity, you will eventually earn money on your terms.
3. Identify Your Goals and Interests
Even though you may not have a clear vision for your career, you are probably curious about things that may or may not be obvious to you. It’s important to follow your curiosity and uncover your less obvious interests.
Carefully think about your own goals for your career. Consider what you value as an individual and a professional, and use these to guide your decision-making process. For example, if being of service to your community is important to you, you can remember that value when you are researching career paths. Try using an organizer such as a spreadsheet or to generate ideas and visualize your thinking.
According to The Reasons We Work by Shane Parrish, direct motivators—motives that tie directly to the work itself—typically bring out our best performance. The closer our reason for working is to our actual job, the more engaged we’ll be.
Pursuing your interests and motivators sets you on the right path to unlocking who you want to be. Frequently, these will be things that do not appear pragmatic and sometimes may seem downright frivolous. A classic example is Steve Jobs’ curiosity for typefaces which led him to attend what seemed to be a useless class on typography. Later, this class became an essential part of Apple computers in the marketplace.
Consider asking yourself these questions as you are identifying your goals and interests:
- What would I like to learn more about?
- What skills do I enjoy the most??
- What career paths do my friends think of when they think of me?
- If money weren’t an issue, what would I do?
- What makes me most curious?
- What do I do best?
- What am I most passionate about?
- What projects (paid, volunteer, or school-oriented) have I most enjoyed working on in the past and why?
- What kind of work environment do I thrive in? Do I need a clear structure, or can I be in a startup environment?
Whatever you do, don’t let a lack of clarity stop you from moving forward.
4. Identify What Your Strengths Are
You will not be good at everything. But following your interests is a great way to discover and develop the natural talents you possess. Once you’ve discovered your goals and interests, identifying your strengths is the next step. Career satisfaction is all about finding that special place between things that interest you and what your strengths are.
What are you skilled at? For example, some of us are natural entrepreneurs who hold ourselves accountable and eagerly sell our stuff. Others need to work hard to make offers to customers and stick to deadlines. You might be great at problem solving and math, or you might prefer to create meaning through words instead of numbers.
Great books, teachers, bosses, and coaches are vital in helping us do exactly that.
If you are looking for a job right now, it’s important to have the self-awareness to identify the things you are skilled at today. While you can always build new skills in the future, your current abilities are what will be most appealing to an employer right away.
5. Develop your Personal Brand
Your personal brand is your professional identity and how you package it. This is an important part of positioning yourself to find a career you love. Just as a company’s brand identity encompasses everything from its logo and messaging to its customer service, your personal brand encompasses all of you.
Make sure your personal brand is authentic, consistent, and tailored to each specific position for which you apply. In developing your personal brand and resume to showcase it for the field you want to pursue, think about how your current skills and talents apply to the responsibilities you'll hold in the new job.
Experience is a great attribute to have in your job hunt, but it’s not the only one. You also need to look at the quality of that experience: the skills and knowledge you have accumulated over time. Just make sure you emphasize the qualities and skills that you do have to support the job description.
6. Brainstorm careers
Once you have articulated your career goals and your values, you can brainstorm types of vocations that might fulfill both. The perfect job for you may be one you have yet to discover, so be sure to research with an open mind. Tools such as career aptitude tests, and online career boards can expose you to new and exciting job types. Consider keeping track of the jobs that pique your interest using a spreadsheet or list as well.
7. Get a mentor
Pick a person in your network who knows you and can act as your champion, such as a former manager, coach, or professor. People who care about your output, who push you, and inspire you are those you should hold close during times of growth. They don’t have to be recognized figures from your ideal industry. They just need to provide advice and help you uncover your interests.
This person can potentially help you gain insight into your desired career, serve as a reference for you, look over your resume, or help you expand your network of opportunities.
8. Build your network
Closely related to finding a mentor, a powerful network is key to finding the right opportunity. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that at least 70% of jobs are found through networking.
As you seek a more fulfilling career path, begin by prioritizing learning about other industries, companies, and job functions over finding actual job openings. Do your homework. Talk to people. When you meet someone doing something interesting, dig in to learn more. If you have a few ideas of career paths that interest you, reach out to established individuals in those domains. Ask specific questions that show you've done your research.
Engaging in professional development such as classes and networking social events can also help you make connections while learning new skills. Check online resources for learning opportunities in a career field that interests you. Consider joining professional organizations in the industry of your choice. Building out your profile on Linkedin and networking on this platform will help build your network and expand your options as well.
9. Gain relevant experience and skills
This will, of course, beef up your resume—especially important for career changers who are trying to reposition themselves for a new job or industry.
The best way to know whether you may enjoy a particular career path might be to try it out. Consider job shadowing, interning, or working as a temp in a role you think you might enjoy. The temporary nature of these experiences allows you to get a sense of the duties of a particular career without an initial long-term commitment. Then, you can make a knowledgeable decision about pursuing that career path if and when a permanent opportunity arises.
For many, the fastest way to a new career is through a skills training program or Bootcamp. Get started here.
10. Reflect and assess
Throughout your career search, periodically reflect on what you have learned about potential career options and how your goals may have changed. Frequently evaluate your progress and make adjustments as necessary.
This is the final step after learning about yourself, your aspirations, and the industry in which you are thinking about working in.
Rebrand yourself by revising your resume, cover letter, and social media profiles to reflect your updated career goals and to highlight new and relevant skills.
The journey never ends. But you’ll enjoy it a heck of a lot more once you sort out a job that makes you proud and content. Finding balance takes time and planning. But a job you’re passionate about can go a long way in supporting your mental health and overall happiness.