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I talk to so many women that aren’t happy in their current work situation. But the vast majority of them remain stuck because they don’t know what the alternative is. In fact, I recently asked a friend of mine what she believed she was meant to be doing. Her response was, “I don’t know what my dream job is. I’ve been trying to figure that out for 40 years.”
Determining what your dream job is can feel like a very daunting task. Plus, once you do figure it out, what are the chances you can actually get into that dream job? After all, you may need more education, training, or experience. It becomes easier to stay put. But then time goes by and you realize you haven’t really been happy at work for years. And it’s affecting the rest of your life. The cycle continues...
So, I would like to share with you, step-by-step, how to know what your dream job is and then make sure you can get it.
Take the pressure off
You’re probably having a hard time brainstorming that dream career because you’ve put so much pressure on yourself. It’s so built up that you’ve blocked any new ideas from coming your way. Instead, think of figuring out your dream job simply as an opportunity. Doing so will help you determine what could be next. For some, their dream job will end up being their forever career. For others, their dream job will change over time. Either one is fine.
What’s important is that you move forward in life knowing what your dream job is. The key to doing so is self-discovery. Sounds scary, right? You may be saying, “I already know myself pretty well.” Unfortunately, most of us don’t know ourselves well enough.
The inner work—self-discovery—can actually be fun. Let me give you a taste of what’s to come. To figure out your dream job you’ll need to get to the root of what makes you feel fulfilled. This is critical. Rather than letting outside influences tell you what makes a dream job a dream job, allow yourself to determine it.
While “What makes me feel fulfilled?” seems like a simple enough question, it can be difficult for many to answer. Or, they start at the surface rather than digging deeper. So, I like to do some exercises to help my clients figure it out.
Here are two of my favorites:
When you were a kid, what did your parents consistently have to pull you away from?
When you lose track of time, what are you doing?
Think about each of those for a few minutes. Can you glean any aha’s from them? Are there any similarities in your answers?
If you can find clarity in what makes you feel fulfilled, your dream job is likely within that. Imagine getting to go to work each day feeling a sense of pride in what you do.
Okay, so now you’re clear (or close) on the direction you want to go for your dream job. But it still feels difficult to think about making it a reality, doesn’t it? Of course, it does! Trying to put together the pieces of a giant “how do I get into my dream job” puzzle can make you wonder why you ever tried to figure it out in the first place.
I challenge you to think differently as you work through that puzzle. Try not to focus on getting into your dream job immediately. Sometimes that’s not realistic. Instead, work toward getting yourself on that path. What’s the end goal? Your dream job, right? Work backward to determine what you need to do to get there. Become your own project manager. We walk through every step of this in our From Stuck to Fulfilled: Building a Work Life You Love program.
I’ve had people say to me, “But my dream job is to be a doctor. There is no way I could ever make it happen.” I ask, “Why?” The list goes on with reasons and excuses (many very valid) about why this person will never be able to fulfill their dream of being a doctor.
Do any of these statements sound familiar to you?
- It will take me too many years
- I don’t have the education
- I don’t have the financial means
- I don’t have anyone to help with my kids
These are all great reasons to not go after your dream job. But if you truly dig into each one, they can all be achieved. It will take research, persistence, time, energy, and some creativity, but every single one of those is “figureoutable” as Marie Forleo says. Recently, I saw a story on the news about a woman who was celebrating turning 100. She started a career as a park ranger at 85. If she can do it, so can you.
Take your end goal—which is to get into your dream job—and work backward to come up with a realistic plan. Don’t settle for “I can’t make it work”. Just like you would a project at work, create a timeline and insert the big and small steps it will take to cross the finish line.
Sure, my wannabe doctor-client isn’t going to start practicing medicine tomorrow but she could certainly get moving on that journey. And her overwhelm can be reduced as she checks the boxes one by one. It may take you seven years to do, but if it’s truly her dream, why the hell wouldn’t she do it? Ask yourself the same question.
Start on the path
Finally, it doesn’t make sense to go through this whole process of figuring out your dream job and creating your plan to get it if you’re not going to start taking action on that plan. That means if your current career is nowhere close to your dream job, get into a role that at least gets you in the same zip code.
Be willing to take a side step or even a step backward. It will only push you ahead in the end. Would you rather be in your current job that makes you miserable or in a role that’s within your dream job realm? To be clear I’m not implying that any of this is easy. I’ve walked through every single emotion you’re feeling (and will feel) as you go through this process. But I can tell you it is beyond worth it.
The shift in your life that happens when you feel fulfilled at work is hard to explain. What I can tell you is to get ready to find yourself again as your confidence increases and relationships flourish. Life is just better lived when you feel satisfaction and fulfillment.