Whether by choice or necessity, at some point you will probably need to find a new job. You have crafted the perfect resume and cover letter, practiced your interviewing skills, and read blogs about how to network. These are all part of the process, but many people skip a crucial piece to finding your dream job – knowing what your dream job is.
The steps to determining your dream job can be boiled down to the Five Ws used by journalists or researchers:
- Who do you want to work for? Take a look where you have worked so far. Which companies provided you the most satisfaction? The small companies where you had more direct impact, or the large companies where you had a great career path? A non-profit where you felt you were helping improve the world? Or possibly the opposite – maybe you have always worked at for-profit companies and felt something was missing, or have always worked for non-profits but had to compromise on some personal financial goals. Looking at past history can be a tremendous help for the future.
- What do you want to do? Many people find a position exactly like the one before because it’s what they know. Is that the best reason? Throughout my recruiting I have run into people whose career moved in a direction that they didn’t particularly enjoy. A brilliant coder moved into management because they were the most tenured. A people person moved to spreadsheets analysis because they stepped in to help out during a crunch. As long as you stay on a path that isn’t best fit for you it will be impossible to find your dream job.
- When do you want to make the change? This step can be harder to control if your job search is not by your choice; however, timing can make a difference. Maybe your dream job requires you to get training or go back to school. Is that something you can do now? Some professions, such as educators, are mainly hired during a certain time of the year. When considering such fields you will need to look at how long your training will take you and time it so that you complete your training for the hiring cycle.
- Where do you want to work? This one sounds simple but have you really thought about it? Many people instinctively say that want something close to home. I have often run into people with a 30-minute commute who say they will only make a change for something less than that. While no one wants a long commute, what if your dream job was 40 minutes away. Do you really not want to hear about your dream job over 20 additional minutes a day? A mediocre job, sure. But your DREAM JOB? I’m guessing you won’t even notice the extra 20 minutes when you love going to work every day. Relocation can be the same way. While most people don’t like moving, it might be necessary to find your dream job.
- Why do you want to leave your current job? Is it possible that your dream job can be found where you are now? Many companies welcome the opportunity to move people into new roles to help them further their careers. It can be self-serving since it is cheaper on them to provide training to you than hire someone to replace you, but that doesn’t matter. You get a win-win. I interview people that location is the only thing they don’t like, but they never went to management to see if partial telecommuting is an option. When I ask why they usually say they are afraid of upsetting management and getting fired. If you have that reaction, the odds are the company isn’t your ideal employer and there’s more issues than just location. But if you’ve done all the analysis and where you are now is your dream job in all aspects but one, do what you can to change that one thing.
Going through the 5Ws helps you know how to go from here. That perfectly crafted resume? Might not be so perfect now that you understand the types of jobs to target. If you’ve decided that a non-profit is the ideal match you can start by volunteering for several organizations to see which one is right for you. There a lot of causes out there, and many ways the non-profits support them. Volunteering can help you get some advanced knowledge before accepting a position within an organization. If you’ve decided that start-ups are something you want to try, get out and network in the start-up community (easier to do if you live in an area with a vibrant start-up culture). It seems that everyone knows everyone in the start-up world, and gaining a professional connection with one person could help you to get others. No matter which path you want, LinkedIn provides a wealth of opportunity to help with your search. You can join LinkedIn Groups related to the type of position you want or the company you want to work for and start contributing to the discussions. You can search for people who have your dream job and see how they got there, possibly even reaching out to them for career advice. And you can craft your profile in such a way that the companies you want to work for find you. Meetup.com is another option. There are Meetup groups for most fields and hobbies. Attending Meetups helps you get out there and use those networking skills you’ve been practicing, but in a relaxed setting with people of common interests.
Follow Kendra on Twitter @Kendra_Andrews