We all want a dream job. Just like finding that one great love, it’s a goal that virtually everyone has. After all, over the course of our lifetimes, we’ll work some 90,000 hours — and that’s a lot of time to waste on something you’re not passionate about.
While identifying the ideal career is not a walk in the park, I’m here to tell you it’s also not a fantasy. As with anything in life that is meaningful, it requires making a number of clear commitments. In my work with entrepreneurs and CEOs over the years, helping them find professional fulfillment, I’ve identified five tried-and-true tactics that help put people on that path, no matter your industry. Consider it your dream job checklist.
1. Know your greatest talent and purpose, and learn to speak with clarity and confidence about it.
This one is the hardest because it requires support from others. You know what you are good at when you hear it, but we all struggle to be completely objective about ourselves. However, once you have an indication of what your talent and purpose is, you can then connect it strategically to your job. How?
First, find your talent: Ask 10 co-workers what your unique approach is to the specific work that you do. If you are leader, ask about that. If you are a branding person, ask about your specific approach to building a brand.
Then, find your purpose: Take an hour and think through your entire life, focusing specifically on the core challenges that you’ve faced. Were there pivotal moments or feedback you received that stuck with you? What was the underlying challenge or theme of these moments? Once you identify the number one challenge, this becomes the cornerstone of your purpose, because helping others overcome that same challenge — whether it’s a team member or your organization — is what leads to career fulfillment.
The key to this exercise is understanding yourself and being able to connect your talent and purpose to your career objectives. If you can’t find a way to link them, then it may be time to consider switching gears. But I’ve seen first hand how easy it can be, with a little critical thinking, to link these factors — and boost your motivation and fulfillment in the process.
2. Commit to finding or creating your ideal job, no matter what.
Do you know anyone that achieves an audacious goal without commitment? I certainly don’t — and it’s no less important when it comes to your career. You have to make a commitment and decide what you want to create and achieve, no matter what. Step 1 is an important place to start.
3. Be realistic about your basic financial needs — but know that when you follow your passion, money often comes too.
In the real world, it’s important to figure out how much money you need to live and what type of job will accomplish that. Even if you’re not reaching that mark from day one, make sure your basic expenses are covered — and that there’s room for growth. Passion is important, but you can’t build your dream job if you can’t pay the bills.
4. Give yourself regular reality checks.
Ask yourself the following two questions, as often as you can:
First, would I do this for free? If the answer is yes then you know you are on the right path. Second, is this fun, am I energized?
If you aren’t energized by your day-to-day professional life, then you won’t stay committed, which will block the path to your dream job. If the answer is yes, every day, there is no way you can’t ultimately succeed.
5. Be patient. It takes 10 years to become an overnight success.
It could take two years, five years, or even longer to find the right mix after lots of trial and error. Along the way, look for quick wins and positive trajectory. For some, it comes faster than for others. You can’t compare and you can’t have a set timeline. Focus on the small wins and the trajectory — and know that by following these five steps, you’re well on your way.