There are some people out there who have dreamed about their career for their whole lives. Think back to when you were a kid, when people would ask you what you wanted to be when you grew up. Does your current profession match your childhood dream?
For some people out there, the answer may be yes. But for others, your dream of becoming an astronaut or a sporting superstar never actually eventuated. Indeed, this is very common, with the average employee job-hopping every four years or so. In this day and age, career change is possible.
But finding the right career path may mean taking a few wrong turns here and there, and for some, it may mean becoming complacent in your current position – you know what you’re doing and you’re comfortable, so why leave? But what if your dream job was within your grasp?
Here are some things to consider.
Understand your strengths
There’s always something you’ll be good at, so write down a list of your top strengths. What personality do you have? Are you a leader? Do you prefer to work autonomously or do you thrive in a team environment?
Understanding what you’re good at and what kind of personality you have may point you in the right direction. Let your strengths indicate what you should be doing instead of forcing yourself into a career that doesn’t suit your talent.
Think about what you really enjoy
It’s also a good idea to consider what you enjoy doing. Working at something we enjoy will generally propel us to succeed. If you enjoy photography, you’ll want to excel in it so you’ll relish learning and upskilling yourself. Or if you’re social media savvy, fine-tuning your skills can certainly veer you towards a lucrative social media career.
A good suggestion here is the cat test. Yes, seriously. Pretend you’re a cat with nine lives and in each life, you must work in a different career. There are no barriers, and all the skills you need to work in that field, you have.
Take a trip down memory lane
Think about what you used to answer when all those adults would ask you what your dream job was. What was it that drew you to that job? If you can’t necessarily pursue that particular career, perhaps you can still work in that field.
For example, not everyone can become a famous singer, but if you really enjoy music you may consider a career in that field, perhaps with a music production company or in a theatre.
Conduct a work audit
Look at your previous work history and conduct an inventory. What did you like and dislike at each of those roles? Be as detailed as possible and include everything you can from the work environment to the commute, the company culture, the industry, and even the salary.
Write all of this down on a spreadsheet and then analyse the results. Is there a common theme? Did you dislike all your old jobs because they were too corporate? Were there not enough job perks? Were they too far away to be manageable.
Looking at the results of a pros and cons list may help you see what you want in a job. It will clarify your feelings about previous roles, both the good and bad—so you can really evaluate what you would prefer to be doing.
Talk to people
Once you’ve found either your one dream career path or a few careers that you may like to pursue, talk to people in the field to find out how they got to where they are. What was their career journey like and how do they enjoy working in that particular industry?
People who are already working in your chosen field will have hands-on practical experience about the nitty gritty and they’ll be able to give you some really good advice if you’re open to hearing it. Use your network to find people who may be willing to help and if you can’t find anyone, head online. Find a reputable social media networking group in that field and fire away some questions.
Understand it may take a few tries
Today’s working environment is different from days gone past. Many in the older generation would have held on to one job in one field and possibly even in the one company for the duration of their career.
Today’s employees aren’t necessarily confined to one career for their entire professional life and trying, and then trying again is all part of the process. In order to find your dream job, this is something you will need to accept.
At the end of the day, a dream job should make you deliriously happy. It may be stressful and at times very difficult, but if you can walk away each day feeling content and fulfilled, then you’ve probably found your place in the career world.
Luke Fitzpatrick is an academic speaker at Sydney University via Glecture. He enjoys writing about tech, productivity, lifestyle, and is a contributor to Forbes.