Getting Started

3 Steps to Finding Your Dream Job

Written by Miranda Pennington

We talk a lot about combing job posts, grooming your resume, and sharpening your interview skills. These are definitely important techniques, but they may not be worth all the stress if you’re not also taking a look at yourself and your future to decide what you really want to be when you grow up.

Here are some tips on how to find not just a job for you, but the job for you.

1. Know Yourself

What do you actually want? What do you like doing? What is your largest priority in finding a workplace? Is it the day-to-day responsibilities that need to feel most meaningful? The flexibility it allows you to have in your home life? These priorities can change over time, of course, but it’s important to take a really honest look at yourself before you get started.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What would you be doing if money wasn’t an option?
  • What industries would allow you to involve that skill or field in your day to day work?
  • Do you like working closely and collaboratively with others?
  • Do you prefer autonomy and independence?
  • How interested are you in management opportunities?
  • Do you like the set of skills you’ve currently amassed or do you need to pursue new, more exciting areas of learning?

2. Model Success

You know how geese migrate with the seasons, flying in those characteristic V patterns? They do that to share the burden of flying right in the face of the wind. It is okay to be the second goose in the V. Really.

The real-life translation of this avian metaphor is simply, find someone who’s doing what you want to do be doing. Learn from them. Ask about the challenges they’ve faced and the lessons they’ve learned as they overcame them. See if they’re actually as happy in their current situation as you imagine they are from the outside.

I have a mentor who’s doing exactly the kind of work I thought I always wanted to be doing—but once I saw how much effort she put in and how little that work was valued by her colleagues or her supervisors, I decided to change course, keep my eggs in multiple baskets, and make sure I had a fall-back plan in case all that effort started to feel like it wasn’t well spent on my chosen career path.

3. Find 2-3 Companies that Amaze You

This is what my mom did when she went back to work after staying home with my little brother. She’d had a few years of clerk and paralegal work when I was very young, then she’d taken that time away. When it was time to make her way back into the workforce, she started by researching local companies with openings that shared values with the government agency where she really wanted to land. Picking out immediate places to apply based on long-term priorities helped her get started in a large corporate office and bring her computer and legal knowledge up to speed, making her a shoo-in when she finally saw an opening at her ideal job.

Now she’s been there for nearly 20 years. The advice she always gives me, and I hate hearing, is to look for places where you want to work and get on their radar before they’re searching for applicants. As soon as that job posting goes up, you could have hundreds of other resumes to compete with; get in there for an informational interview or on a word-of-mouth referral, and you’re going to stand out.

The Secret To Discovering Your Dream Job

Read More at Careerealism

About the author

Miranda Pennington

Miranda K. Pennington is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared on The Toast, The American Scholar, and the Ploughshares Writing Blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction for Uptown Stories, a Morningside Heights nonprofit organization. She has an MFA from Columbia University, where she has also taught in the University Writing program and consulted in the Writing Center.