- Figuring out your career path can take years, but patience is part of the process.
- Narrow down your job search step by step, starting with an honest self-assessment and industry research.
- Invest in yourself by building your skills, networking, and learning how to sell your personal brand.
Most people spend around a third of their lives working, which is why it’s a worthy endeavor to find an engaging, energizing job.
Maybe you’re just getting started on your career journey, or perhaps you’re a seasoned professional looking to change industries. Whatever the case, finding a job you love can enrich your life.
But your dream role isn’t going to just land in your lap—you’ll need to spend time conducting research and putting in effort to earn it.
The path to your ideal position involves some serious introspection.
What makes you happy?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
What are you willing to sacrifice to get a job you actually want?
Being proactive is critical to landing a position you’re excited about. Below, we’ve outlined some practical steps for how to find a career you love.
Step 1: Take time to reflect with total honesty
Before you even think about combing through a job search board, you’ll need to look inward.
Why? Because work satisfaction usually boils down to whether or not you feel fulfilled by your job on a daily basis. So, what fulfills and motivates you?
Tons of career websites will suggest you go back to your childhood aspirations to find what makes you tick. But this isn’t the most practical advice. Your idea of a great job as a child is probably a lot different as an adult since your priorities have likely changed. Adulthood has fewer monkey bars and more bills, unfortunately.
Instead of going back to childhood or dreaming up what you’d do if you won the lottery, come back down to Earth and ask yourself a set of questions to get to the heart of what you want from a career.
- What are your existing skills? Are they transferable to another career?
- Whose career do you admire?
- What interests you?
- What are your non-negotiable desires for your next job? Flexible schedule? Fully remote? Benefits?
- What are your lifestyle priorities?
- What is your desired salary range?
- Are you comfortable starting over in a new career?
Take a personality test
Take a personality test like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or the Strengths Finder test. While these kinds of personality and aptitude assessments can’t lead you to your next job, they can give you an idea of which career paths are most promising based on natural inclinations.
Assess what you like about your current position
If you’re planning to switch careers, take stock of your current employment situation. Do you feel engaged? Do you enjoy the company you work for and the people you work with? Do you have room to grow and the ability to learn new skills here?
These basic questions can guide you toward what you need from your next role and where you’re likely to be happiest. Perhaps your career has reached a point where you can’t advance and you feel stifled. Or, maybe you’ve found that you work best with people and you spend most of your time isolated.
Keep a running list of your likes and dislikes about your current job to help fill in the blanks for your future position.
Step 3: Learn about your target industry and position
Once you’ve narrowed down the industry and career path you want to pursue, it’s time to research.
Head to industry forums to ask questions and read about the experiences of current professionals in the field. Get up to date on the industry and learn where it’s heading in the future.
Find out the answers to these specific questions:
- What are the barriers to entry in this career path?
- What is the likelihood this career will be relevant in ten years? In twenty?
- What education, certification, or technical skills do I need to be competitive?
- Who are the biggest players in the industry?
- What are the salary ranges for this industry?
Step 4: Network and leverage connections
To discover new career opportunities, try to spend time around professionals in your target industry. Who are the movers and shakers?
And don’t just limit your networking to LinkedIn and in-person conferences, you never know who might be a potential job connection. Tell your neighbors, friends, and family that you’re looking for a new job. You might be surprised by the possibilities that arise from these everyday interactions.
Step 5: Get real-world qualifications and skills
If you’re switching industries, there’s a good chance you’re going to need to put in time outside of your normal working hours to make the transition successfully.
You might be able to volunteer or work on a contract basis for a company you’re interested in to build experience, for example. Night school or online courses are also great options if you want to develop a specific skill set like coding or photo-editing.
Being as prepared as possible is one thing, but it will be next to impossible to acquire all the new knowledge necessary for stepping into a new role.
But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to fail.
Think about your transferable skills, for instance. Research abilities, analytical skills, written communication, organization, and leadership experience are all examples of transferable skills.
Soft skills are also weighed as heavily or even more heavily compared to technical skills in certain industries. Being team-oriented and eager to learn can often make up for experience and technical gaps.
Step 5: Save, save, save
When you feel like you’re ready to move toward a new career path, it’s helpful to add some extra padding to your emergency savings. A financial cushion can give you the peace-of-mind you need to focus on finding a job you feel strongly about, rather than only considering the final number in the job offer.
Although making a decent living will likely always be a factor in any career decision, creating a strong financial foundation can give you the flexibility to take a chance on something new.
If you’re starting over in a new career or industry, a robust savings account can tide you over when you’re at the bottom of the totem pole. As a result, you can accept an entry-level salary without worrying about how you’re going to pay rent.
Since compensation levels of many positions commensurate with experience, it might be years until you’re making what you used to make. Be realistic about whether a lower starting salary is a dealbreaker or not.
Step 6: Tailor your resume and cover letter
When you’re getting ready to transition into a new type of work and industry, it’s essential to touch up your “personal brand.”
Take some time to revise your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile so that it accurately reflects your updated career goals.
Many companies, especially larger ones, use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to automatically organize and filter out candidates using algorithms. Unfortunately, this can mean a bot tosses out your resume, even if you’re a great fit for a particular position, because you’re missing certain keywords in your resume.
To avoid getting thrown out by bots, carefully comb through job descriptions to incorporate keywords that match up with your experience. Weave those keywords into both your resume and cover letter so your application gets prioritized.
Step 7: Create a list of employers you love
Once you’ve cleaned up your cover letter and resume, it’s time to go hunting for the employers you could see yourself working for. Create a list of potential companies within your target industry and sign up for job alerts at the companies that interest you.
Is there a general application available on the company site? You can take advantage of these general applications to sell yourself and what you bring to the table.
Step 8: Get a referral if possible
A referral can help you enormously during a job search or career change. Obviously, this strategy works best if you have a personal relationship with a professional connection, but you might be surprised how far a great portfolio and research can get you.
Step 4, networking, can help you build these solid connections who can and want to help you with a job opportunity and referral, which can be the difference between getting your foot in the door and a rejection email.
The Path to a Job You Love
Learning how to find a job you love can be intimidating. It might even feel a little like dating at times—minus the awkward moments. But the right employment match is worth the effort. Given enough time, research, and hard work, you can land a job that leads to long-term contentment.
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