How to Find Your Dream Job: Career Research Guide
Finding a job, especially your dream job, can be difficult. Even if you have a few ideas of what you’re interested in, how do you choose what to pursue?
If you’re new to the job market or looking for change, put yourself in research mode. Go beyond a quick Google search and dive deep into the fundamentals of a job role, the types of companies in the industry, and whether the jobs match what you want from a career.
Let us walk you through the steps of how to find your dream job.
- Key barriers to finding your dream job
- Barrier 1: You’re not getting specific
- Barrier 2: Self-sabotage
- Barrier 3: Passivity
- How to find your dream job
- FAQs About how to find your dream job
- Do the legwork, and get the job
Key barriers to finding your dream job
Lack of confidence and knowledge are common barriers that stop jobseekers in their tracks.
“I have no idea what my dream job is!” or “I don’t know how to find it; it’s simply not attainable.” Sound familiar?
It’s difficult because it’s confusing. It sounds like it would be simple, but, in reality, it’s a huge decision with multiple conflicts. We are conflicted by our desires—passion vs. skill vs. show me the money. Then there’s the conflict of worry—the worry of uncertainty, change, and failure.
For many people, finding their ideal job indefinitely remains on the back burner. There’s no real sense of urgency, partly because people are hesitant, confused, or fearful of where to start.
People are so scared of getting it wrong that they don’t put in the work to get it right. On top of all these uncertainties and confusion, there’s also the fact that a lot of career advice out there is terrible and leaves you more confused than ever.
Barrier 1: You’re not getting specific
Researching any old job is a good start, but to really dig deep into the different roles out there, you need to get specific.
The chances are you already have a few vague ideas of what types of roles sound interesting to you, but you may not necessarily know the ins and outs. To get specific with your research, take one of your job ideas and start with an overarching view of what the role entails.
This can be as basic as typing in a search term like ‘introduction to [job role].’ Once you have a basic understanding of what the job is, your work isn’t done. This is just the beginning, my friend. It’s time to get detailed. And the only way to do that is to be specific and ask the right questions.
What is the workload in an average week vs. a busy week? Is there any continuing education or progression? What are the salaries like? What types of companies have this role? And so on.
Be specific in your research to get specific results.
Commit to defining exactly what you want
Conventional career-hunting advice is to send your resume to every job opportunity you see, and that might make sense if you’d be happy taking any job. But that’s not your goal. Your goal is to get up in the morning, eager to clock in and do your thing.
To find your dream job, you’ll need to get specific:
- What job do you want? Name it. Have the courage to exclude the ones you don’t.
- What size is the company? Where is it located? Be grittily granular.
Here’s the really important one:
- What kinds of skills and experience do you need to land it? Quantify how you get there.
Everything in your resume and pitch should be hyper-focused on the answers you give to these questions. If you can do that, two things happen. First, you save time by no longer applying for dodgy jobs you don’t want anyway. Second, you make yourself look like a better employment prospect to the companies that actually count.
Get specific in 15 minutes or less
Here are a couple of things you can do right now to get specific:
- Grab a sheet of paper and split it into 2 columns. In the first column, list everything you know about what your dream job looks like. In column 2, bullet out the key characteristics of the kinds of jobs you don’t want. Stick this paper somewhere prominent as a daily reminder.
- Grab a red pen (OK, purple will do if red ink is scary). Go through every line of your current resume and scratch out generic, hedging, or vague statements. If it isn’t about the job you actually want, ditch it.
Congratulations. You just shifted your energy to that critical 20%.
Barrier 2: Self-sabotage
This might sound a bit “Dr. Phil” at first glance, but hear us out. We’re not suggesting something quite as asinine and patronizing as the idea that great self-esteem and chutzpah are all you need to land your dream job. That’s dumb. Also, see point 1.
What we are saying, though, is that many job-seekers accidentally absorb a defeatist mindset. It happens to the best of us. Here are the kinds of self-sabotaging thoughts we’re talking about:
“I’m not qualified. Before I can even think about a new job, I need to go back to school.”
“I’m lucky to have any job in this economy.”
“I should wait until things settle down before any big life changes.”
Don’t get us wrong. These thoughts aren’t stupid.
Skilling up is good! And of course, macroeconomics and other unpredictable variables are all real things that affect how your dream job search will play out. But none of these considerations (along with the myriad other excuses out there) need to stop you from taking meaningful steps in the right direction … right now.
These ideas all have one thing in common. They push you to reflect on all the reasons why now isn’t a good time, why you’re not ready yet, and why the world is just too scary a place to do something bold and daring like pursuing your dream.
Barrier 3: Passivity
This all circles around the absolute importance of kicking passivity to the curb.
Think back to the 80/20 Rule for a moment: The idea that most of the biggest changes that’ll happen in your life boil down to a relatively slim sliver of critical crux points.
If you buy into this particular quirk of the universe, being awake for those moments suddenly becomes vitally important, right?
Yet the vast majority of people who are searching for their dream job have the responsibility for delivering those all-or-nothing flashpoints to someone else. Career-hunting passivity is everywhere and takes many forms, like:
- Trusting a job search algorithm to guide your job search
- Sending out a resume and desperately hoping the HR team gets back to you one day
- Relying on a recruiter to convince your dream company to give you a shot
Laziness of this ilk squanders not one but two of your most valuable resources.
One: Obviously, you’re wasting your time. We probably don’t need to offer too much exposition here on why metaphorically cramming filet mignon into a McDonald’s meat grinder is unlikely to produce optimal results.
But you can’t overlook the negative effects on your motivation. You’re spinning headlong into a negative spiral here, where a perfect storm of rejection emails, lack of actionable data, and no real clue about what to do differently next time robs you of any desire to continue.
Why do this to yourself?
Passivity breeds failure, which in turn leads to the slow and abysmal process of giving up. The “80-percenter zone” is a gray realm of mental laziness—of endlessly doing the same thing while expecting suddenly different results to miraculously manifest from miasmic mundanity. No.
Finding your dream job is possible, even if it seems like a pipe dream. Meet one of my students who was able to leverage a six-figure job—twice!
“The world wants you to be vanilla…”
…but you don’t have to take the same path as everyone else. How would it look if you designed a Rich Life on your own terms? Take our quiz and find out:
How to find your dream job
Now that you’ve identified and sidestepped the common barriers to finding your dream job, here’s how to land the role you want.
1. Identify what’s important to you in a dream career
It’s not all about the job role itself. It’s about you. Be selfish. Yeah, focus on your skills and experience, but also go beyond that. List what’s important to you in a career—personally and professionally. Dig deep.
People look for different things in a job. Some look for career progression or high salaries. Others look for ways to use their creativity, and some prioritize work/life balance. Knowing what is most important to you and figuring out your career values is key to finding your ultimate landing place.
Sure, you can take an online personality test, but those can be vague and misguided. This self-discovery has to come from you. What type of working environment do you thrive in? Do you hate office politics, big competitive teams, or long hours? Perhaps you prefer to work independently, or you’re more of a team player.
All of these career values and expectations from a role/company need to be factored into your research. It could be that the idea of a job sounds interesting, but other aspects of working for those types of companies don’t appeal to you. There’s nothing wrong with that. This exercise is to rule out roles just as much as it is to find the right one.
The key to finding your end-goal career is good research. This goes beyond personality tests and snapshot career summaries on job sites.
2. Choose three job roles
Now, write down a list of potential jobs you think you might be interested in. We call this the Cloud Technique. Write down any career or job title you’ve been interested in, even if it just pops into your head.
Then, head over to LinkedIn and other job sites to take a look through job descriptions. If anything jumps out, write that idea down too. Also, think about the skills you already have and search for careers that fit them. Are you creative? Google something like ‘best careers for creatives.’
Once you have your ideas listed, choose the most appealing few and move on to Step 3.
3. Research each role
This step involves spending quality time with your new potential job roles. Aim for at least an hour of solid research on each job title you have selected. In that hour, learn and absorb everything you can about the role. This is where you will want to find answers to those specific questions you had earlier.
- What is the day-to-day of the job?
- What is the career path?
- Do you need qualifications?
- What’s the average salary?
- What is the company culture for typical roles like this?
The more specific you can be with these questions, the better. Find out more information beyond the snapshot introduction to a role. It’s good to learn both the positives and negatives ahead of time. At some point in your research, you may realize that a specific job is not 100% for you. Walk away and move on to the next idea.
After this exercise, decide whether you would love these jobs and whether you can get them.
Prioritize your job titles
If you have three job roles you are still interested in working towards, prioritize them. By this point in your research, you should have a better understanding of which of the three you are most interested in and why. Keep in mind that we’re just brainstorming for now. Don’t worry if one of these doesn’t end up being the winning dream career.
Think carefully about how you prioritize the list. Is it by salary, average working hours, or the day-to-day of the role? This will teach you more about what you value most if you don’t already know.
5. Naturally network
This is where the real work of finding your dream job begins. It’s time to break out of your comfort zone and head into networking among colleagues and leaders in the industry.
Find experts or business leaders in your potential field and see what they have to say. Comb websites, follow experts on YouTube, and engage with professionals on social media or with a short email. Yes, they are busy people, but with the right communication skills, you could capture their attention and win them over.
This will teach you more about the job role but will also give you insight into the types of companies you could potentially work for. Notice everything, from the language that leaders in the industry use to a company’s ad campaigns.
This may sound like a lot of work. It is. But it’s worth it to find a career you feel happy and fulfilled in. Laying the groundwork now is the hard part, but having insight into and understanding different job roles and companies is invaluable to your dream career search.
FAQs About How to Find Your Dream Job
How do I find my dream job with no experience?
If you’re an early-career job seeker, it can be hard to compete with the professional experience of your peers. That’s why it’s important to emphasize non-work experiences like volunteering, internships, and community service.
These experiences show that you have a track record of taking the initiative and going above and beyond what’s expected of you. They also demonstrate your ability to work under pressure and work collaboratively with others—two skills that are crucial for success in any field.
I talk more about why I’m a fan of free work in an interview with Forbes, which you can read here, but I also highlight the phrase to use to turn that free work into paying work.
Another way to stand out is by networking with people who can help get you closer to your dream career.
Informational interviews are a great way to meet potential mentors or references; apprenticeships are another option where you can learn from someone more experienced than yourself while contributing value right away through your efforts at their company (and getting paid!).
What profession is best for me?
Choosing a career path is an important decision. You want to be successful, but you also want to do work that feels right for you. Take some time to consider what kind of work would be most fulfilling for you, and make sure that it’s something that matches your interests, aptitudes, and goals.
Many free online career tests can help you discover your strengths and interests, as well as the best career path for you. You can also tap into your college’s career offices and utilize their resources for job searching, networking, and professional development.
If you want to take it a step further, hiring a career coach may be beneficial for helping you make more informed decisions about your future.
Remember to evaluate potential careers based on your interests and aptitudes rather than hot job lists—the high-growth career of today may be tomorrow’s occupational disaster. Plus, you’re unlikely to be successful in a career that you can’t stand!
Do the legwork and get the job
Many people are on the lookout for the perfect online tool, personality quiz, career advice website, or just a spark of inspiration, but the truth is, finding your dream career takes work.
Before you dive into research, take some time to understand what you want from a career. What are your values? In what type of working environment can you see yourself thriving?
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