If you have figured out what your dream job is and it is even slightly realistic (i.e. that doesn’t include anyone who wants to be Beyoncé or Aaron Rodgers), then congratulations – you are among the few lucky ones!
Most people don’t know exactly what they want to do, and that’s okay. Wondering how to find a job you will love is pretty normal. When I talk to people who really love their job, it usually took them many years and several different positions to figure out what it was they really wanted to do.
Most people are familiar with the Latin phrase “Carpe Diem” – Seize the Day! It evokes the desire to jump up, run out the door, and do… something. But what? What do you do if you don’t know what your dream job actually looks like?
A lesser known phrase in Latin is “Carpe Opportunitas” – Seize the Opportunity! There are opportunities in almost every job out there to stretch ourselves, to learn new things, and to push the boundaries of our role and turn it into something more. Taking advantage of those opportunities is one of the best ways to learn about yourself and to figure out what you enjoy doing and what you don’t. It also takes a lot of the risk out of finding your dream job.
We all love the stories on Shark Tank of people who quit their day job to pursue their love of soap making and are now millionaires, but quitting a job that pays your bills without an alternate source of income just isn’t realistic for most of us. Figuring out what you enjoy doing by taking on new projects in your current job means that you are able to get closer to a position you love and pay the electric bill at the same time.
If you don’t currently have a job, or, you are ready to leave the company you are at, there are definitely some things to keep in mind when searching for your next position.
1) Reflect on Previous Positions
Before you start applying to every opening that exists, take some time to reflect on your previous roles: What did you like? What did you hate? What were the parts of your role that were most enjoyable to you – that made you excited to get to work? Are there positions out there that consist mostly of whatever that was?
If you are in HR and love the paperwork and the training of new employees, but hate finding the employees, a career as a recruiter probably isn’t the right fit for you. If you were a machine operator and loved the quality checks and reports that you worked on more that actually running the machine, then consider applying for positions in a Quality Control or Quality Assurance department.
Many companies are willing to train someone who has less experience than their ideal candidate, but who knows that they enjoy the work.
2) Get Your Foot in the Door
If you know what you want to do but don’t have the experience, look for positions that you could qualify for that are in the same industry. Often, great careers start with getting one foot in the door at the right company and working your way up the ladder.
While it may take you awhile to get into your dream position, you will feel satisfaction in knowing that you are putting in time and effort at a company where you could get to that position. And, at the very least, you will be gaining valuable, industry-specific experience that will make you a more ideal candidate when applying for your next position.
3) Ask Questions
When you are interviewing, ask a lot of questions! Remember that just as a company must decide whether or not you are a fit for them, you must decide if that company is the right fit for you.
Smart companies want someone who asks questions in order to understand the position better. If the job description lists several different responsibilities, it’s okay to ask for a ballpark of how many hours per week will be spent on each responsibility.
You are unlikely to find a position that is all of the things you enjoy with none of the things you don’t, but there is a big difference between spending thirty hours a week doing what you enjoy and spending only five hours a week doing what you enjoy.
4) Learn About the Specific Career Opportunities
Find out if the company you are interested in promotes from within. This can be a touchy subject in interviews because while companies want someone who is eager and motivated, they also want to hire someone who will be happy in the position they are interviewing for; however, it’s important to know this before accepting a new position.
Try asking if any of the previous employees in the position have been able to take on additional projects or advance into other roles. Be sure to emphasize that you are interested in the position you are interviewing for, but that you are also interested in working for a company where you can grow in the future.
5) Seize the Opportunity
Once you have the position, give it your all! This brings us back to “Carpe Opportunitas” – Seize the Opportunity! If you have a “that’s not part of my job” attitude, you probably won’t be promoted into the job of your dreams. There is no replacement for hard work, and I have seldom heard people say that they regret giving their full effort.
When you see needs that match up with things you enjoy, volunteer to fill the need! Sure it will be a little more work, but if you do well there’s a good chance that they will take something else off of your plate. Which means in the end you will be trading something that you probably don’t love doing for something that you do love. If you do that enough, you will find yourself in a position that is filled with responsibilities that you love!
Finding a job that you love is usually a process of understanding yourself and working really hard. Everyone has to find the balance of following their passion and being pragmatic that is right for them, but one thing rings true for everyone – 40 hours a week is too much time out of your life to spend doing something that makes you miserable!
Whether you decide to push for changes in your current position or to find an entirely new position – seize every opportunity you have to be in a job that you love!