Did you spend last night waiting for the Career Great Pumpkin or did you go job trick-or-treating and just get rocks? It can be tempting to wait around for a career miracle or to rely on others to gift you with what you want, but either way, you’re unlikely to get what you really want.
Instead, I recommend you find ways to pursue your own goals, on your own terms. What’s standing in the way of your dream career? For most of us, the biggest barrier is probably clarity, so here are some steps to take to figure out what’s holding you back:
- Let go of the past. In a career sense, this means your self-identity as defined by your job. I know this is easier said than done, but start by really listening to the narrative you’re running in your head and work to confront it.
- Bring the optimism. Spend at least 15 minutes writing down or imagining only the best possible situations and outcomes, slowly increasing your practice time telling your new story. Be wildly optimistic. Tell the story of you living your dreams. I recommend you keep a list of these ideas somewhere so you can look back over them.
- List your dream jobs. These don’t need to be realistic—in fact, in many cases, they shouldn’t be because you’re not deciding what’s next at this point. Instead, you’re imagining where you would like to go. Think of as many dream jobs as you possibly can, and fill in as many of the details about each as you can.
- Identify the common threads. Look over your list and see what you notice about what you’ve written. Do you need the ability to be creative? Do you want to make a lot of money? Write what you see, and prioritize the themes.
- Identify your purpose. I’ve spoken before about how finding meaning can really help you find job satisfaction, so get cracking! What fills you with a sense of determination and purpose? What would you like to be your lasting professional legacy? How would you most wish people would say when they introduced you?
- Go back over your dream jobs list with your purpose information in mind. Where do these things intersect? Note what you find, especially if something gets you excited.
- Break it down. Looking over what you’ve written, identify what some first steps might be to getting there. For instance, if you want to start a nonprofit devoted to minimizing pollution, what are some jobs you could start off doing to gain experience? What are some organizations doing similar work, and where are they falling short? These steps should be fun and exciting. If not, review your previous notes and re-think what you’ve chosen as your purpose or meaning.
Create a short version of your dream job list, with your top 2 or 3 positions listed on it. Make sure that these are all things that get your revved up!