Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
Everyone wants a dream job. Most of us will spend about 100,000 hours in the work force so pursuing one should be a priority. When working is not optional, our goal should be work that brings added value to us and the company we work for. Too often a dream job definition is based on fiction and fantasy instead of figuring out what you love to do and getting paid to do it all day.
The trouble is no one ever defines what a dream job really is. Although it’s different for each of us the search begins by asking yourself what you would do if you could do anything. Some of us have always known the answer while others are still trying to figure that out. Even if you haven’t found the right job, it’s important to define it, pursue it and recognize opportunities when they knock.
The days of working for one company for a lifetime are over and remaining in a job for a too long is a career liability. You will have many jobs—pursue the ones that recognize your talent, your passion, and your career path. If you aren’t where you want to be, here’s a crash course in upping your game.
Spoiler Alert: It’s not a slam dunk, but there is a process.
It Starts With You
Finding your dream job begins and ends with you. If you aren’t willing to do the work, your efforts will go nowhere. A good place to start is by looking at what a dream job isn’t. If you’re thinking these are the golden tickets think again. A dream job is not one that:
- Pays a large salary for doing little or no work
- Requires no special skills, knowledge or passion
- Hides your best qualities and abilities
- Lacks challenge and curbs ambition
- Turns you into someone you don’t like
This list can be longer—there are many things that add up to a poor fit, a bad work environment and sometimes even a bad company.
The Dream Job’s Seven Cs
If these criteria look familiar, rethink your goals and frame your ideal job using the Seven Cs. Good companies invest in these. Smart companies promote them to job seekers. There are no exceptions – each of these is absolutely essential in a dream job.
- Career: It’s more than a job—it’s a progressive path that builds skills, promotes team work, and offers fair compensation and opportunities for personal and professional growth. They exist in all industries and all types of companies.
- Culture: Your work home. A place that feels good when you get there and makes you want to stay. Define what this means to you.
- Collaboration: We deliver our best when we work together to create excellence. The whole will always be greater than the sum of its parts. Work done in silos is never as good as collaborative efforts.
- Colleagues: Aim for awesome. People define the culture.
- Compensation: Be paid fairly for what you do. It’s negotiable and sometimes it’s a game changer only you can decide. Pick the hill you’re prepared to die on.
- Communication and Conversation: They’re different and you need both. Listen for open and consistent cross functional communication, especially from management; then add easy conversation among co-workers that involves laughter, chocolate and maybe some beer.
This isn’t exclusive but it work for me because I’ve invested in answers that provide a consistent set of evaluation points—and for the record the investment came the hard way. I’ve had a lot of good jobs, three dream jobs, and one that taught me everything I needed to know about the person I did not wish to become. Coincidentally it was a job with fantastic compensation. I was paid very well and lost sight of the other factors needed for balance. They served Kool-Aid.
Customize this list with elements important to your job karma. They are intertwined. If one is absent so are others. Even if it isn’t immediately obvious, there are no dream jobs in a company that misses the mark on these. Figure it out before you accept the job and you’ll be doing yourself a solid.
That’s the company. The next part is about you.
Know Who You Are
Who are you? Well, if you don’t know neither will they. Create an asset inventory that you can speak to with confidence and passion. Describe what you love to do and you are on your way to defining your dream job; then look for companies that feel like a good place to spend 50 hours a week doing that job.
The challenge is figuring out how to do this. Defining the company and experiences we want to fill our work life is not included in high school or college curricula. There is no class that helps discover your potential, determine the environment that will bring out the best in you and inspire you to pursue a dream job.
Realizing what our gifts and talents are, what challenges and inspires us comes through experience. The working world is full of people who started with one career and ended up someplace completely different. That’s ok because they kept moving until they found the place that felt like home
Know what you do well and you will speak with confidence about your abilities. Brag about successes, promise results you can deliver and have examples (and former managers) ready to back up your statements. Be credible and never misrepresent your capabilities. Consider the long-term gain. If you invest in a job that values your potential a good job can become a dream job.
When you love what you do it shows. Don’t be afraid to explore your options—that’s what networks are for. One of my children shadowed someone in a profession he was passionate about which led to further study and a strong commitment to stay the course. Passion has a way of fueling ambition.
Fuel Your Passion
Confucius advises us to choose a job we love and we’ll never work a day in our life. The first part is true, the second is not. You will work in your dream job, and you will work hard—but doing work you love in a positive environment makes it worthwhile.
Personal happiness is tied to professional happiness. That happiness comes from being passionate about your career and the job you have chosen to further it. If you must work, life is too short to not love what you are doing. It underwrites meaningful contributions to your self-esteem, your company, your career path and your eventual retirement.