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Growing up, our parents told us, “You can do anything you want to do.” As a consequence, which we’ve either learned from them or have concluded ourselves, we don’t want to settle for a job we don’t love. This brings us to the question, “So what do I want to do?” As a career coach, it is undoubtedly what I hear most from young professionals, as well as from my friends. It seems that we are en masse on the quest to find our dream job.
Before I continue, let me first address the common misconception that there is only one perfect job out there for each person: there isn’t. As with life partners, there are a variety of jobs out there that would make a good match for you.
In my mission to give direction to struggling young professionals, I have had clients who answered, “I don’t know,” to any question about their interests, passions, strengths, etc. Luckily, most people will say, “Uhh, I don’t know exactly, but I do know what I don’t like doing.” That’s a great start!
For those of you searching for your “dream job”, the next action plan should start you off – but one word of advice: don’t think too big, but start with the small answers you do know.
First of all, start by asking yourself why you work. The answer may seem obvious, but please try to go beyond financial remunerations. Find your real reasons for going into work every morning. This could be anything from a daily rhythm, a reason to get out of bed, a place where you can develop yourself and meet other people. Those who have had to go without work for a while probably know exactly what I’m talking about.
Once you have figured out why you work, write down your talents, skills and knowledge. If you really have no idea after thinking long and hard (don’t give up too easily), find some free talent-tests and competency-assessments on the internet. In addition, I usually ask my clients to fill in an industry interest test. If you need inspiration for this assignment, have a look at the yellow pages index; you’ll be amazed at what you find.
I also ask my clients to draw up a practical list comparing their wishes with real necessities. We always seem to want the impossible, so it’s good to know both your ideal situation and what you can’t live without. This could pertain to salary, working hours, location, challenges, interests or international secondment possibilities.
These combined assignments make up a profile of “YOU” that you can compare with any job ad or job description you like. I would suggest making this comparison many times to get a feel for the type of jobs you do like. You can also show your profile to close friends and ask them to find you a “surprise job” – it would be interesting to see what they come up with. Your profile is very useful once you start applying for jobs, as you can use your list of interests to search online job databases from an industry perspective instead of a job description perspective. This way, you can find jobs or job titles you didn’t even know existed. And if you want to change careers completely, the list of skills and talents will come in handy as you define your transferable skills.
Even after diligently working on these tasks as I suggested, you might still have no idea what you want to do. Don’t despair, this is quite normal. These tasks are simply meant to offer you some food for thought, so don’t worry about having all the answers right away. Rome wasn’t built in a day – but if Rome is still what you want, then many roads will get you there.