Where do you see yourself in two years? In five? Do you have your eye on a corner office or on a completely different career? Most of us have a dream job. It might be something that we dreamed of doing in high school or university or it might be inspired by TV or someone we met. Very few of us, however, are lucky enough to start out in our dream job. The realities of a tough job market, student debt and even buying our own groceries often mean we have to settle for any job that will help us pay our bills. In fact, for many of us, that dream job may seem like it’s slipping farther out of our reach. It doesn’t have to! Turning your dream career into a reality is actually a lot easier than you think. It just takes a little planning and a few strategic moves. To help you out, we’ve gathered a few of the best tips for landing that job you’ve always dreamed of.
15. Make a plan
We plan our relationships, our appointments, our vacations and our budgets. Why not plan for our dream job? Having a good plan will ensure you get exactly the job you want. First, you need to figure out exactly what your dream job is. Is it a specific job? Is it in a specific field or with a specific company? Is it a lifestyle? Once you know exactly what you want, you need to make a plan to get it. Don’t put any limits on what you want but be realistic about what you need to do to get it. Include the skills and experiences you already have and the ones you still need to get. Include a realistic timeline. Write the plan down but don’t be afraid to change it. Most good life plans change as your experiences or even goals shift. This is a good thing. Just be sure to look at it frequently. This will keep your end game front and center and give you a chance to see how far you’ve come and what you have left to do.
14. Reach Out
So we get the idea of being an independent do it yourself type of girl. That’s a good thing most of the time. But every once in a while, you need a little help. This is one of those times. Keep in touch with anyone you think might be helpful in the search for your dream job. Tap your friends, your family, your profs, your classmates or even your coworkers. Contact anyone that you think might have the contacts to help you out. You may be surprised by the number of people you know and even more pleasantly surprised by the number of people they know.
Some might be willing to set up introductions for you. This isn’t the time to ask for a job. Use these contacts for information instead and have a pretty clear idea of what you want to know before you meet with them. If you’re not completely ready for the job yet, use these contacts to find out what you need to get there. Ask your new contacts how they broke in. Ask them about current job prospects. Ask them for advice.
13. Reach Up
Make contact with people in positions just above the one you want. Use your contacts. Approach these people in the same way you would a potential mentor. They’ve been where you want to be and they may be more open to helping you. They won’t see you as potential competition like someone who is currently in the position might and they may even be flattered to be asked for their advice. If you lack the contacts, there are a couple of other approaches you can try. Attend an industry related conference. Go to the sessions, especially those involving people you want to meet but even more importantly attend the networking events. If all else fails, try your social network. Follow these leaders on twitter or on their blogs and retweet or comment on particularly relevant tweets and posts. Follow companies on LinkedIn. Do use these tactics cautiously. Remember you want information and you want your name out there but not at the expense of being seen as a stalker.
12. Keep Track
Create a spreadsheet or use an app to keep track of your contacts and job prospects. The more you network the harder it’s going to be to remember details both about the information you’ve gathered and the people you’ve met. The good news is that there are many apps that will allow you to sort through your contacts quickly and allow you to make notes on each contact. A spreadsheet can also help you track meetings you have along with the results of those meetings. Switch is a Tinder-like app that allows you to swipe right (or left) on potential employers and jobs. Consider making a Twitter list to keep track of posts made by recruiters, companies and even job search sites. Check it daily. Jibber Jobber is a free site that will help you track your growing network and your job search. It will also allow you to create action items so you can not only track where you’ve been but also where you need to go next. There are lots of options out there for tracking your contacts and job search activities. Find the one that works best for you.
If you can’t get the experience you need or the contacts you want in your current job, consider volunteering. According to recent studies, this could put you ahead of your competition. In fact, several recent studies have reported that those who volunteer are almost 30% more likely to find a job than those who don’t. There are many reasons for this. Volunteering provides you with crucial job experiences, it expands your network but most importantly, it sends a message to potential employers that you are hard-working and that you care. Both of these are critical in a competitive job market. Put some thought into where you want to volunteer. All opportunities are definitely not created equal. Either do something you love or embrace a cause that means something to you or chooses a location for the contacts or skills it can get you. Once you’ve committed treat it like the job it is and give it your all.
10. Write a Compelling Story (Resume)
Tell your story in a way that makes you impossible to ignore. Make potential employers want to get to know you. This starts with a compelling resume. Many people leave out the “extras” like interests but employers say they look for these. They aren’t necessarily assessing you as a potential pitcher for the company ball team, they just want to know that you do have interests outside of work. It’s all about balance and the best employees have it. Be brief. The best stories are not the ones that seem to go on forever. The best stories are the ones that leave your audience wanting more. At the same time try to be as detailed as possible. Focus on the soft and hard skills that your dream job demands and highlight those in your resume. Detail any work or volunteer experience that shows you can do your dream job. Include links to your social media sites on your resume but only if they’re relevant. Employers don’t necessarily want to view Instagram posts of your vacation, but they will want to know about your brilliant industry related tweets.
9. Get Out/Network
Ok, so the obvious thing here is to get out to events that are in the industry you want to break into or better yet that your dream employer is involved in. But don’t stop there. The key here is getting out. This includes charitable events, volunteer opportunities even events hosted by your alma mater or your current employer. Meet people. Make contacts. You never know who you’ll meet or what kind of intel you’ll be able to gather from them. The only sure thing is that if you’re not there, you’ll never know. Your leisure activities can also be great places to network. Networking tends to happen more naturally at the gym, in a yoga class or during a game. The pressure is off and there are no expectations. You’ll be more relaxed and so will the people you are making connections with. You can also try Coffee which is touted as the Tinder for professional networking. Like Tinder, the app matches you with people in similar fields or with similar interests who are looking to meet up with like-minded people. If you find someone you’re interested in talking to further you can arrange a coffee or lunch date to network further. No matter where you choose to network make sure you know what you want. Asking for advice is always a good technique. Asking for a job almost never is.
8. Risky Business
If your trajectory is consistently headed up, you will eventually get to where you want to be. But moving up almost always involves taking a risk. So dump your self-doubt and keep in mind that the risks we don’t take are the ones we are most likely to regret. Apply for a job that is slightly out of your reach. Make some cold calls to a recruiter or HR Manager. If you’re having trouble finding the courage to make that big leap of faith in securing your dream job, try making a few smaller leaps instead. The most successful risk takers are usually strategic; they don’t just jump blindly in and hope for the best. Confront your self-doubt head on. Write out the pros and cons of any potential risk. If what you could possibly gain outweighs what you could lose, then go for it. What is the worst that can happen? Failure? See our thoughts below on failure but even failure brings us another step closer to success. And honestly, it’s true that if you never try, you can never succeed.
7. Failure can be a good thing
Seriously. The savvy successful woman confidently walking into her dream job is largely a myth. The reality is that the most successful people have failed, usually more than once. The trick is to not give up and to see the failure not as a roadblock but more like a speed bump. It can slow you down a little for sure but it should never stop you cold. Channel your failure. Take a few minutes to cry or curse, whatever you need, and then take a hard look at why you failed. Use that information for the next try. There is another upside to failure. Failure can be a much better teacher than success and in your search for your dream job this can be a great thing. When you do get there, and we know you will, you will be better prepared and perhaps a little savvier than you were when the search started.
6. Ditch the Haters
Seriously. This is good advice for any part of your life but especially when it comes to your dreams. Don’t let anyone tell you that it can’t be done. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones, completely surrounded by supportive, positive people, there will be people with negative comments about your career choice. They’ll have a friend who hated it, they’ll tell you it’s a career that’s impossible to break into. Ignore them. This is doubly true of the ones who belittle your dream or worse, suggest that you won’t be able to do it. Too many of us are plagued by enough self-doubt that we don’t need others to feed our insecurities. See these people as motivation. Eventually, you will show them just what you are capable of but in the meantime, cut them out of your life or at least cut them out of this part of your life. Don’t share your dreams with someone who isn’t able to support you in your pursuit of them.
5. Dress for the job you want
Honestly, it matters. Research confirms that others are judging us for everything from trustworthiness to financial success based solely on what we’re wearing. Employers also decide who to hire or promote based in part on your fashion choices. So what works? There is no real answer to that. Financial services tend to dress more conservatively but the fashion industry or media might appreciate an edgier style. Our best fashion advice? Research your field. Pay attention to the style choices made by the people in the position you want or better yet, the people in the positions slightly above the one you want. Dress to be remembered. In a good way. You want to stand out but not awkwardly. And our best piece of fashion advice? Dress in a manner that is comfortable for you. You have to be able to pull it off and it has to add to your confidence level not make you uncomfortable or unsure. It is that confidence that is going to impress the people you most want to impress.
4. School and Skills
Think you lack the skills or academic credibility for the job you want? Consider going back to school. This isn’t the risky prospect it used to be. You don’t have to drop everything to do it. Take a night class or better yet try online learning. Most universities and colleges offer both and in some cases you’ll be able to complete an entire degree this way.
Check out learning opportunities with your current job and take advantage of them. Many employers offer incentives to employees who want to further their education. Some will even pay the entire costs for you. If you’re not sure what you want to take, there are plenty of free online options that will allow you to test drive a few courses. There are numerous sites that will teach you to code and most software suites that might be beyond your budget offer thirty day free trials. Some may even offer a limited free version. There are also a growing number of sites that offer full university and college courses from prestigious universities around the world.
3. Tweet Your Way to Your Dream Job
Establish a positive presence for yourself that is career related. Forget about the creepy clown or relationship goals retweets. Spill your emotions with your buddies over drinks on Friday instead. The new Twitter you has to be professional. Retweet major players in your industry. Follow these major players and the employers that offer your dream job or something close to it. Build a killer LinkedIn presence. Check it carefully for language issues. Talk to colleagues and friends about endorsing you for skills but more importantly, highlight the parts of your profile that are most relevant to your job search. Facebook and Instagram are less important for careers but again keep it professional here. Project the image online that you intend to sell when you finally land an interview with the recruiter for your dream job. Who do you want them to see? What do you want them to know about you?
2. Sometimes Stalking is Ok
Most of us will casually stalk potential romantic partners or anyone we meet and want to know more about. Why not potential employers or people who have your dream job? Take some time to stalk the people and companies that interest you. Check out their LinkedIn profiles, Facebook pages, and Twitter. Like company pages on Facebook so you’ll receive company updates. We’re frequently told not to mix our personal lives with our professional lives but that line is pretty blurred most of the time anyway. Consider adding peers and coworkers as friends on Facebook. Worried about that album of photos from your grad trip to Cuba? Make it private or share it with your close friends. That way when potential employers and networking contacts stalk you they’ll see what you want them to see. And what you might see on your own timeline could prove invaluable. You never know who might repost a job or other information you need. Join groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. Use these groups to accumulate information but also as a way to get to know people in your industry. Again, it’s a case of the more you know, the more you will know.
1. Consider a Lateral Move
Ok so your mother might tell you to stick with your job, that employers value loyalty. On the other hand, your mother probably realizes that what employers really value is experience. Job hopping is the new normal and in fact, over 90% of millennials expect to stay in their current job for less than 3 years. It used to be that career advisors would tell job seekers to stick with one job until they were ready to make the final move. Not anymore. Job hopping can actually work for you, providing you with both more experience and more contacts. Football players recognize that if the way forward is blocked, throwing the ball sideways can open a new path to the end zone. If your current job isn’t giving you what you need, consider a lateral move to a job that does. Do your research first. Don’t just job hop because you’re bored or frustrated. Make sure your new job is going to give you something you can’t get at your current job. If it doesn’t you risk being stuck in neutral or worse, in reverse in your pursuit of your dream job.