Imagine you’re driving down the interstate.
You’re headed somewhere you’ve never been and you’re not quite sure if you’re going the right way.
The Google Maps app on your phone froze a few miles back and you’re starting to wonder if you missed your exit.
Then you see a huge billboard that says, “Hey, you! Take the next right, it’ll lead you exactly where you want to go — on the simplest, most straightforward route. And there’s a Chipotle down the road, dude. Trust me, you’re gonna love it.”
Now imagine if there were a billboard like that…for your career — a big, bold indicator telling you exactly where to go and what to do.
“Hey, you! This career choice is for you. You’ll love it for the next 40 years and it will be everything you want in a job. Just take this turn, right here, and you’ll be set for life.”
Amazing, right? In a world of unlimited possibilities, a billboard like that would eliminate all doubt from your mind and make it clear that the path you’re on is the right one.
Unfortunately for us, billboards like that don’t exist. But there are smaller signs that point out the right turns that lead to your dream job.
…If you know where to look.
Woven throughout your history are CLUES — subtle signs that show you the way to a career you’ll absolutely love.
Let’s channel your inner Sherlock Holmes to help you uncover these clues…by following five simple steps.
1. Start with your passions
We’re trying to find your life’s work here! So let’s start with what you love.
To help get the passions flowing, ask yourself…
- What are some of my favorite jobs/roles (paid or unpaid)? Why was it a favorite?
- What volunteer roles have I gravitated to?
- What’s something I’ve always been interested in or fascinated by?
- If money were no object, what would I do for free?
Got a few passions written down? Great. Those are your first clues pointing you in the right direction.
2. Let go of what you hoped you’d be good at
Sometimes, what you hope you’re great at isn’t what you’re really best at. What would happen if you were truly honest with yourself?
One of the stories I share in Dream Job Redefined is from Spencer Griffin, an executive producer for CollegeHumor.com’s production company.
Spencer originally wanted to be a director and playwright, and he went to theater school to pursue his dream. He was pretty good in high school and did fine in college. But he wasn’t among the best directing or playwriting students in his class. Even though he had the passion, he simply didn’t feel like he had the chops to make it as a professional.
What a tough pill to swallow… right? Letting go of what you THOUGHT was going to be your career at takes a little bit of humility and it certainly takes some guts.
But having an open mind allows you to find out what you’re actually great at. Your strengths might be in a completely unrelated area than you expected…which is exactly what happened with Spencer.
3. Define your natural strengths
After graduating from theater school, Spencer floundered for about three years. He never held a job longer than six months.
Even though he didn’t feel particularly successful looking back, he asked himself, “Alright, between my random job history and in my college days and volunteer positions, what was I naturally good at?”
After reflecting, Spencer realized he was the most business-minded person he knew in the acting community and the most creative person that he knew in his business classes. He was good at working with creative people, organizing things, and hitting deadlines. And he was really good at finding people to invest in creative projects.
Once he stopped hoping he’d be a good director or playwright, he discovered what he was truly good at: the business side of theater. That gave him the first clues that eventually led him to a dream job at College Humor.
(We share more on Spencer’s journey in Dream Job Redefined. Click here to grab your copy!)
To zero in on your true strengths, ask yourself these questions:
- When have I been successful in the past?
- What was I doing during those successful moments?
- What kind of things am I naturally good at?
- Where do I find success without much effort or difficulty?
4. Explore what others value in you
Still stumped on your biggest strengths? Look to others to point out your natural abilities.
Think about conversations where you offered advice in the last year. What subjects did people ask your opinion about?
When people listen to your opinion, it’s because they see you as having a skill or ability in that area. That’s why it’s important to think about times when someone else asked for your advice.
I love to tell people about the optimal strength of my morning cup of coffee…but that doesn’t mean anybody actually wants to hear about it!
Think about the areas where you tend to give advice and especially the areas where people seek out your advice. That shows the topics where others notice and value your strengths.
5. Be open to where the clues can lead
As you gather your clues, you’ll probably start to notice some trends and areas of overlap. At that point, your job is to keep your mind open to the possibilities of where those clues can take you.
Don’t worry if you can’t find a job that relates to your clues right away. That’s not what we’re doing yet! You just want to look for ways to do more of the things you’re good at, to follow the clues one step at a time.
Once Spencer identified his strengths in the business side of theater, he started to look for opportunities where he could work with creatives, manage timelines, and organize projects. He didn’t know what title he was working towards — he just kept looking for the next step.
The more work Spencer did in those roles (at first… many of them were volunteer gigs), the more opportunities he was presented with…eventually landing at his dream job at CollegeHumor.com.
All because he followed the clues, one at a time.
As you go about your day, keep your mind open to potential opportunities. What is ONE next step where you can explore your passions more? What is a job or volunteer position where you can use and continue to develop your strengths? Start there.
We may not live life with billboards at every fork in the road, telling us where to go. But if we listen, if we dig, and if we let ourselves have some fun with this, we can find clues that will lead us to the right place.
If you want more strategies (and stories) to help…
Dream Job Redefined is full of exercises to help you find (or create) your perfect career path. Whether you’re looking for fulfillment, flexibility, or financial security — or all three! — the ideas inside the book will help you pinpoint your dream job and take steps to make it a reality.