If you're stuck in a job that's not a good fit, you've probably caught yourself thinking about your "dream job." You may have wondered what it would be like if going to work was among the highlights of your week instead of the low points. It might sound like a fantasy, but having a position that feels right can be a reality. How? The key to finding work you'll love is knowing yourself and then using that knowledge to find local job opportunities that fit you.
The Career Planning Cycle
The first thing to know about career planning is that it's an ongoing process. There will be many points in your life when you'll face a decision about making a job change. Whether it's a choice you've made yourself or circumstances that are beyond your control, following the steps below should lead you to a spectrum of related career options that will be right for you.
Step #1: Self-Assessments
Typical online career self-assessment tools lead you through pointed questions that reveal the types of work environments and careers that fit you best. During this process, you'll learn what makes you tick, what you enjoy, what skills you have, and what you value in the work place.
Career assessments can give you a feel for what matters, but having them interpreted by a professional Career Advisor, can give you in-depth insights. An Advisor can shine a light on things you may not have considered such as any disconnects and overlaps in your interests and skills, or the importance of workplace values. For example, do you require a sense of accomplishment, or the ability to innovate? If these workplace values aren't being met in your career, you likely won’t be satisfied.
Another key area of concern that assessments can reveal are your "burnout zones." A burnout zone is when you’re skilled at a task or set of tasks but are not interested in, nor enjoy those tasks. Many people working in a burnout zone don’t quite realize why they’re so unhappy at work. Working this way can lead to career unhappiness and yes, burnout, which is why analyzing your career assessment with an advisor can be so enlightening.
Step #2: Analyze
The next step in finding work you’ll love is to analyze everything you've learned through your self-assessment and begin to narrow your search for a career path. It's important to remember that your future career path won’t necessarily be just one position, but can instead consist of several occupations that fit into a spectrum of related career opportunities. Many career planning systems can help you use your assessment results to find these occupations. Next you can narrow this list by researching what skills, education, and experience are required for these positions.
Step #3: Research
Once you've narrowed your career field options, it's time to research employers in your geographic area that offer your desired occupation. Through your research, you'll learn about the skills and experience these employers look for in a potential new hire. It's also an opportunity to familiarize yourself with the company's values and culture, and reflect on whether or not it's a good match for you. For example, if the ability to innovate is among your top workplace values, a highly traditional firm may not be the fit. Once you've narrowed your list to several options in your area, it's time to make sure you're ready when the right job comes along.
Step #4: Prepare with a Gap Analysis
With your career move in mind, you'll want to closely analyze what skills (both technical and interpersonal), experience, and education are necessary for this career path. Once you've identified any gaps, you can find ways to gain additional experience and skills through internships (in-person or virtual), volunteering, work-study, exploratory course work, or part-time positions. Don't worry: there are many ways to creatively gain experience even while working full-time. A meeting with your career advisor can give you a variety of options that will work with your busy schedule.
Step #5: Find Your Next Big Opportunity
Now that you understand your interests and workplace values, it becomes a lot easier to find a handful of career options, and ultimately a position that will keep you satisfied. Coupling this information with occupational research in your geographic area and the lessons-learned through your self-assessment ang gap analysis, can allow you to holistically look at your career and your future. From here you can begin applying and interviewing for specific positions aligned with who you are and what you value. Soon you’ll be excited to go to work each and every day to a new position and company that will match who you are at a fundamental level. And that’s exciting news!