Here are two questions to ask yourself: 1) when are you most content? (Not ‘happy’ per se, since happy moments are fleeting. 2) Does contentment ever happen for you during the workday?
The average American worker spends 2080 hours per year on paid work. Over 30 years, that adds up to 62,400 hours. That’s a LOT of time to spend doing something you don’t like doing.
Research also shows that people will change careers at least 7 times during their lifetime. However, career changes aren’t always drastic – you can change the focus of your daily work activity without changing jobs. Sometimes incremental shifts—small changes in what you do and how you do it—are the best and most satisfying way to land that dream job
The key is to concentrate on ways to shift paid job duties into activities that give you that feeling of contentment.
Grab a sheet of paper and a pencil—or open up your favorite word processor and work through the following steps to come up with your own action plan to realize your dream job:
STEP 1: Think about your current job – make a list of the tasks that comprise your job. Highlight the ones you most enjoy performing in your job. Note the ones you can’t stand
STEP 2: Make a list of activities you’ve done in the past that you are most proud of, and that you got the most satisfaction from. These can come from previous jobs, volunteer activities, school work, or hobbies. If you loved laying out the college newspaper, but hated the organizational aspects such as chasing people down to get their content in on time, then that tells you something about the types of activities that work for you.
STEP 3: Envision your ideal job – and list the tasks that it would encompass. What basic skills involved in your ideal job could start working on today? This could be something simple – if your ideal job is to be in charge of all written communication for your organization, an area you could start working on immediately is your writing skills. Even if your current writing skills are pretty good, there is always room to work towards a higher level of achievement.
STEP 4: Now take the list of tasks and activities from steps 1 & 2 above, along with the list of skills from step 3, and group them into functions related to your job that you could concentrate on. (For example, if you are a financial analyst, but you find the grind of financial reports tedious, but you love creating charts and graphs and putting together presentations that visually demonstrate trends – your tasks and activities list could include ‘creating graphs & charts’, and one skill that could be on your list is ‘Enhance MS Excel charting & graphing skills’.
STEP 5: Conduct some research into the training available out there that would help you to enhance the skills you outlined in step 3. This could involve a number of options – anything from volunteering with an organization in a capacity where you could practice your skills, to taking webinars, intensive workshops, certificate programs, or working toward a degree.
STEP 6: Using the information you gathered in step 5 above, get started with the training program(s) that will meet your individual needs. Remember that you can start small and fine-tune your training plan as you go along. You can also mix and match various training components – it doesn’t have to be a straight path, as long as it gets you to where you want to go. Get involved with online forums and interest groups that will help you learn more about the latest techniques in your area of interest. As you spend more time learning and practicing, your skills will improve.
Never underestimate the value of volunteering without asking for additional compensation…your boss and superiors will be impressed that you are interested enough to take on a project without asking for something in return. Showcase your best efforts by volunteering to work on projects that will give you a chance to demonstrate your expertise.
Land Mines to Avoid
Being your own worst enemy – downplaying your talents won’t get you noticed or into consideration for that great new project. Toot your own horn and let others know that you are good at xyz (in the example above, creating charts and graphs). Just as important, offer to help others with that task – soon you will become the resident expert, the one that others turn to for help and advice on this topic
Being finished with learning – remember learning doesn’t stop because you have that framed diploma. Keep taking courses, attending seminars and staying in touch with others in your field so that you stay at the leading edge of knowledge and practice in your area of interest
Getting stuck in a rut – Sometimes it seems easier to lay low and just plod along. But you can’t stay still – keep looking for new opportunities to apply your talents and showcase them in new and interesting ways.
Decide what you like (and what you don’t), do your homework, work hard at new opportunities and advertise the results—before you know it, you’ll be living your dream job.
Contributor: Julie Clarke, Vancouver Island University (www.pr.viu.ca/techcomm)