How to Find Your Dream Job

Do you remember being eighteen and worrying that you didn’t have an answer when people asked you what you were going to do with your life?  Well it turns out that you don’t just decide on a career right out of high school or college and stick with it. According to a Forbes article, these days, you could end up having as many as fifteen to twenty jobs in your lifetime, and according to a Fast Company article, you could be changing jobs every 4.4 years. So that means you could end up answering the question, “What are you going to do with your life?” more than once. With all of the options available it can be tough to discover your dream job. Don’t worry, we can help! Here’s how to find your dream job.

How to Find Your Dream Job (When You Don't Know What You Want)

How do you know if an industry or a career path is right for you? There are so many exciting career paths and ways to use your talents. For example, if you’re like me and love writing, you could be an author, a professor, a journalist, a content strategist, a public relations executive, a lawyer, and countless other things.

With all of the available job options, how do you know what path to take?

I’ve been there. A few years ago I applied for jobs in a wide range of industries because I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do—everything seemed interesting. It was easier to figure out what I didn’t want to do than what I did.

I started doing something I love “for fun”, and it ended up turning into a career I now love. When I worked as a paralegal, I started writing blog posts every weekend and scheduling them to be published throughout the week. My writing improved, I learned some marketing skills, and I promoted the blog on social media. It ended up leading me to make the switch from the legal industry into social media, marketing, blogging, and freelance writing.

I serendipitously stumbled on the right career path for me, but I now provide career advice about how other people can do the same (although perhaps more intentionally).

Here’s my advice for finding a career you love.

How to Find Your Dream Job

1. Lead with your strengths:

Write down a list of your top strengths. I recently read StrengthsFinder 2.0 for a book club at work, and the advice really resonated with me. Another self-analysis resource that can help you figure out exactly what kind of career and work environment will resonate with you is the Myers-Briggs personality test.

It’s possible that you could be good at anything if you tried hard enough—but shouldn’t your strengths be indicative of what you should be doing? Won’t you be happier (and better at your job) if you find a career that is suited to your strengths? I have taken both the StrengthsFinder and Myers-Briggs and found that they have helped me understand my values, strengths, and what I should look for in a work environment.

For example, you might think that you’re not a math person, but find out that you love using logic to solve problems. In that case, you might actually love something you’ve never tried, like code!

2. Evaluate your past:

Answer these questions about every place you’ve worked. What did I like the most and the least about the company? What did I like the most and the least about the company culture? What did I like most and least about my manager? What did I like most and least about the people I worked with? What was the most challenging thing about working there? When was I the happiest or the proudest? What was my biggest accomplishment? What did I like the most and the least about my responsibilities?

Your answers will help you clarify what you liked most and least about previous workplaces so that you can look for similar or different characteristics in the future.

You don’t have to keep doing the kind of work you’ve always done, but you can analyze your past work to figure out exactly what you liked, what you didn’t like, and what situations bring out your best work and happiest self.

3. Talk to as many people as possible:

Talk to as many people as possible. Go on informational interviews and learn about their career paths and advice. Ask about their job, industry, and professional aspirations. Always come with questions in advance so that you get the most out of the meeting or phone call as possible.

And don’t limit yourself to people you know or are connected to in some way. Go on LinkedIn and read people’s job descriptions or go online and read interviews and articles about people you admire.

Before you set your heart on a career, or completely rule it out, make sure you find out what the job is like on the day-to-day.

4. Take classes and try something new:

Take classes, attend workshops, read books, watch countless YouTube tutorials, and try something new. You may find out that you’re passionate about coding, website design, graphic design, writing, or something else entirely. Technology makes it so easy to learn new skills. A new hobby can lead to an entirely new career like it did for me.

5. Consider the type of work environment where you will thrive:

Are people competitive with one another or collaborative? Are they friends outside of the office? Is the company hierarchical or flat? Do you work as a team or work primarily on your own? Is there a great deal of red tape or will you have the power to make decisions and move quickly? Can people work from home or are they expected to work in the office? What is the work-life balance like? What are your salary expectations?

Think about the type of work environment that will be a good fit for you and the lifestyle you hope to have. And if you aren’t sure, try taking up some work on the side to help you decide. If you work in a collaborative office, try doing some solo freelancing. If you spend your workdays by yourself, why not work on a collaborative project on the side? (Tip: coding projects are great for group work!)

6. Do what makes you happy:

People gave me two great pieces of advice when I was considering the right career path for me. One was to think about what you do “for fun,” and what you love so much that you’d be willing to do it for free.

The other was a piece of advice from my dad. He said that you shouldn’t necessarily choose the most “prestigious” job just so you could impress people at cocktail parties. Instead of choosing the most “impressive” offer—something I had been prone to do in the past—choose the one that will make you happiest and allow you to grow and learn.

This post is by me and it was originally published on Skillcrush. Image from Pinterest.

51 Responses to How to Find Your Dream Job

  1. This is great advice and the perfect post for me to read right now as I change careers. Through starting my blog for fun, I learned that I really loved to write and create content. I have always enjoyed photography, but my blog also helped me develop that talent. I think things you liked as a kid, and things you would do for free, can be really helpful in finding a career path.

    http://www.livinginsteil.com

  2. Kylie says:

    Love this advice! I always look for a good work environment and think it’s really important for job happiness!!

  3. Jordyn says:

    Thank you so much for writing this article, it is super super useful! I agree that it is difficult to know exactly what you want to do at age 18, you don’t have much experience, how could you possibly be sure?! I changed my major so many times and post grad I have really had to experiment to find a niche I feel confident pursuing. Like you, my blog helped me discover my passions and strengths (as well as my Myers-Briggs type, INFJ).

    • Elana Lyn Gross says:

      Thank you! I’m so glad you found it to be helpful. I’m glad that your blog has helped you too!

  4. Jessica says:

    This post has come at such a good time when I’m doing nothing but job hunting! It’s hard but these are great pieces of advice. Thank you so much for sharing, Elana!

  5. Macarena says:

    Crazy how things like that happen!!! I’m so happy you found something you love 🙂

    xo // http://www.thematerialgirl.co

  6. Courtney says:

    Great advice for sure! I can totally relate. I’ve always had a hard time sticking with one job and usually quit after a year, but blogging has been the only thing that has stuck around!

  7. Alessandra says:

    This is an awesome post. None of the jobs that I had were exactly related to my major in college, but I learned a lot of skills that eventually helped me to find something I really enjoy! Self analysis is definitely a necessary first step. I haven’t ever been on informational interviews, though. Thank you for writing this!

    Alessandra | The PumpUp Blog

  8. Jenny says:

    My blog has definitely helped me discover what I want to do in a way. I’ve always wanted to do marketing/PR but I found that I really like the digital side of things through blogging so doing something with digital marketing is my end game goal.

    Thanks so much for sharing this post!
    It definitely came at a good time for me.

    xoxo, Jenny || Breakfast at Lillys

  9. Mikayla says:

    This is super great advice! Soon I will have to join the work force, and I am so indecisive. Thank you for this post!

    Mikayla | A Seersucker State of Mind.

  10. Ally Gagliardo says:

    This is SUCH great advice! I (19 Years Old) often get “the question” and as of right now, I am an Interior Design Major, which I love, but you never know how it’s going to end up!

  11. Ashley says:

    What amazing advice Elana! I love your posts, they are so helpful!

    Thank you!

  12. Tiffani says:

    Evaluating your past is the BEST way to know what you don’t want! This list is great!

  13. I couldn’t have read this at a better time. I’m entering my senior year and was having major anxiety about the job market next year (especially as I’m an international student) and worried about how I would know if a job is a good fit! This is a great read, thanks Elana!

  14. Hannah says:

    This is such the perfect post for any college student who has a major but has no idea what they want to do with it. I am a lucky one (majoring in speech language pathology) so as a graduate student I know exactly what I will be, an SLP, but for those students (or even people already working!) with a business degree or communications or this would be such a great post for them to read!

  15. Marie H. says:

    This is such great advice! I struggled with what I wanted to do for a long time, but I am happy to say that I finally found it!

    XOXO
    Marie H.
    Progression By Design

  16. These are awesome tips! I think it’s so important to keep your future in mind when selecting your next job. While a paycheck is a paycheck- and sometimes you have to do certain things to get by- nothing is more fulfilling than getting paid to do something you love. Being able to support yourself by doing something you find fulfilling is the ultimate dream job!

  17. Sarah says:

    I’m trying to pick my favorite tip but I’m loving all of them! I think evaluating what type of work environment you like is really important — also, I didn’t realize how much I would love marketing until I took a risk and signed up for a class, so I love that one. I think doing internships (multiple) in college really helps narrow down as well!

    x Sarah
    http://www.bohochiccafe.com

  18. Alicia says:

    This is a fantastic post. I’ve been out of school for two years now and have taken on various positions in the marketing realm and I still don’t think I’ve found my niche just yet. I think happiness is super key, and this post has me motivated me to really find my dream job!

    xo, Alicia | Alicia Tenise

  19. I LOVE THIS. I will definitely be sharing it with my friends 🙂 You’re so wise, lady!

    XX, SS || A Little Seersucker Sass

  20. Lauren says:

    What an amazing switch you made and you’re so lucky to be doing what you love! That’s how I feel! And I love these tips!

    xo
    Lauren
    The Fashionista’s Diary

  21. Ashley says:

    This is great advice! I definitely struggled with making a career decision when younger. I hated when people continuously asked me what I was doing and I didn’t really have an answer. So happy I found a job that I love and find rewarding!

  22. This is the perfect post! I’d love to talk with you more about your transition from legal to media/marketing/writing,I’m trying to go through that myself but I feel completely stuck. You offer such wonderful advice here!

    xx | Steph @ The Lovely Essentials & Jenssen’s Designs

  23. Morgan says:

    Great tips! I highly recommend the Myers-Briggs test too. It’s a great way to learn about yourself and what environment you work best in!

    -Morgan
    How 2 Wear It [] http://how2wearit.com

  24. Yup, yup, yup, and yup! Informational interviews I’ve found to be SO helpful. If you really make a stand-out impression, they’re likely to lead to a real interview (with less nerves) down the road!

    Coming Up Roses

  25. Alex Tan says:

    Thank you SO much for sharing this, as a recent college grad it truly speaks volumes. This was just what I needed to read after feeling so down about the job hunt.

    Alex ♥ | GlitzGlitterGlamoure

  26. Helpful tips for job seekers. Before applying for any job the most important thing for you need to do is to think about what you actually want out of your job, will you be happy or not. So, asking questions to yourself before taking any decision is must.

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