What do I want to do with my life?
It's one of the most important — and daunting — questions we ask ourselves.
Most of us grow up dreaming of exciting careers as astronauts, doctors or professional athletes but as we get older, those dreams, and the qualities we look for in a job, can change.
Even if you're not living out your childhood fantasies, part of discovering purpose in our lives is finding a job that aligns with our interests and what's important to us.
"When it comes to your career, you don't want to sit on your hands — you want to constantly be learning, thinking and growing," LinkedIn career expert Blair Heitmann says. "That's the best way to find the job that makes you really, really happy."
Whether you're looking for your dream job, thinking of switching careers or not sure where to start, Heitmann says taking these three steps can help you figure out what to do next.
Start by making a list of everything you'd like to do or achieve in your professional life. For example: "I want to work in a different country" or "I want to make a positive impact in the world."
Writing out your goals can be "extremely motivating," Heitmann says, and help focus your search for jobs that only check off items on this list.
It will also help you evaluate where, exactly, you're at in your professional life — if you're happy, if you're on the path to meeting these goals — and what changes you need to make to get one step closer to your dream job. If becoming a mentor is important to you, for example, you might prioritize jobs that offer professional development and leadership opportunities.
Refer back to this list as you read through job descriptions and interview for different positions, Heitmann adds, to help guide your search.
The right job should cater to your interests and your skills. Once you've identified the traits you're looking for in your dream job, Heitmann suggests making a separate list of your skills and strengths. For example: a soft skill you possess might be communication, while one of your strengths could be that you are a quick learner.
If you're not sure exactly what your skills or strengths are, ask your friends, co-workers and former teachers.
"Oftentimes, it comes down to confidence: You have a lot of skills to bring to the table, but you just don't think you do," Heitmann says. "But it's so important to be clear on what those skills are so that when you discover your dream job, you know exactly what skills you need to qualify and be a more competitive candidate."
Once you have a clear picture of your goals and strengths, it's time to get more specific in the pursuit of your dream job by honing in on the types of roles or industries that you're interested in.
Networking can alert you to new opportunities or help you learn more about jobs that have piqued your curiosity. Reach out to people whose careers you admire — whether it's a former classmate, neighbor or a complete stranger on LinkedIn — introduce yourself and ask for 15 minutes of their time (see effective email templates for job-hunters here).
Then, during your conversation, ask questions that will help you understand what the job is really like, Heitmann says:
- What does your day-to-day schedule look like?
- What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the job?
- How is your industry changing?
The answers to these questions can help you determine if you're on the right path to landing your dream job, and the steps you need to take to get there.