You know the dream: find a job you would do for free, but get paid a million bucks to do it. Anyone who’s ever had a job they hated knows how important it is to love your career. But that’s often easier said than done, and it’s not always because of job shortages or lack of education. Many people just don’t know what they want to want to do with the 40 hours a week (or more) allotted to making money. Other people think they know what job they want, but find out the hard way that it’s not what they thought it would be. So how do you figure out what you want and make sure it’s what will work for you?
Before you hand in your notice, take a few moments to evaluate what you’d like to do. With some introspection, you may find that your dream job isn’t that far out of reach after all.
Your first move should be to evaluate your current job situation. Make a list of all the things you love about your current job. This may be hard to do if you really hate your job, but something led you to it to begin with. Try writing an ad for your job, focusing on the great things about the job to attract future employees. The list (or ad) may be short, but get out as many items as you can.
Once you know what you love about your job, make a list of all the things you hate about it. This list may be significantly longer, but that’s ok. Try to sort out the things you really hate about the job from the things that simply annoy you. Go down your list one-by-one and ask yourself if your dream job required that item, would you accept the position? If everything else is fine and you could live with that part of the job, it’s probably just an annoyance. On the other hand, if you couldn’t face a job that requires one of the items on your list, no matter how great the rest of the job, then it’s a non-negotiable for you and should be avoided in all future jobs.
When you’ve made a comprehensive list of what you love and hate about your current job, spend some time dreaming about your perfect job. Dream Big, without thinking about what is practical or even possible. Instead, simply imagine a day in the life of your perfect job. If you can, do this several times, “trying on” different jobs for size. Get a full picture of what you would do over the course of a day, week, or month at your dream jobs. Jot down details about your daydreams.
Later, look back at your notes about your daydreams. See what they have in common with each other and with the lists you made about your current job. Add on to those lists with things you want or don’t want in a dream job. Focus on both general qualities (“I want freedom.”) and specific examples (“I want to be able to make my own schedule.”). Don’t let yourself stop with what you want; ask yourself why you want it. If you want to own your own business as an outlet for your creativity, you probably wouldn’t be happy as a franchise owner. On the other hand, if it’s the earning potential and managerial responsibility that draw you to entrepreneurship, a franchise might be a great bet for you.
Knowing what you like and dislike about various jobs is a valuable tool in picking a career. However, you should also look at what talents you possess that would make you successful or be a roadblock to your future career path. So when you have a comprehensive list of what you want and don’t want, make lists of complimentary talents you have. For example, if you want a job that requires independence, ask yourself what character traits you have to make you successful at that type of job. Organization, motivation, and hard-working are a few talents that can be linked to jobs that require independence.
When you have a good idea of what you want from a job (and what you don’t want), you’ll be in a better position to decide which career path to follow.