Identifying Your Dream Career
Deciding which path to pursue after graduation can leave you feeling directionless. Choosing between work and college after you graduate high school can be a daunting choice. After you graduate college, you may be torn between starting your career and continuing your education with grad school. Or even if you’ve already joined the work force, you may find yourself craving a career change. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Each of these decisions can greatly affect your life’s trajectory, determining where you live, how you spend your time, and what you can afford.
No matter what you choose, your path should be designed to lead you to your dream job. But out of thousands of career options, it’s not always easy to recognize the job that’s right for you. It can be difficult to get a feel for a career without actually experiencing it firsthand, but there are other ways to explore different career options to help form your decision. If you’re feeling stuck in a career decision-making rut, you have options to see if something else sparks your interest:
Career aptitude tests can be a useful tool when starting your search. But bear in mind, these tests are geared more toward self-assessment than career match-making, so use the results as a guided self-reflection rather than a fortune-teller. Career placement tests are offered online, in schools, and through community programs. If you’re a current student, check with your counselor to see what resources are available to you. Local libraries may also be home to helpful career-related resources.
Shopping the course catalog is a great way to kick-start your brainstorming. Use an online course catalog, or see if you can find a physical copy, and take note of which degrees and courses interest you. It doesn’t matter if you plan to attend that particular school – or any school, for that matter. Use it as an opportunity to see what you naturally gravitate toward. Did you select courses that align with your interests? Was there anything that stood out that surprised you?
Course catalogs and online job descriptions are great tools, but they don’t always provide the full picture; they tend to gloss over the mundane (or even unpleasant) aspects of any given job. It’s important to consult a variety of sources when exploring your career options. Search for online forums or discussion boards for the fields you might be interested in. You may be able to find an industry professional that shares details and inner-workings of their job on a personal blog. You may even come across industry professionals on social media, which could lead you to entire online community of people who share your career goals. These sources can help round-out your conceptions and provide a more realistic perspective to help shape your decision; they can highlight current trends in the industry or any issues the field is facing, and can shed light on what the lifestyle of that career can look like. Potential contacts or mentors could be just a direct message away!
Book Your Calendar
Try seeking opportunities for in-person research if you’re feeling weary of looking over online information. See if there are any upcoming job fairs, lectures, Q&A sessions or conferences near you in fields or topics you are interested in. Talk with other attendees and ask questions – learning from their experiences can help you direct your path.
Search for internship, job-shadowing, or volunteer opportunities in fields that interest you; gaining first-hand experience will help you determine if this is a field that you could see yourself in long-term. Even if you find your duties don’t have as much crossover with your dream job as you’d hoped, it can still be a valuable opportunity to observe some of the more nuanced aspects of a career, and experience is always an excellent way to boost your résumé. Plus, there is always a chance to develop new skills that will benefit you in future positions, and make connections with colleagues and mentors.
Be Bold and Reach Out
Your research will likely lead you to discovering career role models. Maybe they spoke at a conference you attended, maybe they’re a well-known professor or department head in your intended program of study, maybe they posted a YouTube video that provided an insightful look at their job functions, or maybe you spent hours perusing their blog. Take a chance and reach out to them – acknowledge their contributions, thank them for their influence, and test the waters! If they respond openly, ask them those career questions that you can’t seem to find the answers for anywhere else. If the advice you’re requesting can’t be provided in a message or email, request their time over a phone or video call, or see if they are available for a quick consultation over coffee. Worst-case scenario: they say no. Best case scenario: you solidify your career goals, and could even gain a mentor in the process.
Overall, the key to finding your dream job has far more to do with personal fulfillment than salary and stress levels. Your ideal career will align with these guiding qualities:
- It Engages You: The hours can seem to fly by when you are completely absorbed in a task. Meaningful work is engaging and holds your attention. If there are certain tasks that trigger high-function productivity from you, find a career where you are able to perform those tasks regularly.
- You’re Good At It: Being skilled at your job gives you a sense of achievement. Your dream job should align with what you’re good at, or at least what you have the potential to be good at after training and learning opportunities. Find what you do well, and build your career plans off of that.
- It Lacks Major Negatives: Negative qualities can quickly overtake the positives of a job if it’s a big negative. Long commutes, crazy hours, extremely stressful environment, and lack of job security are some common examples. Identify your career dealbreakers, and consider how your dream job would affect your daily routine and overall lifestyle.
- It Helps Other People: Meaningful work makes an impact on others, which is why jobs that involve helping others are so satisfying. If there is something your friends, family members, classmates or co-workers ask for your help with often, determine if it could be a career option for you.
- It’s Supportive: A hostile work environment can sour even the sweetest of jobs. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone you work with, but it is important that you are able to get feedback and ask for help when you need it.
- It Fits Into Your Life: Personal fulfillment can come from sources outside of your day job. If your hobbies, volunteer work, or side projects are what sustains you, find a job that accommodates them. Ask yourself what needs your activities satisfy, and see if there is a way for your dream job to meet those needs. If not, make sure your job will leave you with enough time and energy left over.
Robins Financial Credit Union values education, and understands its importance when it comes to achieving success. Better Banking means providing the knowledge you need to succeed, which is why we offer Money Smart Programs, including our annual Scholarship as well as our Good Grades Program, to reward students for academic excellence and help our members afford education. To learn more about the ways we support our members in pursuit of education, give us a call, or stop by any of our branch locations.