For those truly motivated to land a new role, ascend to the next level, boost their salary—or all three—conditions have rarely been better. Due to the Great Resignation, job listings are plentiful, wages are rising, and employers are upping the ante to lure workers. The huge competition for talent has given employees the upper hand.
While it might be tempting to jump at the next opportunity you see on LinkedIn or make a lateral move for a raise, the last thing you want to do is leave a tolerable position for one that becomes quickly intolerable. When you are in a job you love, it feels custom-made just for you. You feel your values reflected in the company’s mission. You feel rewarded just for working there—“Thank God it’s Monday,” you think each week. And the paycheck is nice, too.
I have been writing about the job market for several years, and frankly, conditions have never been better to land your dream job. I believe that following these ten steps can bring you closer to your dream job in the coming months:
1. Take time to plan and dream
The important first step is to carve out time to think through the position you’d like to achieve. The ideal career awaits you if you do your homework. Keep careful lists of the qualities and talents you possess and which types of businesses will reward them. Put pen to paper—or fingers to keyboards—and allow yourself to follow ideas where they lead. This a valuable first step for finding the career that is right for you. (Need some inspiration? Take a personality test, such as that offered by Meyers-Briggs. Or ask your friends where they see you working and investigate those jobs.)
2. Work backwards
One way of figuring out what your “dream job” is right now is to imagine yourself five years from now (in an even dreamier job). Then work backwards to figure out the stepping-stone jobs you need to take to eventually land there. Maybe you can’t run a publishing empire or be a social media influencer with 20,000,000 Instagram followers yet—but if you take smaller, intentional baby steps, you will have a better chance of eventually reaching your aspiration.
3. Learn how to toot your own horn
Regardless of whether you’re a boisterous extrovert or a restrained introvert, let those around you know your capabilities. The most important place to start is within your own company. When you win a piece of business or create an attractive website or advance a project in any way, get the word out. Don’t be shy. Also, don’t assume that you can just dash off an email that the higher-ups will necessarily read. You need to get comfortable with promoting your achievements. No one will do this for you. You are your own best advocate.
4. Engage in general networking
Is there a young professionals group associated with your industry, such as a local chapter of Meetup.com, that you should join? Does your company offer a mentor program that will pair you with a senior employee who might become your advocate? If not, you may want to look into finding a mentor outside your company. Do you need to expand your LinkedIn presence and begin commenting and posting your own industry observations? There’s never enough time to network, so somehow you need to make the time.
5. Set up 15-minute informational interviews
Ask around to see if there is anyone you know who would spare a few minutes to discuss her field with you. It could be a friend, or a friend of a friend, or even one of your parents’ friends. You may be surprised to find that people often want to offer advice on the steps to take to start out in their field. Prepare some questions in advance—for example: ask how the person ended up in her field, what best prepared her for her career, which aspects she most enjoys, and how the field is changing. Depending on how forthcoming the person is, you might also ask if she would mind if you sent a resume to keep on file in case of any future openings.
6. Read job postings
Do you feel goosebumps zip down your spine when you read about certain jobs? It could be an indication that this is the job of your dreams. Start reading job postings in the two or three fields that excite you. You can find postings on LinkedIn, Monsterjobs, Indeed, Glassdoor, and Simply Hired. Familiarize yourself with job descriptions to learn common industry terms, roles, salaries, and in-demand skills.
7. Customize your resume
Your resume should reflect the skills you possess and your specific accomplishments—but be sure to customize and change your resume appropriately for each position you pursue. Don’t be afraid to parrot some of the words on the list of requirements back to the company. Many times, companies will use the key words mentioned in the job posting when screening resumes. Try to work in examples that have relevance to the company’s customers or clients or to issues taking place industry-wide. Show how you can add value by quantifying results you’ve achieved. For example, “Coordinated silent auction for children’s advocacy organization that brought in $49,000” or “Streamlined outdated accounting system to save the company 50 hours—and $3,900—per week.”
8. Show personality in your cover letter
Write a cover letter that truly reflects your own personality. Remember that you need to stand out, not just blend in to the hundreds of “blah-blah-blah” letters. Hiring managers look for candidates with dynamism behind their desire to work for the company. Choose words that reveal that you are passionate, not passive: instead of “helpful,” your findings were “game-changing.” Instead of “useful,” your discoveries proved “transformational.”
9. Consider the gig economy
If you dream of being your own boss, why not look into gig work? With so many upsides—including picking and choosing your clients and projects, as well as your hours and fees—it’s no wonder 40 percent of the U.S. workforce is employed in gig work. Ask yourself if your talents lend themselves to gig work. Also, do you have the expertise with technology and the ability to manage finances to work independently? Gig work could be a stepping stone to a full-time position or an end in itself. The rewards of gig work can be worth the effort as long as you enter into it thoughtfully and with an appropriate amount of preparation.
10. Thank those who helped you
Even if you don’t secure a job the first time around, when you remember to thank the people who granted you an interview, those people will remember you and think of you for other opportunities. While it may seem traditional, a handwritten thank-you card still carries cachet. Or, if you send a note electronically, sincerely show gratitude and help the person remember you by bringing up something he said that you found helpful or insightful.
You may not land the first few positions that you go for, but with each attempt, you will get better at the application and interview process. Stay motivated by keeping the prospect of landing your dream job in your sights.
About the Author
Vicky Oliver is a leading career development expert and the multi-best-selling author of five books, including 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions (Sourcebooks 2005), named in the top 10 list of “Best Books for HR Interview Prep,” 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions (Skyhorse, 2010), and Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots (Sourcebooks, 2008). She is a sought-after speaker and seminar presenter and a popular media source, having made over 901 appearances in broadcast, print and online outlets. For more information, visit vickyoliver.com.
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