There is so much career advice dedicated to polishing your resume and perfecting your interview skills, how much is dedicated to finding the right job that suits you? Although finding your “dream job” can sound cliché, finding work that inspires you is worth spending at least the same amount of time you would spend scrubbing your social media profile in advance of a job search. Forbes contributor Henna Inam offers 5 questions to ask yourself to discover what your dream job could be, even before you type the first letter of your revised resume.
Find a quiet place where you can relax and be uninterrupted so you can connect more deeply with yourself. At this point, it’s important that you connect with your authentic self so you can differentiate between what you need and what you think you need in a job (a certain salary, job title, industry or company).
What work energizes me? Take a deep breath (close your eyes, if it helps) and remember the last time you felt joyful, purposeful or impactful while engaged in an activity at work. Fully experience that situation again through your senses. How were you feeling? What was the activity you were engaged in? What was the impact you were having? Jot down the activities you were engaged in. Among my executive coaching clients, what’s meaningful is often quite varied. Some people remember situations where they were solving tough challenges with an energized team. Others remember situations where they were in one-on-one settings mentoring others. When I looked back on my most energized moments, I realized they were when I was connecting with people one-on-one helping them to grow as leaders and they experienced an “aha” moment when they saw a greater possibility for themselves. Sharing the unarmed truth that helped people grow always energized me. This led me to start a second career as an executive coach.
What contribution inspires me? When you contribute in ways that are meaningful for you, it creates impact. It also helps you go the extra mile, enables you to take risks and persevere despite obstacles. You become more resilient in the face of failure. You’re willing to stretch outside your comfort zone for a dream that matters. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes and imagine that you can make whatever positive impact that inspires you. What would this look like? Who would you want to benefit from this impact? Imagine this in as much detail as you can and jot down the contributions that inspire you.
What strengths do I enjoy exercising? I believe each of us has unique superpowers, and when we connect with them we are most successful and engaged. In the situations when you felt most energized, what strengths were you exercising? Sometimes we don’t see our strengths as clearly as others do. Reach out to at least three trusted colleagues who know you well and get feedback from them on what strengths help you be impactful. There are also lots of assessments that can help you discover your strengths. A popular one I recommend to my executive coaching clients is StrengthsFinder.
What work culture do I thrive in? Look back at your career and map out the high points when you were most fulfilled and successful. Find the times when you were being successful and enjoying yourself. What elements of the culture helped you thrive? For some people, it’s a culture where they have plenty of autonomy. For others, it’s a culture where their contributions are valued. Jot down the culture elements that help you thrive.
What are my other requirements and deal-breakers? This is where you can bring location, compensation, benefits, work flexibility or other requirements into the mix. Your dream job is equally about being open to creating new possibilities and being clear about where you will not compromise. Think through the areas that are deal-breakers for you. It could be related to travel requirements or an industry that doesn’t appeal to you.
Now write yourself a job description of your dream job in the present tense as if it were already true. Here’s how that goes. My dream job is one where I’m (list from the first question of what energizes you). I am inspired by (list the contributions I am making). I am exercising my strengths of (list from the third question). I am working in an environment where (list from question four). My other requirements are (specify other requirements important to you). My deal-breakers are (specify what are deal-breakers for you from the fifth question).
Once you have connected with this dream job, it’s time to start practice talking about it with trusted advisers and friends. It will also be good to create a list of questions that you may want to ask during an interview process to find out more about how the opportunity stacks up against your dream job. You may also want to share parts of this during the interview process if appropriate. As you network, share with people your dream job so they can help connect you with the right opportunities. I encourage you to keep coming back to this exercise.
It is always easier to find something once you have defined what you are looking for. Following the sage advice of beginning with the end in mind, and here, defining the job you want before you start looking for one, will pay dividends far beyond what any matching 401k contribution may, even if it’s 100%.