You’re ready to turn that lifelong passion into the career of your dreams. Maybe you’re burnt out in your current role or simply feel secure enough in other areas of your life to take this leap of faith and finally go after it. Perhaps you’re ready to turn your side hustle into a full-time gig. Or maybe you want to pursue a career that allows you to travel more.
Whatever your reasoning, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared so you have the best chance at success. Below, we’ll break down seven easy tips as you work toward your dream career.
1. Do Your Research
When you’re first starting to explore career prospects, cast a wide net. Keep yourself open to the possibility that, after careful research, you’ll realize the career path you thought was right for you may not be. Another path may better suit your interests and professional goals.
You can conduct a preliminary online search through popular job sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn. You’ll find critical information about education requirements, number of years of required professional experience, general skill set, as well as salary information based on aggregated feedback from former and current company employees. You’ll also get a sense of the competitiveness for certain roles in your areas (as well as vacancies).
As you’re browsing, stay open-minded and don’t limit yourself. You may realize that you don’t yet meet all (or even most) of the criteria of job posts in your prospective field. Remember that most interview candidates don't meet all of a posting’s requirements anyway, so don’t count yourself out of the running prematurely.
2. Chart Your Goals
With so much information available online, it can be easy to go down the rabbit hole quickly. By setting up short-term and long-term goals, you can chart your progress and build your motivation to continue the search.
In the long-term, you can begin to think about the trajectory of your dream career path, stages of your professional development, your salary goals at specific intervals (age or life milestones) and the age at which you hope to retire.
But the goals that you make don’t have to feel lofty or far away. You can start today. Short-term goals can be things such as building your network both in-person and online, especially since 70% of all jobs are not published publicly on jobs sites. Still, you can use online postings to gauge the skills you need to pursue, and determine those that you can already rely on.
Once you have a better understanding of the goals set out before you, you can create a timeline to keep you on track. Map out major milestones and the smaller steps you need to take to get there.
3. Stay Curious
Pursuing the career of your dreams can be a humbling experience as you assess your strengths but also identify the areas where you’ll need to grow or learn new skills. Luckily, this can also be a time of intense learning and exploration.
At the local level, seek out workshops, presentations or networking events that allow you to meet new people in the field. Learn more broadly about the skills you’ll need to focus on and the path your career is likely to take. You may even discover job vacancies in your area or build meaningful connections with someone who works at a company you aspire to join. You never know when the next opportunity may arise. If your local options are limited, search online for industry seminars or self-led coursework to boost your knowledge in the field.
Paving the path for your dream career may also mean going back to school to earn your degree. Whether you’re attending college for the first time or going back for your graduate or doctoral degree, taking the time to pursue a degree in higher education can give you a jumpstart in your career. Develop your knowledge in the field, and learn from professors who have experience on the job, while fostering connections that may lead to professional opportunities later down the road.
4. Hone Your Skills
Once you have a better understanding of the requirements of your dream career, you can refine your skills to make yourself a more marketable candidate. Focus on a range of hard and soft skills that will place you at the top of the pile as HR sifts through qualified candidates.
Take inventory of the skills you’ve already mastered so you can target the skills you still need to master—think computer skills, project management software or content management platforms. If you’re pursuing a job in computer programming, you may need to be versed in one more programming languages. Or maybe you’re pursuing an international career, where fluency in one or more languages is required. If you see gaps in your hard skills, start with online resources that may be available to you to hone these skills (e.g., mobile apps, courses, workshops and so forth).
Also take stock of your soft skills. Soft skills don’t necessarily translate to a CV format, but they’ll speak for yourself when you interview for a new role. How are your written and verbal communication skills? Will you need to demonstrate your capacity to lead a team? These skills, in addition to time management, ability to work under pressure, willingness to take initiative are all important to demonstrate to your future employer that you’re the whole package with the right balance of professional and interpersonal skills.
5. Find Your People
Connect with new and lifelong connections that will help inspire you to achieve your dreams. Reach out to mentors, professors and former colleagues who can offer their support.
Although you can glean lots of useful information from a plethora of online job boards, reviews and so on, it’s always beneficial to talk out some of your questions, concerns and excitement face-to-face with someone who’s been in your shoes. Reach out to a former colleague, classmate or acquaintance in the field who can be a great source of knowledge, especially when it comes to the inner workings of moving up the career ladder, pros and cons of the day-to-day, and ways for you to get ahead and learn from others’ mistakes early in your career.
Continue to network via LinkedIn as you meet with people face-to-face so it’s easier to follow up later. Finally, connect with peers who may not necessarily be able to offer you professional advice but are in a similar field or can relate to the general experience of pursuing your dream career.
6. Take Risks
Going after your dream job can be scary, but it’s the only way you’ll know if the job you’ve always wanted is really right for you. It’s often said that one of the biggest risks you can take is not taking any risk at all.
Throughout the path to your dream career, embrace risks. Realize that it may not always be a comfortable experience, but it is one of immense growth. Lean into your support system when you’re feeling exhausted or discouraged, and don’t settle for anything less than the goals you’ve set out for yourself.
Some people struggle to take risks in their career, even if they understand the inherent benefit. In fact, it’s well-documented that women struggle to take big risks in their career development. According to a survey conducted by KPMG, 55% of women agreed that people who take more career risks progress more quickly than others. Yet, when it comes to women taking the plunge themselves, nearly half (45%) of women with less than five years of experience are often taking big career risks. Just one-third (37%) of women with 15 years or more of experience are making the same jump.
But research continues to reveal just how critical risk-taking can be. Especially for young professionals scoping out the job market, now is the time to test the waters and try new things. Young people have more time to make up for mistakes. They’re often less tied to a specific location or might not yet have family responsibilities of their own. At the end of the day, more risks lead to more experiences and lessons learned.
7. Celebrate Every Success
Finally, celebrate all the small victories along the way. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day or hoping you’d see more immediate results. But when you set more realistic expectations for yourself, you’re better equipped to manage your response.
Don’t get discouraged by small setbacks. Keep a checklist that reminds you on a daily basis of the small strides forward you’re making every day. Reward yourself for each small milestone you achieve. Get together with friends, treat yourself to something nice and remember you’re one step closer to the place you want to be: crossing the threshold of your dream career.
Make your dream career a reality today. SNU is here to help you get the education you need to reach personal success. To find out more about SNU’s course offerings, take a look at our academic course catalog.