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How To Find Your Dream Job

By Adrian Savage

Nine practical ways to turn that dream job into a reality and get the kind of working life you deserve.

Here's the bottom line: a huge number of people are working in jobs that are not really what they want and less than they deserve.

Why is this? Partly the pull of inertia (better the devil you know...); partly lack of confidence in their ability to land anything better; but mostly the belief that either their dream job doesn't exist, or they wouldn't land it if it did.

So most of us settle for second or third (or fourth, or fifth) best and try to get on with our lives. We secretly cherish the dream of something better, but it never gets beyond the dreaming stage.

It doesn't have to be like that. You can take practical steps to turn that dream into reality. There are dream jobs out there, plenty of them. Maybe someone's doing your dream job, but for them it's second or third best. That's the element that almost guarantees your dream job is out there somewhere. Your dream is someone else's "okay" job.

How can you increase the chances of finding that dream job? Here are some practical steps that will send you on your way.

1. Look for "Upgrades"

Upgrades are roles that act as stepping stones towards your dream position. They move you forward. maybe not all the way, but at least to a place that adds something to your career and resume, while you continue looking around for that dream position. Think of them as steps on the ladder.

2. Keep up Your Enthusiasm

If the right opportunity comes up, you need to be ready. That means building your resume and polishing your track record to make you the obvious choice. for that dream job. It also means being on top form, whenever chance hands you the golden ticket. You can't fake enthusiasm. If your motivation sags, you won't have the "get up and go" needed to keep building yourself into the kind of person who gets that dream job. Read. Train yourself. Focus on the positives. Do whatever it takes to keep your enthusiasm for life on the boil. No one hires depressives.

3. Focus

The trouble with dreams is they're fuzzy: like a camera on soft- focus, all misty images of joyfulness and "happy ever after" endings. That's fine for day-dreaming, but it won't work to get results in the real world. You need to know exactly what you want -- in detail -- if you're going to see how to get to it.

A lot of so-called jobs are simply fantasies and hallucinations. Even the dreamers don't really believe they'll ever turn them into reality. So if your dream job isn't a practical, hard-nosed possibility, set it aside and try a few others on for size. Don't fixate on a single dream until you've proved it's possible in the real world. If you're below average height, fixating on being a professional basketball player is just an illusion.

4. Look for Opportunities Where Others Miss Them

Life is uncertain. It's unfair. It's also sometimes downright cruel.

It's easy to get depressed and lose heart. Other people seem to be on the fast track into the future, while you're still stuck in a dead-end role with a boss who blocks you from going anywhere.

But there are hidden opportunities in almost every situation. If the fast track looks inviting, remember that obvious opportunities attract the most competition. People on a public fast track are ripe for every kind of trick from their peers to bring them down or elbow them out of the way.

Meantime, you can find a less obvious path where there's no one competing with you.

5. Keep an Open Mind

It's easy to buy all the hype that proclaims certain kinds of jobs as the only ones that anyone sees as desirable. But that's simply fashion. It may be the "in" thing today to work for The Donald, but fashions are notoriously fickle. Only a few years ago, it was the "in" thing to work for a dot-com start-up, and look where that ended.

You're looking for your dream job, not whatever the media have decided to push this week. And what's a dream for you may not even be noticed by the high-profile "whiz- kids" who often go up like a rocket and come down like the stick.

Focus on what's best for you. And if that's unfashionable or not in vogue today, all the better. Less competition makes landing this job all the easier.

6. He (and She) Who Dares, Wins

You'll never find your dream job without taking risks. The trick is to avoid risking everything unless that's the only way to land that amazing role.

Look at industries or kinds of work that you might not typically consider. Try to talk to people who work there and find out what it's really like. Try to build up a financial buffer, in case the route to your dream job requires a period in education first; or even taking a pay cut compared with your current position. Just about everyone who succeeds also fails several times along the way.

Fear of failure and its imagined consequences is probably the strongest force that holds people in jobs they don't really enjoy and that use only a little of their abilities.

7. Be Ready to Do Some Trade-offs

Sit down and make a list of what you really want in a job. Not just the kind of work and the atmosphere around you, but also all the benefits and whatever else would make that job wonderful. Then put them in order of priority, from those you really couldn't do without to those you'd love, but could manage to let go.

You may never find a dream job that matches your list 100%. It may not even exist. But hey, 90% or even 80% of your dream may be a whole lot better than you have right now.

8. Learn How to Toot Your Own Horn

No one likes a braggart. But no one notices someone who never brings his or her accomplishment to the fore. Here's a secret every salesperson knows: people generally take you at your own estimation. If you present yourself as humble, ordinary and nothing special, that's exactly how they'll see you. If you take care to come across as confident, able and a good kind of person to know, they'll believe that's exactly what you are.

Act the part of your dream job long before you land it. If you dream of being an entrepreneur, act like one. If it's a top executive job you want, play the part and try to associate with current executives on equal terms. Attend meetings. Join discussion groups. Become a member of clubs where executives tend to be found. If you long for a creative job, start by hanging out where creative people are. Show an interest. Be seen to be part of the group from whom the person for that dream job will be chosen.

9. Find a Mentor

This is probably the single most effective action you can take to land that dream job. If you can find someone who knows the ropes (and the people involved) who will take you under his or her wing, you've dramatically improved your prospects.

A mentor can smooth the way for you, help you avoid the pitfalls and show you how to show yourself to the best advantage. All without exposing you to the kinds of risks you might have to face on your own.

But, best of all, a mentor can make sure the right people hear about you. It's human nature to look seriously at a recommendation that comes from a trusted source. If you go forward with the approval and support of key people, you're path will be much smoother all the way.

When you look at the histories of most of the people who make the headlines, in just about any field of endeavor, you nearly always find they had a mentor at a critical stage in their career. It's not everything (you still need ability, confidence and hard work), but it's almost everything.

If you do nothing else today to start your progress towards that dream job, get started on finding yourself a mentor. You'll never regret it.

Adrian has published in leading British and American publications and been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The Chicago Tribune. An Englishman by birth, he lives in Tucson, Arizona and publishes Fat Cat Monthly ( THE resource for self improvement, personal growth and career development for knowledge workers; and E-Mentor (,an E-zine for people interested in applying ethical thinking to practical business leadership issues.

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