Although it's always good to have a job (and a paycheck), just any job will not necessarily lead to a fulfilling career – not to mention a fulfilling life. But how do you make that leap?
Consider these six steps to finding a more satisfying – dare we say it?! – dream job.
1. Pinpoint the Problem
Before you give your two weeks' notice, take stock of where you are and why it's so unsatisfying. Are you not making enough money for the work you do? Is it the company or organization you're working for? Is it the industry? Is it the job itself? Do you dislike having to travel so much for work? Do you not like working in teams as much as you are now and would you prefer to work more independently? Knowing why you want to leave your job can help you make a better choice the next time around.
2. Count the Whole Cost
Many workers don't take the risk to find a more satisfying job because they're worried about the potential loss in pay. However it's important to add up the real cost you're incurring to stay in a job you dislike. While it may pay more, is it causing you mental and emotional stress? Is it negatively impacting your relationships?
It can help you be more confident about making the move when you realize that the daily grind of going to an unfulfilling job is costing you more mentally, emotionally and spiritually than it is providing you financially. (If you want to switch careers, you may not have to go back to school to do it. Find out how in Sell Your Skills, Not Your Degree.)
3. Get Busy Dreaming
A dream job involves, well, a dream. What do you really want to do? If nothing immediately comes to mind, think about people you know who love their jobs. What do you envy about their situation? Is it that they have a better work-life balance? Do they have more or fewer responsibilities? Do they get more recognition for what they do or have a better work environment?
If your friends are in the same boat, take time to flip through magazines, read books and peruse websites. What attracts your attention? Think about previous experiences. What have you done in the past that gave you great enjoyment? What inspires you?
If those questions are too big to tackle start smaller and ask yourself, where would you ideally like to live or travel? What would an ideal work environment look like - would you be inside or outside? Would you prefer to work in a low-key, relaxed atmosphere or corporate environment? Do you have an ideal job that you daydream about or something you would pursue if you won the lottery and money was no longer a concern? The key to finding a fulfilling job is finding work that enables you to tap into your passion and sustain your interest long-term.
4. Talk To People Who Are Already There
Use social networking tools like Twitter, Ning and LinkedIn to find and connect with people who already have your dream job, or who are working in your dream field. Ask if you can contact them offline to learn how they landed their job and what they would recommend you do to get the same. (Find out how professional resume writers can help you land a coveted career in Resume Scribes Seal The Deal.)
5. Evaluate Your Starting Point
Once you have an idea of your dream job, figure out what you need to do to make yourself a viable candidate. Do some research about the position and/or field to determine if you have the education, knowledge, training and experience needed for employment. If not, map out a plan to gain the skills and get the education you need. It might not require you leaving your full-time job just yet - perhaps you could volunteer in the field during your non-work hours or begin taking classes at night or on weekends.
4. Make the Commitment
To really land an ideal job you have to be willing to stop dreaming and actually take the leap. Talk with your spouse or family about your desire and what it's going to take from all of you to make that that change. Will it require a physical move? Will it require lowering your standard of living and what would that look like? Get realistic and specific and ensure everyone's on board with the plan. You will stand a much better chance of not only landing your dream job, but also making sure that your job switch doesn't create a nightmare at home.
The Bottom Line
Taking a leap outside your comfort zone isn't easy for most people. But the rewards that come with a job you love can be worth it in the long run. (Think you have what it takes to be chief executive? Find out what those at the top have in common in Becoming A CEO.)