Growing up, we were all asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” But if you are halfway through your career and still not sure of your answer or haven’t quite made it to your desired profession, now is the time to act.
About 28.7% of U.S. professionals have their childhood dream job or work in a related field, according to a LinkedIn survey, yet 36.6% still think about obtaining their childhood dream job.
While your definition of what a dream job entails may have evolved over the years to include traits like a flexible working schedule, high earnings power or the chance to help others, your childhood desired profession might not have been that far off.
Children tend to have a more authentic set of desires that aren’t muddied, tarnished or impacted by what others think and aren’t defined by money or societal pressures, says Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s career expert. “If you’re naturally inclined toward that career, it’s probably what you’re good at.”
Then and Now: Visions of Your Dream Job
When trying to figure out your dream job, Amanda Augustine, job search expert at TheLadders, suggests thinking back to what you loved as a child. “The idea is not to pursue what’s on the list but what attracted you to them,” says Augustine.
Children may not be able to identify specific careers in the IT industry but know they liked putting things together or fixing them. “The truth is, when you’re little, you’re not exposed to a number of jobs,” says Williams.
Part of having a dream job is not comparing yourself to other people and thorough self-appraisal helps you understand where you want to go, says John Sumser, workplace expert from career website Glassdoor. “The way to get your dream is to have a clear vision.” If you’ve trouble identifying what your childhood dream job was, Sumser suggests taking vocation aptitude tests to know your interests and abilities.
Distinguishing what you can realistically accomplish as a professional is hard but important.
To help determine whether a specific profession really is your dream job, you have to do your homework. “You definitely have to be a good student—subscribe to industry blogs, join relevant associations and membership organizations,” says Augustine. Consider a modern day apprenticeship or working or volunteering during weekends in the field so you can learn about the industry and day-to-day operations. This will help you build your network of relevant contacts.
Williams recommends connecting with people who have your dream job through LinkedIn or personal connections. Look at their career path, education and certifications. “Talk to them and ask about their nine to five.”
If you are looking to revamp your career, you also have to reimage your resume and online profile. Try and fill gaps in your skillset and make industry connections so you’re more marketable, recommends Augustine. Consider going to school or working in the industry in a paid or unpaid capacity to help strengthen your brand.
If you’re too old or don’t have the natural abilities to become a prima ballerina, opera singer or Olympic athlete, Augustine suggests exploring a career that taps into your passions and uses your existing skillset. For example, if you are currently in finance, consider working on the budget or funding opportunities for different shows, getting sponsorships or other finance-related jobs within your dream industry.
Head in the Clouds?
Pursuing your dream job will likely mean starting at the bottom, and if you’ve a family and a mortgage, the transition to your fantasy job could create financial instability. As an alternative, experts recommend finding ways to incorporate your passions into your life without taking the risk.
Volunteer or pursue your passions as a hobby if you’re unwilling or unable to make the tradeoffs, says Williams. If you’ve always wanted to be a doctor but don’t want to invest the time and money for medical school, volunteering might be a good alternative to provide exposure to that industry. If you’re an accountant who always wanted to be a doctor, why not work as an accountant in a hospital?
“The whole notion of a dream job is a really personal thing,” says Cunningham. Dream jobs should match your passions with your talents and skills. Making a change can be daunting but there are many success stories. Sometimes it’s more about having the gumption to go and pursue your dreams.