I’ve miraculously ended up with a job that I like. Why miraculously? Because I started late, and for ages didn’t know what it is I actually wanted to do.
Here are a few tips to help you find your dream job.
1. Don’t work for long periods of time in a job that you don’t like
This is a pretty obvious one. It’s about building your CV and experience, and understanding that every job doesn’t just give you money but also the foundations upon which your professional life is likely to develop. It’s a bit of a catch-22 insomuch as, if you fall into a job that you don’t like that much, and end up doing it for a period of time (say, 3 years), that’s what you’ve got on your CV.
Example: I went to London when I was 19 and stayed there for a year working as an independent living personal assistant for disabled women (also called a ‘carer’ or ‘care assistant’ in less politically correct terminology). When I went back to Germany, I continued doing a similar job part-time to support my studies, and even worked in an old people’s home for a year. Thus, all my experience was from a field that I wasn’t remotely interested in pursuing after my degree.
It took me until I was 27 or 28 to find a part-time job, still supporting my studies (a PhD by this time), that was actually relevant not only to my degree but everything that has happened professionally since.
On my CV these days, I completely omit all work I did within a social care environment, and many people may not know that I worked as a ‘carer’, albeit mostly part-time and alongside my studies, for roughly 7 years.
2. If your job isn’t relevant to your CV and your aspirations, engage in activities that are
There’s no harm in working in a job that you don’t like and that is merely about earning money, as long as you can simultaneously engage in activities that ARE relevant, thus building up your CV. The most obvious example is education. Many students earn a living working behind a bar, but I’m sure few go on to forge a career in the hospitality industry. If you don’t study, engage in interests relating to your professional ambition. Examples would be volunteering for an organisation, or, if you want to become a graphic designer, use all your spare time to teach yourself software and creating a portfolio, taking on projects for friends or charity free of charge.
3. Always do the best in any job, no matter whether you like it or not
When I was working in the old people’s home, I was one of the most efficient, fastest, dedicated, and hard-working students there. The job included dressing and washing people, emptying colostomy bags, changing nappies, assisting with eating, and so forth. It was very demanding, with a very early start (I had to get up at 3.30AM to travel there, for a 6AM start), and my colleagues were small-minded and incredibly dull (I was reading Kristeva’s The Revolution of Poetic Language at the time, and Judith Butler’s Bodies that Matter). It was very difficult, but at the same time I relished doing the job properly. I left after a year.
4. Once you know what you want to do, go for it
I fell into marketing by accident, via online moderation and then as a freelance seeder (= viral marketing). I don’t have any qualifications in marketing, have never studied it, and a year ago would never have had a chance by applying for a marketing job via the ‘normal route’ (i.e. job ads in newspapers, online, etc.). People would simply have looked at my CV, thought me as a ‘professional student’ who has spent far too many years at Universities, with little real-life and real work experience (in terms of 9-5, office job). However, once I got in there by accident, and got a taste for it, I knew I wanted to work in marketing or advertising as a ‘dream job’ (= with high levels of job satisfaction). Thus, I started applying for good jobs in that area, with my professional experience in marketing only just under a year.
5. Start at the bottom if necessary
In most of the jobs that I’ve done that had ‘career progression’ opportunities, I was offered them pretty quickly after joining (in the crucial freelance job as seeder, I was offered double pay and a standard 16-20h a week about 2 months after I started, and a full-time position 3 months thereafter). I.e. it doesn’t matter if you start at the bottom, for relatively little money. If you’re good, people will recognise it and you can progress pretty quickly. Thus, you can ‘jump’ a few stages of your career without a massive CV with loads of experience in the area.
The only two adversities to this:
a. you have financial commitments that mean you can’t possibly start from the bottom
b. you work in the public sector or in another heavily regulated sector. I got my ‘big break’ in the private sector and a chaotic, unregulated small agency.
6. Sell yourself – Be confident – Know what you want
Don’t be afraid. Don’t be too docile. Many people in the workplace, particularly in my new workplace, are quite happy to accept the status quo. They accept shitty computers, rubbish strategies, and high prices quoted by people who they think have authority on the subject matter. I don’t mean to advise to be a rebel and challenge authority in a destructive manner. What I’m advising is to stand out a bit, making your voice heard, and be visible so that people know who you are. This applies to any professional environment – be it your dream job or some rubbish job, as well as when attending job interviews. Generate a professionally confident persona that knows what s/he’s talking about. Don’t be too friendly, approachable, or laid-back.
7. Make sure your CV is spot-on
There mustn’t be any errors or spelling/grammar mistakes on your CV, especially, if you’re applying for a professional job involving written communication of any kind (be it emails, reports, strategies, etc.). I used to recruit in my past job, and when you have 100 applicants for, say, 3 positions, you eliminate those with errors straight away (that’s what the delete button is for). While other recruiters may not be as harsh as myself, submitting a CV with errors of any sort makes a candidate look either careless, or stupid. With so much competition, the basics need to be right.
I was going to write another 3 points, to make up 10, but I can’t be bothered! The post is too long as it is 😛 .