First, some context. Most people blunder their way through their careers. They see an opportunity open up, figure the job is good enough, and then let momentum carry them forward.
That might have made sense back in the days when a regular job meant a steady income and a retirement package. But today, if you're not doing a job that's uniquely yours--your dream job--you will eventually lose it to somebody whose dream job is your job.
Your goal therefore must be to find the perfect job for you, the one that only you can perform the best, because it a manifestation of your personal dream and your life's goals. Here's the process I used:
1. Learn what you love.
Over the years, I've asked hundreds of people, "If you could have any job you wanted, what would it be?" All too often, the answer is something like: "Uhhh . . . I don't know . . ."
That's pitiful, because if you don't have a clear idea of what constitutes your dream job, the likelihood of getting it is exactly zero.
Therefore, the first step toward getting a dream job is knowing what interests you and what makes you happy. Then find a job (or create your own job description) that includes and combines as many of those things as possible.
For example, my dream job included writing and helping people, with a little bit of entertaining thrown into the mix--all things I loved doing from when I was a child.
Ultimately it's what you love that will make you successful; not what you think might make you successful. The world is full of unhappy "successful" people who never followed their dreams.
2. Emulate your role models' thought processes.
Everyone knows that having good role models is a shortcut to success. Unfortunately, most people use role models the wrong way; they imitate the role model's plan of action. This is ineffective because plans that were brilliant 20 years ago (or even two years ago) are already old hat.
For example, suppose your dream job is to be a film director and your role model is Steven Spielberg. His plan to get into the business involved hanging around a film studio as an unpaid (and unofficial) intern.
Unfortunately, everyone who wants to get into the film industry has already heard that Spielberg story and it's been tried dozens of times and today's film studios are different, with more security and less access. His plan won't work for you.
What's important about a role model is how they think. Spielberg, for example, ignored other's opinion of his talent. (He was twice rejected from film school.) That's how you'd need to think, if your dream job is to direct films.
You can learn about a role model's thought processes by reading biographies, interviews, and profiles. Ideally, though, you should ask your role model personally, if that's possible. In any case, the more deeply you understand how successful people think, the more likely you'll be successful at finding your dream job.
3. Be willing to pay the price.
To achieve your dream job, you may need to sacrifice other things, such as having a family right now or eating out a lot. Maybe even eating at all. Please note that sacrifice is not always required. Many people achieve dream jobs but have rich family lives, interesting hobbies, and so forth.
What is always required is the willingness to make those sacrifices, if called upon to do so. If you're not at least willing to sacrifice, you'll probably never achieve your dream job, because you won't take the necessary risks.
In my case, I had to be willing to give up my identity as an "executive," the predictability of a steady paycheck, and (sob!) paid vacations. For your dream job it will be different, but this isn't the time to be timid.
4. Learn to love selling.
I can't make this point too strongly. Unless you learn how to sell your ideas, yourself, and the value of your services, you'll never achieve your dream job.
Your dream job may be based upon the most innovative idea since the iPod, but if you can't sell that idea to investors, customers, or job candidates, it's just so much air.
In my case, I realized from the moment I became a professional writer that in the beginning selling would be 99 percent of my dream job, because I didn't yet have any contracts.
Now, I could have convinced myself (as many do) that "I hate selling!" But I realized that if I wanted to be successful, I'd need love the part of my dream job that involved selling.
So, do I love selling more than the writing? Uh, no. But I do enjoy the selling part of the job because it, too, involves helping people, which is one of the things I love. That's the primary reason, BTW, that I'm more successful than most other freelancers.
5. Create an initial plan.
In my opinion, most people overthink the planning part of getting a dream job. It's essential to have a plan, based upon your best ideas of how to get where you want to go, but you can't afford to wait until you've got the perfect plan.
The main value to making an initial plan isn't that it gives you boxes to check off that take you directly to your goal. Planning for your dream job doesn't work that way.
What planning does is put your initial activities into context and gives you something to change and modify as you move forward.
For example, if you're starting a business, it's crucial to set financial milestones and have a workable business model. If you don't do that, you don't know where to start.
However, as you take action and move forward, your plan will change, because you'll learn what works and what doesn't. Planning means setting yourself up to learn.
6. Take a leap of faith.
As I've written previously, every entrepreneur must have courage, and that's true of everybody and anybody who wants to find their dream job.
But courage isn't really enough. Achieving your dream job requires believing in yourself and taking a true leap of faith based upon the belief.
Just do it.
7. Take massive action.
Now that you're committed, take as much action as possible based upon your initial plan. Your intermediate goal is not to do everything correctly, but to do as much as possible so that you can learn everything possible.
Because you always learn more from your mistakes than your successes, you must do so many things that you end up making as many mistakes as possible!
In the meantime, taking massive action almost guarantees that some of those actions will work and move you closer to your goal. You'll learn to make distinctions that will help you through everything you do.
Here's an example of how massive action works. I know two writers who want to make a living writing science fiction. Both are equally talented, but one took massive action and the other didn't.
The first author sent his manuscript to dozens of publishers and agents. He got a lot of rejections and a lot of advice. He used that to hone his manuscript (and his sales approach) and is now published several time over.
The second author was so afraid of rejection that he sent his manuscript one small publisher. When that publisher passed on it, he sulked for month, and then sent it to a second publisher. I think he's on publisher number five at this point and still no closer to his goal.
8. Adjust your plan based on results.
Another advantage of taking massive action it that it allows you to quickly reevaluate your plan and make adjustments. Your results (both good and bad) provide the guidelines that allow you to build a better plan. It's an ongoing process.
You may also find (as I did) that your dream evolves as you pursue it. In that case, your plan adapts as well, still moving you ever closer to your goal, even if it's not the same goal that you started with. That's OK.
In my case, my original dream job was to write novels but, while I still dabble in fiction, my dream job is writing blog posts like this, because I know that this the best way I have to help you to get what you want. That's my dream job.
9. Become a role model.
Once you've achieved your dream job (and you will, if you follow the first eight steps), it's now your responsibility to help other people find their dream job.
The easiest way to do this is to be a good role model, not just in your actions, but in your willingness to explain your thought process to those who see you as a model.
If you've been fortunate enough to have a mentor in any part of your quest, you know how important that kind of attention can be. So pass your expertise along.
Finally, I have a personal request. As follow the above advice, please keep me posted. I love hearing those success stories!