Getting a job is not the goal.  Finding the perfect career is.

Millions of people in the world are unhappy in their jobs.  Why?  They have limited options.  They are afraid to change.  They have chosen careers that are not a good fit for their talents, or careers about which they are not passionate.  But you can avoid those pitfalls and take charge of your work life.  Here are 6 steps to finding the perfect career.

Step 1: Create options

If you want the perfect career, you have to know what you want, and what you don’t want.  This requires options.  Luckily, many ways to create options exist: gain expertise through online classes or seminars, grow your connections by joining networking groups, update your resume and post it to several job boards, hire a career coach.  Any or all of these will increase your visibility and expertise, and therefore the number of potential options for your perfect career.

Step 2: Don’t be afraid to change

Most people start out with an idea about what their perfect career might be, and most people end up in a career that is different than the one they considered first.  That’s OK.  College majors are not life sentences.  If you didn’t find the perfect career the first time around, you can still create it.  Consider ways to use your major differently.  An education major might be useful because of its emphasis on planning; an accounting major might save you the expense of hiring someone else to balance the books for your entrepreneurial venture.  It’s all about reframing.

Step 3: Know what you’re made of

It is impossible to find your perfect career without understanding yourself.  Take assessments.  Know your strengths and weaknesses.  Discover your passions.  Understand your motivations.  Your perfect career is not the same as someone else’s perfect career, and the more you know about what you’re made of, the easier it will be to determine the right fit.

Step 4: Define your non-negotiables

Does your perfect career require work/life balance?  Does it require a certain income level?  Does it have a high degree of autonomy?  Do you want to manage others?  Make a wish list for your perfect career, and decide what is absolutely essential versus what would be nice to have.  Refuse to compromise on the essentials.  Your perfect career is not just good enough; it’s perfect.

Step 5: Interview jobs; don’t let jobs interview you

When you know what you’re made of, and you’ve defined your non-negotiables, use them to decide whether or not a role is right for you.  Interview prospective employers and screen potential jobs.  Will this job fuel your passion in 6 months?  6 years?  60 years?  How will it allow you to contribute in a meaningful way?  Do most of the responsibilities line up well with your strengths?  Will you have help in areas of weakness?  If not, it might be better to look elsewhere.  Have the confidence to say, “My perfect career is out there, and this is not it.”  Employers look for people who know themselves well and carry themselves with confidence.  If the fit for one role is not ideal, they might approach you with another that would be better for you.

Step 6: Be patient

Sometimes the perfect career is developed, not found.  Most people don’t start their careers with a very high income or an opportunity to manage others.  Often, specific experiences are necessary prerequisites for the perfect career.  If you have a job that affords you these experiences, it might be worth remaining patient in order to have more options later.  Also, never take a job just to have one.  It’s true that sometimes beggars can’t be choosers, but this is about finding the perfect career, not just finding a job.

The perfect career is out there.  Have the courage and patience to find it.

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