A dream job requires three things: It must be a good fit for your abilities, match your goals, and make you happy. Finding a career with all three of those ingredients isn’t easy, but with the right strategies you can uncover a vocation that will bring you satisfaction. Below are seven ways you can match your talents and ambitions to your dream career.

1. Take an Aptitude Test

An aptitude test is the most obvious path to discovering your dream career. It can be an effective option, too, if you choose the right one. The Clifton Strengths Finder is a well-regarded personal assessment test that’s been taken by thousands of people. It theorizes that everyone possesses a certain number of fixed, universal personal-character attributes that together result in a tendency to develop certain skills more easily and succeed in certain fields while being less successful in others. The test is 80 questions long, takes roughly 20-30 minutes to complete, and reveals the test-taker’s top five “talent themes.” With those in hand, you can search for work where you can best make use of those strengths.

2. Ask The Right Questions

A key component to finding answers is knowing which questions to ask. Forbes posted a fill-in-the-blank assessment that breaks down the big question (“What’s my dream career?”) into nine simpler ones. Your responses to those will reveal patterns and help show you what you really want to be doing with your life.

3. Make Lists

List-making is one of the tried-and-true ways of reaching a decision. During your search for a dream career, try creating three lists: what you’re talented at, what makes you happy, and what your goals are. The lengthier the lists are, the better; jot down whatever comes to mind. After you’re done, look for correlations between the lists. What falls into all three categories? What activities fulfill all of the necessary requirements of your dream career?

4. Ask Others’ Opinions

Sometimes you don’t have the best perspective on your own life. Friends and family often understand aspects of you better than you understand yourself. Ask people close to you what activities they think that you excel at and are happiest doing. Their answers could propel you onto a completely different career trajectory than you expected.

5. Conduct Informational Interviews

Once you’ve got an idea of what you’d like to be doing for a living, learn from someone who’s already in your dream field. Arrange an informational interview with someone who has the career you think you want, and find out the realities of his or her industry. Figure out if the job is really something that you’re interested in, and if your skills match up with the duties it entails.

6. Get Some Experience

After you find the career you think will fulfill you, try it out for a while. Look for opportunities to job shadow, intern, or volunteer in your profession of choice. It will give you a chance to immerse yourself in that work environment and find out if it’s somewhere you’ll be comfortable. You probably won’t get paid for it at first, but that’s one of the costs of looking for a job you love, which leads to my next point.

7. Think Long Term

Don’t just think about what will make you happy right now. Consider what lifestyle you’ll be comfortable with in the future. A lot of dream jobs don’t pay well, so ask yourself if you’re willing to give up some of life’s luxuries so you can be happy to go to work everyday. Make sure that you know what you’re sacrificing if you leave your current occupation to pursue a less predictable career path.

Featured photo credit: Flazingo Photos via flickr.com

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