3 Ways To Figure Out Your Dream Job (So You Can Start Pursuing It)

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dream job

If you’re hoping there’s a dream job waiting for you, let me save you some time and energy: You're going to be disappointed.

Why is that?

Even if you know exactly what you want, it may not be in your area or stay the same, if it exists at all. As you’ve probably noticed, professional relationships, resources, and goals are dynamic. Situations and environments change. And most important, you are in motion, with developing needs, abilities, and hopes.

So, if an interviewer, friend, or colleague asks you what your dream job is, what would you say? Some experts counsel you should describe your interests, skills, and values, presumably suiting your response to the questioner.

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That choice is sensible when getting a job quickly is your primary aim. But you may be missing an opportunity for planting seeds for what you truly want, especially in the long run during these times of accelerating change. With all the matters in motion mentioned above, how can you create a firmer focus for choices and action?

Whatever your vision for the future, you’ll benefit from starting within yourself first to clarify the work of your dreams.

Here are 3 suggestions that will help you figure out what motivates and has meaning to you for finding or creating your dream job:

1. Let your inner voice out.

Trust your intuition and instincts first, especially since they are often based on your experiences and learning. Avoid second-guessing yourself and giving power away to “I can’t” or “I don’t know how.” Instead, call forth your optimism and possibilities by thinking about the questions in the list below.

Using your own nouns and short phrases, what associations jump to mind for the ones you choose? Perhaps jot them down to see the connections and give play to your imagination.

To get started, what would:

  • suit and strengthen your talents
  • serve your interests and purposes
  • bring you happiness or joy often enough
  • prepare you for continuing challenge, change, and contribution
  • open paths to future work that truly appeals to you and to success as you define it?

As you look over what you jotted down, what themes emerge? Do you see any overlaps between your past and opportunities related to what’s unfolding in the future of work? To explore further, type in your key themes and combinations to your preferred search engine to see what pops up. For example: history, writing, and artificial intelligence (which combines interests with future of work).

"Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning." — Gloria Steinem

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2. Consider advice, but don't let it limit you.

Reading experts’ guidance and working with a professional are options, but you’ll benefit from first summoning your own ideas. Just don’t overthink or fall into familiar assumptions and titles related to work content and search. That could squelch your imagination and courage for developing fresh ideas and insights related to a range of new or re-purposed possibilities.

Add a range of other voices and perspectives to make progress. The initial thoughts you unlock above can contain treasures. But, as you know, progress does not happen with just saying open sesame as the old Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves story goes. Few people find success and meaning entirely on their own in the time frame they'd prefer.

3. Connect with talented people related to your interests and ideas.

Invite a few people to collaborate for conversation, testing ideas, and exploration, together or one-on-one. Connect with individuals you respect and enjoy for open, creative exchanges. With mutual benefit in mind, what questions will you ask one another to stretch and enrich one another’s thinking?

Do some online research to see how your ideas connect with what’s emerging in work of the future. For some useful ways to pitch your dream ideas, I recommend Lindsay Tigar’s three-minute read How To Pitch a Role That Doesn't Exist Yet.

Get going for happy progress now.

Believe it or not, wide-ranging author, statesman and rebel Johann Wolfgang von Goethe knew centuries ago what might be holding you back and what you can do about it!

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves, too. ... Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

What one action will you take to clarify your ideas and move forward toward the work of your dreams this week? Name and reach out to one probable collaborator for a creative conversation. To escape inertia, keep in mind American humorist Evan Esar’s counsel: "All things come to him who waits, but they are mostly leftovers from those who didn’t wait."

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Ruth Schimel, PhD is a career and life management consultant and author of Choose Courage: Step Into the Life You Want and related handbooks, who writes widely about personal and professional development. Ruth consults with individual and organizational clients in the Washington DC area or by phone and email, encouraging them to access their own courage for fulfilling their dreams as they prepare for the future of work. See information about her practice and free consult offer at

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