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October 2005 By Chrystle FiedlerWhat would you most enjoy doing if you had plenty of money and didn’t have to work? Instead of going for the job of our dreams, we often settle for choices that don’t use our talents and abilities to their full capacity. You may think that you’re playing it safe by staying in a job you don’t love, but the bigger risk is wasting time on a profession that doesn’t fulfill or satisfy you—a huge drain on your energy and emotions.
“So many of my clients have jobs that are too small for their dreams,” says Valerie Young, a career consultant whose web site is ChangingCourse.com. “But it takes not one ounce of energy more to dream big than it does to settle, and you’ve got a lot more to gain by shooting high than shooting low.” It’s not too late to find your dream job. How? Dream big and take small steps to make it a reality. Create an Action PlanFirst ask yourself:
Then turn goals into realities:
What would be the job from heaven? Is it working outdoors, working independently, tackling creative projects daily? If you have trouble figuring out what it is, try the flip side. “Once you’ve carefully described the job from hell, you can assemble the job from heaven,” says Barbara Sher, author of I Could Do Anything if I Only Knew What It Was. “For example, would a job from hell be being stuck in an office for 10 hours a day? Flip it over and you’ll find your job from heaven, working outside in nature.” Now ask, what part of working outside really works for you?
Once you have an answer, try not to automatically discount it as impractical. “Often people say they don’t know what they want to do, but they really do,” Sher says. “They just get practical too fast.”
If Harriet Siew, 35, of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, had dismissed what she wanted to do as impractical, she would have missed out on a wonderful new career. A corporate business consultant, she longed to work in the food industry, though she had little interest in being a chef. When she enrolled at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Maryland, some of her friends thought she was crazy.
She focused on what she loved best—being close to food and the process of preparing it. She started by working for a public relations company, managing food and wine events for clients. This led to her dream job as the culinary producer at the Food Network, working with top chefs and, of course, sampling and fine-tuning recipes. “It’s my dream job because I’m surrounded by chefs like Emeril Lagasse and food and cooking every day,” says Harriet.
To create a meaningful career path, first ask yourself what you want your life to look like, then seek a career that will allow you to have as much of that life as possible, says Young. “This becomes a filter for what job would be ideal for you.” For example, you may think you want to become a doctor because you love science and helping people. However, you may also want control over your schedule and the flexibility to work at home. It may be a better fit for you to become, say, a nurse practitioner. Or your dream job might include telecommuting or lots of flextime.
After working for eight years in a warehouse, Theresa Dasso knew it was time for a change. “There was a lot of pressure to work more and more hours, but I really wanted to be at home with my kids,” says Theresa, 45, of Portland, Oregon. “I wasn’t happy.”
Last year she and her husband, Mark, who works for the Army as an engineer, heard about a web site called TheGroceryGame.com on a local television station and decided to try it out. The web site tracks local store sales and, combined with coupons from the Sunday newspaper, can save members hundreds of dollars a month. Theresa and Mark loved the savings, so they decided to help open a franchise for their area. “I really liked doing it and wanted to share it with other people.”
Theresa is now a full-time Grocery Game franchisee as well as a stay-at-home mom. “I can set my own hours and it’s very flexible, which makes life a lot easier,” she says.
Just because something is easy for you, don’t dismiss it. “Women often feel that if they can do it, anyone can, and that’s just not true,” explains Young. Instead, use your abilities—what you’re best at—as a big arrow pointing to what you might love doing the most. “What you love is what you are gifted at,” agrees Sher. “We are all designed to do certain things.”
Of course, sometimes you may have an aptitude for something and then get trapped in a profession you don’t enjoy. Delia McBride, 32, of Sayville, New York, found this out the hard way when she became a lawyer. “I had visions of saving the world. But when you practice the law on a day-to-day basis, dealing with judges and other attorneys, you find that people aren’t always nice and don’t always do the right thing. It wasn’t for me.”
She switched paths and became a history teacher. “I love working with kids and coaching a mock trial team, so I’m using the law in that way.”
You’ve probably seen Carolyn Kepcher beside Donald Trump in the boardroom on NBC’s hit show The Apprentice. Kepcher, the executive vice president of the Trump Organization and COO of Trump National Golf Clubs in New York and New Jersey, is also the author of Carolyn 101: Business Lessons from The Apprentice’s Straight Shooter. She’s got advice on how to get ahead. How can women make their dreams come true in the workplace? Be more open to recognizing opportunities when they present themselves. When I met Donald Trump, he was a prospective buyer of a property. I thought that if I could impress him, it would be an opportunity for me with my own company and with his organization. What’s the best way to set goals?Make sure they’re realistic. Once you reach a goal, you can set another goal. But if you’re at A, don’t aim for Z; you’re not going to make it. How did you make your own dreams come true?I’ve always had drive and wanted to succeed. Once I was hired at a company, I wanted the position above mine. I feel at this point in my life that I’ve done OK, but I’m not finished. Do you have any advice for how a woman should handle herself in the workplace? Always remain a lady. I stand behind it and I’ve lived by it. I’ve been in some pretty intense circumstances, but it’s a matter of confidence. What the most common mistake women make when going after their dreams? Giving up too early. If you’re going to go after something really big, you’re going to hit some obstacles along the way, whether you like it or not. You have to be prepared. That’s basically what The Apprentice is all about. Whether or not you make it to the top is up to you.
1. Talk to people who know what you need to know. Think of informational interviewing as your secret weapon. “It’s crucial that you talk to people already doing the kind of work you’re thinking of switching to,” says Richard N. Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute? Identify a few people to talk to and ask them for 20 minutes of their time. Don’t be intimidated by approaching people you don’t know. You’re not asking for a job, you’re just asking for information.
Create a list of questions such as, “What do you like most and least about your job?” and “What’s a typical day like?” Ask everyone the same questions so you have a way of comparing information, says Julie Jansen, author of I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This. “You’ll get a balanced view of what the job is really like.” Also, ask them whom else they suggest you speak to.
This approach worked extremely well for Pat Barnett, 48, when she left her job at Hallmark Cards Inc. in Kansas City, Missouri, to pursue her dream of working in Hollywood. After taking some film courses while finishing her bachelor’s degree at night, she realized she wanted to be a film editor. But she needed information and contacts to make it happen.
A friend’s brother, an editor for NBC, helped her with both. “He filled me in on the reality of the job, the hours and how hard it was to break in. He also gave me a few names and numbers of people. Within two weeks, I landed a job at a postproduction facility that, at the time, was handling about 35 television shows weekly.”
Today she’s been nominated five times for an Emmy for her work as an editor on Everybody Loves Raymond. “I’ve received a lot of satisfaction from being a creative part of this show, which got so much critical acclaim. We’re a part of television history.”
But don’t forget to pay it forward and help others realize their dreams. Pat does this often. “When someone expresses an interest in editing, I try to mentor her.”
2. Throw an “idea party.” Gather a few of your friends and ask them to invite a few of their friends. “People always want to come to an idea party,” says Sher. “They like to solve your problems.”
To get them thinking in the right direction, you’ll need a wish (for example, your desire to work in the travel industry) and an obstacle (e.g., you have no contacts in the travel industry). “Somewhere in the world there is someone who is doing what you want to do and making money at it, and you need to find out about it,” she says.
If your guests can’t think of anyone, ask them to ask everybody they know. Then make plans to get together again in a week. “You’ve got a whole bunch of people out looking for each other,” explains Sher. “It’s a wonderful way to turn dreams into concrete goals.” Find more information about how to throw an idea party at www.shersuccessteams.com.
3. Tap the power of a “success team.” Finally, as a morale booster, you may want to gather a group of like-minded people and meet once a week. “In a success team, the only goal is to make sure that everybody on the team gets what she wants,” says Sher. “Each week you talk about what you’ve accomplished that week and make a promise of what you’ll do the next. The companionship will calm fears, too.”
Skills, whether they be organizing, analyzing, writing, teaching or planning, are by definition transferable from one career to the next. You just have to decide where you’d be happiest using them, says Richard N. Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute? Use these questions to narrow your focus:
1. What kinds of problems do you most like to solve? Are they with people, data or things?
2. What kinds of questions do you most like to help people find answers to? Is it what the most popular DVDs are this month, or what makes a marriage work?
3. What knowledge of yours do you most like to display to other people? Is it historical trivia or your ease with computers?
4. What are your favorite hobbies or interests? Gardening? Crafts? Often, hobbies are also industries. If you identify your favorite hobby, you may have identified your favorite field of interest.
5. Every field is, in a sense, a language. For example, the language of theology is: God, love, forgiveness and compassion. Often by considering what your favorite words are, you can guide yourself to a field in which you’d most love to use your transferable skills.
6. What’s your definition of “a fascinating stranger”? When you’re at a party or conference, what is it that she talks about that you find so fascinating? It’s a helpful clue as to where you might like to use your skills.
7. What newspaper or magazine articles do you most love to read? Answering this may indicate the field that suits you best.
8. What Internet sites do you most often gravitate to? Look at your bookmarks. What stands out? You may find your favorite interests.
9. If you watch a game show, which categories do you hope the contestant will pick? Or, if it’s an educational channel, what kinds of subjects do you stop and watch?
10. If you could write a book, what would the subject be?
I decided to take the Work @ What You Love Workshop and also work one-on-one with Valerie. The workshop explored so many unusual and unexpected solutions to my specific questions. I made so many new connections to what clearly works for me in crea...