Are you feeling stuck in a career path you don’t remember choosing, but you’re afraid to leave it because you feel like you can’t? Well, take heart. You’re not alone. One report found that only 27% of college graduates work in a field that is related to their chosen field of study.
Given that most of us don’t have the financial luxury to jump ship and quit our jobs, here is a five-step plan to get the most out of your current job while positioning yourself for one in a field that feeds your soul.
1. Clarify what you want.
What do you really want to do? Do you actually know what your dream job is? Too often, we know what it is that we don’t want, but we don’t allow ourselves the freedom to truly clarify what it is that we really do want. So, allow yourself the freedom to dream big!
2. Network like crazy.
There’s no time like the present to start networking. So, let’s clarify what networking is and what it isn’t.
Networking is an opportunity for you to learn about someone else. It is not an opportunity to sell your resume. For instance, I regularly take networking calls with someone who wants to connect on LinkedIn, but after a few moments, I’ll sometimes realize that I’m being given a sales pitch. Yuck.
The most important thing to know about networking is that it’s not about you; it’s about the person you’re speaking to. Find someone who works in the field you’d like to move into and offer to take them out for coffee. Ask them about their path, then listen. Find out what’s most rewarding about their job and what’s most challenging. And don’t forget to send a thank-you note after, preferably one written on paper and mailed with a stamp. Remember those? That little gesture goes a long way in showing true gratitude.
3. Take a class — from the comfort of your couch.
If you really want to move into a field that you are not working in, there is a good chance you need to supplement your education and your resume. With more online resources than ever before, adding to your educational resume is easier than it’s ever been. You can now take all kinds of online courses, many of which are tied to real degrees. Investigate providers like Coursera or Lynda to supplement your education. And if you are looking to learn more about the “passion” field you always wanted to study, you can also check out Yellowbrick, which helps learners figure out what role they can play in businesses they’re passionate about.
4. Update your LinkedIn.
Now is the time to dust off your online resume and revise it using the keywords that come up again and again in the field you would like to work in. Freshen up the descriptor paragraphs on past jobs and tie your current skills to your desired profession. If you do not have a LinkedIn profile, now is the time to create one. And remember this does not need to be done in one sitting. Break this job up into bite-size pieces, and it will be done before you know it.
5. Get help from a mentor or a coach.
A mentor or a coach can be a great resource to give your vision the drive it needs to become a reality. Think about your current network. Is there anyone you know who might be willing to go the extra mile and mentor you as you begin to make your shift into your chosen industry? Perhaps there is someone you can shadow a few times a month? A person with the right connections and who is as passionate about your future as you are can catapult you into the career of your dreams.
Most importantly, realize that it may take a little time to make your vision a reality. Sometimes I’ll ask my clients, “Can you run a marathon tomorrow?” With rare exception, the answer is no. But then I ask, “What if I gave you a year to train and a million-dollar prize at the end. Could you do it then?” The answer is inevitably yes. Similarly, if you give yourself the time to put in the necessary effort to find a fulfilling dream job, you’d start down that path right away. So, start now, and the finish line will be waiting for you!