Trying to figure your dream career can be really challenging, especially if you’re older and are considering starting something new. It can be an intimidating prospect with so many possibilities and so much uncertainty.
How can anyone possibly figure out their dream career? There are so many options, each with pros and cons.
What can you do?
Fortunately, you don’t have to wander blindly as you try to identify where you want to be in life. There are some very specific questions you can ask that will help you nail down who you are, what you love and what you really want to.
Consider these questions to be a map leading you to your desired destination.
QUESTION #1: WHO ARE YOU?
“If you are facing in the right direction, all you need to do is keep on walking.” —Anonymous
Before you can figure out what you want to do, you need to determine who you are and what you stand for. A dream career will line up with your core value and most tightly held beliefs. If you choose a career that contradicts these core values, you’ll probably end up deeply unhappy.
- What do I care about the most?
- What underlying values motivate everything I do?
- What am I willing to sacrifice for?
- What drives me?
For example: I am Jessie, a single mother of three children. I am a spiritual, kind, loving person. I care deeply about helping my children succeed, social justice and alleviating poverty. I’m driven to sacrifice my time and comfort to provide financial security for my children. I’m driven to use my planning skills to help the homeless in my city.
Identifying your core values shapes the trajectory of your career path.
QUESTION #2: WHAT DO YOU LOVE DOING?
“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” —Pope John XXIII
What are you passionate about? What do you absolutely love doing? What gets your juices going, your creativity pumping and your energy moving? What do you think about when you’re standing in line at the grocery store?
As you ponder this question, don’t limit yourself to things that you think could be a career. Do you love reading? What about hiking? Does the thought of making a delicious meal make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Do you get pumped at the idea of helping someone make money?
Finding your dream career starts with identifying your true passions. Once you’ve nailed those down, you can start moving toward the how.
QUESTION #3: WHAT ARE YOU REALLY GOOD AT?
“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” —Woodrow Wilson
This one will get your mind going in a slightly different direction. What do you have real talent for? What’s the thing everyone says you’re amazing at? Art? Coaching sports? Teaching? Writing music?
Many times, a dream career comes at the intersection of your skills and passions. Of course, this makes sense. If you’re passionate about photography, you spend a lot of time taking photographs and thus get really good at it.
When you combine your skills and your passions, you’ll often discover a dream career waiting to happen.
QUESTION #4: WHAT GOALS DO YOU HAVE?
What are your long term goals when it comes to:
- Spiritual development?
In some ways, your goals will shape the dream career you pursue. For example, if you want to be a family man who spends most of his time at home, a career as a traveling musician probably isn’t right for you. If you want to be financially secure by the time you’re 45, it will be difficult to spend your life working among the poor in India (although that’s an admirable goal).
Ideally, your dream career will align well with your life goals.
QUESTION #5: IF YOU COULD DO ANYTHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
“The only goal you can’t accomplish is the one that you don’t go after!” —Vilis Ozols
If your life had no limits, what would you do? Think about it. If you had all the money, time and resources you needed, how would you spend your time? Where would you go? Who would hang out with?
This line of thinking pushes you outside your normal box. You probably have a series of limiting beliefs when it comes to what you can do with your life. In many ways, this is reasonable. There are actual limits imposed on you by your job, relationships, etc. But many of our limiting beliefs simply aren’t true. We’ve picked them up somewhere over the years and unconsciously treat them as law.
When you think about a limitless life, it allows you to explore possibilities you’ve never considered.
QUESTION #6: WHO DO YOU LOOK UP TO?
“The value of a man should be seen in what he gives and not in what he is able to receive.” —Albert Einstein
Who are the people you truly and deeply admire? Think on both a personal level and a professional level. Is there an author you love for her ability to turn phrases and create beautiful word pictures?
Is there a friend you admire for his willingness to help anyone at the drop of a hat?
Is there a photographer who always inspires you with his astounding nature shots?
What about a mentor who you look up to for her constant guidance?
As you think about the people you admire, consider why you hold them in such high esteem. What unique qualities do they possess? How could those qualities segway into a career for you? Could you become like the photographer you love? Could you also become a wonderful author?
Identifying the people you look up to can help you get ahead on what a dream career could look like for you.
QUESTION #7: WHAT DO YOU DISLIKE DOING?
“Better to have spent a life reaching for a dream that never came true, than to have slept through a life that never had a dream.” —Samantha Pickreign
This question will take you to the other end of the spectrum. Are there particular activities you really dislike? For example, if you’re an introvert who really doesn’t like being in large crowds, a career as an event planner probably isn’t for you.
When you consider these activities, think about why you don’t like doing them. Do you dislike manual labor because you don’t like being outside or because you’re in pain afterwards? Do you hate writing because you struggle with words or simply because you don’t like sitting in front of a computer?
Your goal isn’t necessarily to figure out what careers you want to avoid, although that helps. Rather, you want to determine why you don’t like particular activities. Knowing that you dislike the outdoors keeps you away from much more than manual labor and should be taken into account when considering your career.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Once you’ve answered all these questions, you can begin considering possible careers. You should have a good idea of what you love doing, what matters most to you and what types of things you want to avoid.
Now you’re ready to start taking steps in the right direction.
Depending on the complexity of your dream career, there are some relatively simple steps you can take to get started:
- Taking online classes in your field of choice.
- Joining a mentor program.
- Reading books about your dream career.
- Starting a small side business.
What matters most is that you do something. Take at least one step in the direction you want to head.
Climb the ladder with education
It’s never too late to start doing what you love. You don’t have to work in a job you hate until you retire. If you know the right questions to ask and the correct steps to take, you can chart a path to the career of your dreams.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.”
We wholeheartedly agree.
When you’re on the search to discover your dream career, you may want that career to include the opportunity to take the next step in your position by climbing the ladder at your place of work. Discover how a degree program can help get you there.