4 Times You’re Getting in the Way of Your Own Dream Career (No, Really)

Let’s talk about how to get your dream job this year.

You know, that position that’ll make you feel excited to wake up in the morning. That job where you feel competent, smart, valued, interesting, and awesome.

Even if you don’t exactly know what that is yet, you know how it makes you feel.

That feeling, boiled down into one word, is passion.

So if we want to find your dream job and set your career on fire, we’ve got to start with passion.

I remember when I first set out to figure out what drove me—I was completely overwhelmed. The highlights from the very beginning are these:

  1. Years of misery in a good job
  2. Knew I needed a change
  3. Did nothing (but told myself it would get better—eventually)
  4. Felt guilty 
  5. Brainstormed ideas and went to happy hour
  6. Had no idea where to start
  7. Stayed stuck
  8. Rinse and repeat

In this list, you’ve probably already noticed that there are a lot of mistakes. Some of which seem obvious, but some of which are tricky little devils. I don’t want that for you, so if we want to find your passion as quickly as possible, we need to make sure you don’t do the following:

1. When You Squelch Your Passion Because You Think That Things Will Improve if You Stick it Out

How many times have you told yourself to just “stay a little longer?” Or that “things will get better—at some point.” If you’ve only been at a company for a short amount of time, or something unusual has happened, you can tell yourself that, for now.

However, for most of us, we end up staying and coping and staying and coping for years (and years!).

In my former life, I kept getting promoted and getting more responsibility. From the outside it was great, but on the inside I was more and more miserable. But, I told myself that maybe the next promotion (or raise or project) would be better. It would make me happier. Definitely.

Even though the last few steps up the ladder had the exact opposite effect.

It’s honestly the definition of insanity—i.e., doing the same thing and expecting a different result. But it’s so easy to do, for many reasons, one of which is time. You’ve already invested so much time into something that hasn’t worked out, so you might as well keep going, right?

Or, you stay stuck because you honestly don’t know what else you would do if given the choice, and I get that. But there is a better way to figure it all out (I’ll get to that later).

2. When You Believe That You Can Think or Wish Your Way Into Your Passion

I spent years daydreaming of things I could do that sounded fun. I thought about them all of the time. I spent hours thinking about alternatives to work.

And, for just as many years, nothing changed.

Why? Because you can’t think your way into your passion! Be honest: How much time have you spent thinking about leaving your job recently?

How much has changed because of your thinking? For most of us, the answer is not a lot.

Frankly, if you could think your way into your dream job, you would’ve done it by now. Thinking isn’t all bad, but doing just that isn’t going to help you.

3. When You Refuse to Get Help to Find Your Passion

As a reader of The Daily Muse, you’re already pretty smart. You’re used to being able to figure things out on your own. Especially when it comes to your work.

The proof seems obvious: You’ve already done a bunch of other successful stuff, right? Even at the jobs you didn’t love. But finding your passion is a lot like going to the gym—people hire trainers and diet planners and all sorts of stuff because getting in shape on your own is hard, and it requires knowledge and discipline that most of us don’t have (or we’d have already lost the weight and be on our fifth marathon right now!).

Why do we treat our careers—places where we spend so much more of our time—differently?

Insanity, right?

Here’s the truth: You can’t think your way into your passion. In fact, how you think about your work could be the very problem—in most cases you’re your own worst enemy! You need objective support and action if you want to figure it out. 

I always recommend getting the support in place first. So, to help with that: Who is one of the most positive people you know (who is also not one to judge you or take you down a peg when they feel challenged)?

Grab him or her, and say “Hey, I’m going to be thinking about making a career transition, and I’m a little worried I may not follow through. Can I periodically call you for a pep talk and honest feedback? I promise not to do it too often—but you are so incredibly brilliant, I feel like I’d be missing out if I didn’t talk to you.”

Give it a try—honestly. What do you have to lose?

4. When You Let Your Fears Rule Your Passion

This is a hard one, because fear is such a big thing. We are afraid because of biology, it’s how we stay alive.

And when you think about doing something different with your career, that can call up so many fears, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

But sometimes you need to acknowledge this feeling for what it is, which is just an indicator of change—not something that should stop the presses. So the next time you feel that, I want you to ask yourself why: What are you afraid of happening if you change your job or your career?

Seriously, list everything out right now. Now, look at that list and talk yourself through each one. You’re scared about making less money? OK, if that’s a real possibility with what you want to do (and it might be!), take a look at your budget and see if you can spend less money. Can you downsize your apartment? Your wardrobe? Your Friday night happy hour budget? It won’t be easy, but the payoff will be so much bigger.

Then ask yourself this: If fear were not an issue, what would you want to do?

Now it’s time to do it!


Originally published at The Muse