About 10 years ago I made an important career decision. I decided that I only wanted to work on cloud-based software. I recognized this fact after many job interviews (and a few job offers) that just did not feel right to me.
The jobs did not feel right because they were not serving the types of customers that I wanted to serve and they were not delivering their solution via SaaS. I knew that for any position to be a “dream job” it would need to be working on a cloud-based solution (which I had done earlier in my career with great satisfaction).
We have all heard flowery language about landing a “dream job.” But the problem is that no one talks about how to actually find one — or what a dream job even looks like.
I am glad that I paid attention to this feeling of disconnect and took the time to figure out why. The realization was a turning point that led me to where I am today — founding multiple SaaS companies and leading the talented team at Aha! It is a dream job if there ever was one.
But it also makes me think about about why so many people miss out on finding theirs. Many people start down their career path only to look up some years later and ask, “Where am I — and how did I get here?” I just met a very successful attorney who said those very words.
Everyone deserves to be happy at work. You deserve to be engaged, inspired, and excited each day about what you are creating — you deserve a dream job. Yet experience has taught me that landing that dream job starts with knowing your own dreams and goals.
There is one question you need to ask yourself today: What do you like to work on?
This question may sound overly simplistic. But it can — and should — take some work to unpack the answer. If you are prepared for that hard work, here are some tips to help you dig into your answer and get closer to the reality of that dream job:
Let old dreams go
What you said you wanted to be when you were a kid — or even when you graduated from college — may be much different that what you want now. Do not feel guilty if you have changed your mind. As you grow and change, so will your goals and what is most important to you. Open your mind to the possibility of a new dream that will take you elsewhere.
Factor out money
Some people allow money to determine their career path. But a great salary alone will not guarantee happiness or fulfillment. In fact, it can lead to feelings of emptiness and keep you stuck in a job that is not right for you. It is better to discover what you actually want to work on — and then figure out how you can actually make money doing it.
Silence other voices
You may have well-meaning people in your life who think they know what is best for you — and they will try to steer you where they think you should go. Politely ignore them so that you can zero in on what you want. That requires you to spend time alone, thinking about what is most important to you and what brings you joy. What gives you the most energy and satisfaction in your work? The least?
Answer your “why”
Once you define what kind of work gives you energy and satisfaction, ask yourself why this work matters to you. Prepare to dig deep. You want to fully understand your motivations and what the work will achieve — otherwise, you may eventually settle for a job that does not match up to your dream. Once you pin down what you want to actually want to work on, then you can more easily recognize which roles will align with your goals — and rule out ones that do not. You can have more confidence in your direction and conviction in your career decisions going forward.
When you find a job that dovetails with your own goals and dreams, you will feel a sense of connection and fit.
But there is one caveat: You may think that you only have to answer this question once in a lifetime. But you should revisit it every so often. Make sure that you are still working toward what you what you really want to do.
Your answer may change over time — as you change — and that is more than okay. But it is critical to always get to the heart of your answer. Because otherwise you will waste time churning in a job that does not map to your true path. Remember, life is too short to spend it working in a job that you do not love. So take charge and find out what you want to work on — and let that answer drive you towards your dream job.
What’s your dream job?
Originally published on the Aha! blog