It happens without you realizing it:
One day you wake up and realize you aren’t where you really want to be in your career, even when you finally got that promotion or landed what you thought was the dream job. Turns out, it wasn’t all they, or you, made it out to be. After you land your first full-time job, eventually you realize it’s time to move on. You’ve burned out or are interested in expanding your horizons.
That process of waking up may happen over the course of months, years or decades. A career shift shakes up your entire world, and you don’t want to feel like all you’ve worked for was for nothing. So, you push the feeling to the side and bury it in more work.
Everyone experiences this feeling, and what you’ve worked for does have value. It will help you as you direct your energy toward the big dream, the one you’ve really wanted all along, and no, it’s not too late.
While it may be beneficial to consider a new role or transfer your skills to a new industry, why drive yourself crazy when you can take it step by step? Side gigs and volunteer work are wonderful ways of gaining extra income and experience, but you may find yourself still feeling burned out.
Taking small steps are only as difficult as you make them. Here are 31 of the easiest steps you can take now to build momentum, motivating and propelling you toward your dream job:
1. Spend a Day With TED
Listen to various TED talks surrounding an industry that fascinates you. Have you lost your creative self? Listen to author Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Success, failure and the drive to keep creating” TED talk, who you are likely familiar with due to her nonfiction book Eat, Pray Love, where Gilbert travels to various countries finding herself again after a divorce.
For more motivation, check out these 15 TED talks on career inspiration from writers, celebrities, entrepreneurs and innovators.
2. Log into LinkedIn
Log in, but instead of going to your profile, look up the job title you are most interested in. Look at the career paths of those who have gotten there. What do they have in common with you? What are the differences? Do you see anyone who inspires you?
The idea is to find motivating details, without dwelling on discouraging ones.
3. Join in While You’re There
While you’re logged into LinkedIn, join a group related to your dream industry. Take the general term and get specific in your search. Instead of searching for “sustainable architecture,” add on clarifying words such as “design,” “LEED certification” or “materials” to land a job in specific groups of interest.
4. Increase Your Education
Take a free online university class in a subject outside of your field to shake things up. Many colleges now offer online courses, and you can take classes in literature, history, science, language and more.
5. Check out MeetUp
Go to MeetUp.com and search for networking or professional groups. Many cities have groups that meet up for social drinks and networking. Order new business cards, and make a goal to attend the next event.
6. Find Others in Your Field
Join a professional group in your area, such as a nonprofit writing organization, that will keep you involved in the industry while meeting a variety of professionals and giving you the opportunity to enhance your skills.
7. Attend a Professional Conference
Hitting the conference circuit will give you the opportunity to take a workshop or sit in on a panel. Stay active within your field, and be open to taking speaking engagements if you are at a senior level.
8. Teach a Skill to a Coworker
Offer to mentor someone at work. Giving back opens doors and gives you a gratitude and confidence boost.
9. Take Time for Gratitude
Write down three things you are grateful for about your career. Give yourself credit where credit is due, and if these items involve other people, that’s a signal to reach out. Let others know how much their help has meant to you.
10. Research Your Favorite Company
What company have you fantasized about working for? Pull up the company online and spend part of a Sunday afternoon researching what the company culture is really like. Look up people who work for the company in similar roles as you aspire to: What does the job description look like? What sort of people would you be working with? Does the fantasy match up with the reality?
11. Revisit Your Bio
Is your bio bland and boring? Network with another writer and have them interview you. Another pair of eyes will help catch errors and spice up any bland spots in your bio. Ever notice how most bios sound like eulogies for living professionals? Don’t do that: Focus on what you’re cooking up next on your career path.
12. Talk About It
Talk about where you are wanting to go and the step you took this week to get there with a friend. This will give you validation and an outlet for support. Your friend may have ideas and feedback you wouldn’t have imagined.
13. Talk with a Past Mentor
Make a coffee date with a past mentor. Touch base, and see where you are. If you have questions, ask them. Your mentor would love to see how you’ve been doing, and seeing them again may spark that old fire of inspiration to take action.
14. Send That Follow up Email
Send an email for a pitch to a magazine, schedule a business meeting, attend an event or meet up with a friend. This will get you in the habit of checking back in — you never know what opportunity someone has for you later. For the right timing to happen, you’ve got to keep your own clock set on regularly touching base.
15. Find Industry-Professionals on Twitter
Follow five new professionals on Twitter, three inside your industry and two outside of your industry. These professionals must inspire you somehow.
16. Leverage Your Tweets
Make a Twitter network for your dream industry, and scroll through it twice weekly.
17. Keep an Eye on Indeed
Set up alerts for a specific role on a job search site, such as job alerts on Indeed.com. Remember that roles go by various descriptors. Sign up for alerts for another variation or two of the job title.
18. Switch up Lunch
Do the opposite thing that you typically do at lunch. If you work through lunch, go out and grab a deli sandwich. If you typically go out, stay in and eat lunch with coworkers. Conversations and chance meetings happen all the time, and by changing up your routine, you’ll open yourself to opportunity.
19. Rename Your Career
Re-envision your job role, and rename it. Make it quirky and fun or more serious. Chances are, you’ve taken on two or more roles within the one, which happens as companies downsize or load you up with additional responsibilities.
This will give you new inspiration for how to concisely describe what you do and express it in a fun way. It’ll also help you see how your career has grown.
20. Cut the Filler
Describe your job duties in fifteen words or less. Take out unnecessary filler words. What do you see?
Now, describe your dream job duties in twenty words or less. Marry the two sentences for additional insight. How do they match up, and how do they differ?
21. Update Your Subscriptions
Subscribe to a trade publication or newsletter in your industry. Don’t let it sit, read the material and actively talk about a topic of interest with someone in your field.
22. Organize Your Contacts
To grow your networking field, you need to know who your contacts already are. Create a spreadsheet for your existing network, and you’ll be able to fill in more fields later.
23. Extend a Hand Across Your Network
Reach out to friendly professionals in your network. Tell them you are looking to grow your professional network and outline the specifics you are looking for. Ask if they’d be willing to bring someone to lunch for a meet and greet so everyone may grow their networks.
24. Be Inspired with a Memoir
Read a memoir about someone’s life that inspires you, whether the current Queen Elizabeth or Oprah. Keep a reading journal and write down what you relate to, what inspires you and what you’d done differently if this had been your life.
25. Find a Coach
Make an appointment for a consultation with a career coach. Consultations should be free, and you may leave with an inspiring tip.
26. Have a Cuppa With an Executive
Contact a professional in your area who is a step up on the corporate ladder and offer to take them out for coffee, on you. Make it clear that you’re interested in gaining their feedback for your career growth.
27. Take a Personal Sanity Day
You’ve earned it. Do all the things you love. Naps are wonderful, but, seriously — Get out and about. Get that adrenaline rush going, and see what realizations happen during the course of the day. Don’t discount them.
28. Ask for a New Project
Pitch a new idea at work. Why not? If you’re stuck, it’ll shake things up, and what do you have to lose?
29. Make a Vlog
Create a personal career vlog for thirty days, visible to only you. Keep each entry short — no more than two to three minutes. Say whatever you want to, and, at the end of the month, watch all the entries. What do you feel? Anything changed? What needs to change? Make it happen.
30. Reconnect with the Past
When is your college alumnae weekend? Make plans to go back to where it all started. Retrace your steps. Find new beginnings there.
31. Say “No” More Often
Say no to extra work to free up time to land your dream career and develop your passions. Say no to those who cross your boundaries. Say no on days you need R&R. Say no, so you can yes when it really matters.
When you feel stuck on your career path, the next step you make feels like a giant leap, and you don’t want to fall. You don’t want to risk your hard work, but small steps will invite opportunities to your doorstep by pushing you to get out there, to invest in your interests and further your career.
What small steps are you inspired to take? Continue the conversation by commenting, sharing and subscribing to Punched Clocks.
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