The average time a worker stays at a job is a little over four years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means there’s a good chance that you’ll find yourself in the market for a new job or even a new career at some point in your working life. Unfortunately, plenty of other people are searching for the same position.
If you want to climb the ladder to your dream job, check out these tips for getting ahead of the competition.
Create Your Job Vision
Landing your dream job means knowing what your dream job looks like.
“The first thing I would suggest to anyone looking to land their dream job is to get really, really clear on exactly what their dream job is,” said Rebecca Beaton, a career counselor and coach based in British Columbia. Be thoroughly descriptive by fleshing out every detail possible. Good questions to answer include:
– Where is this job?
– Do you commute or work from home?
– What’s the company culture like?
– What kind of work will you do?
– What is the compensation and related benefits package?
Once you know more about your dream job, you’ll be able to filter out bad opportunities.
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Research Your Desired Field
Now that you have envisioned your dream job, it’s time to find out what it takes to land the position. Dana Case, director of operations at MyCorporation, suggested meeting with companies in your desired field to round out your research.
Job-seekers should try “reaching out to a professional in that field and scheduling an informational interview, as they can offer advice and information about what it means to work in this particular industry,” Case said.
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Start Learning New Skills
You’ve done the research, you’ve conducted informational interviews and now you realize that you’re really not qualified to work in your dream field. Fortunately, you don’t have to stay unqualified. These days, learning a new skill is just an e-book, e-course or community college class away.
Nancy Anderson, job search coach and founder at Blackbird Learning Associates, said you can gain experience in a new field in multiple ways.
“Look for courses, training, volunteer opportunities or educational resources that will allow you to learn and apply those new skills,” she said.
Make It Official
You can learn a new skill, but many times prospective employers or clients want to see that you are credentialed or certified in certain subject matters. The good news is that “just-in-time” learning is not hard to come by.
Another growing trend involves code boot camps, which last about three months. Former model Jeff Ward graduated from Origin Code Academy and now works as a software developer at a major music publisher, earning more than $100,000 per year.
You don’t have to drop big bucks on certifications, either. Social media giant HubSpot has a large offering of free certifications for email marketing, sales enablement and other digital marketing skills.
If you can’t seem to get traction in the career of your choice, consider volunteering or becoming an intern. Mark Anthony Dyson, career consultant and founder of The Voice of Job Seekers, recommended volunteering to sharpen your skills.
“Charity or nonprofit work is an opportunity to hone your skills at a slower pace for you to learn and implement,” he said. “Once you’ve mastered that skill and gained experience, use it as evidence of your expertise when you’re presenting yourself to companies.”
Monetize Your Passion
If you find out that your dream job pays peanuts, don’t worry. You might just need to get creative about how you approach your industry.
You could be the Uber driver who sells jewelry out of his car or the professional line-stander who makes $1,000 a week. The point is to follow your passion and be creative enough to monetize it.
Know What You Want
It’s not enough to determine what type of work would make you happy; you also need to know what positions wouldn’t satisfy you in the long run.
Sara Causey, CEO of SEC Technical, cautions against changing your career goals to fit what seems to be an ideal job.
“You must be clear on your goals and requirements,” she said. “You must also be honest during the interview process about what you wish to accomplish.”
Just because you land an interview in your dream field doesn’t mean the job in question suits your goals. Causey said not to be tempted by these positions.
“Don’t compromise on your dream by taking a job that’s only half of what you truly want,” she said.
Forget Job Boards
Joseph Liu is a career change consultant and host of the Career Relaunch Podcast. He suggested forging a new path to land your dream job, something that’s especially useful if you’re pitching yourself as a unique find.
“Embrace nontraditional ways of uncovering leads,” he said. “Why? Unconventional candidates don’t often get very far with conventional hiring tactics like direct applications, job boards and traditional resume submissions.”
Liu said that career changers should be especially creative.
“When you’re making the leap to change jobs, you have to use nontraditional methods of uncovering opportunities like networking or direct outreach to cut through,” he said.
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Marketing yourself isn’t simply about having a LinkedIn profile with a robust job history and a long list of skills — although it’s a great place to start. It’s also about going a step further and branding yourself when it comes to a skill or area of expertise.
Melanie Denny is a career empowerment coach and personal branding consultant who recommends that job seekers understand the unique value they bring to the marketplace.
“Once you know that and own it, you can then articulate and sell it in your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, networking conversations and interviews,” she said.
If you’re afraid of switching careers, consider moonlighting, or working on your dream job as you’re still employed at your non-dream job. That way, you can find out if you really have a passion for the career you think you belong to.
Use your moonlighting experience as a litmus test for how passionate you truly will be about your dream job. If you are able to withstand the grueling work of putting in overtime for the sake of your new field, you might be ready to change careers.
Another way to smooth the transition into your dream job is to take on work as a freelancer. The great thing about freelance work is that you can conceivably keep a full-time job until your business grows to sustain your lifestyle. These side gigs will boost your income in the short term, too.
Performing work on a freelance basis with a company also lets you put in face time with the people most likely to weigh in on a hiring decision. It can be a viable, effective way to get a foot in the door and eventually get hired for doing work you are passionate about.
Becoming a subject matter authority makes you an extremely desirable candidate. Ways to establish authority include listing yourself on an online platform and composing a creative body of work.
Start by creating insightful, knowledgeable posts on sites like Facebook, Medium, Instagram and YouTube. You could also create a blog, write an e-book or create an infographic on a topic to establish your authority. Whatever platform you use, you can be sure that your efforts will help you land a job in your dream gig.
Make Your Resume Relevant
Remember, your dream job is unique to you. This career is one that is specially tailored to your skills, experience and expertise. To make that shine through to prospective employers, you should customize your resume to fit your desired job.
Valerie Streif is a senior advisor with Mentat, a San Francisco-based organization for job seekers. She suggested “spending time highlighting your relevant work experience in your resume, and phrase it so that it best matches the description and duties of the dream position you’re applying for.”
Use Numbers to Tell Your Story
Using numbers to underscore your effectiveness in past positions can make your resume stand out from the pack. You want to make the hiring manager’s decision easier by showing him or her just how much you’re worth.
“Quantify your past achievements,” said Karilyn Dearie, a hiring manager and career expert for CV Genius. “In the professional experience section of your resume, outline the positive effects of your previous endeavors by attaching a numerical value.”
Build a Safety Net
Changing careers and going for a dream job can be exciting and exhilarating, but financial problems and a lack of benefits are huge buzzkills. That’s why you should have a safety net in place to keep you afloat as you change jobs and careers.
Make sure you have an emergency fund, healthcare options and even the possibility to go back to your old gig if need be. Don’t burn bridges and don’t discount the fact that you could need a backup source of income if things go awry.
Get a Mentor
A mentor can open doors for you that no resume, job board or networking forum can. Not only will a mentor give you valuable connections and advice, but she can also inspire you to do and be better, both in your professional and personal life.
Take time to find a mentor who can help you reach your goals.
Take Big Risks
From crazy resume ideas to targeting LinkedIn ads to a founder’s friends, there’s no shortage of unique ways to reach your dream employer.
Jon Harris, a sales and marketing professional at the Hidden Door Store, knew he wanted to create secret passages for a living. To get noticed, he recorded a video on a flash drive shaped like a skeleton key and placed it in a treasure chest.
“It worked — within a few hours of FedEx having delivered the package, I received a call,” he said.
Rock Your Interview
It might be obvious, but in order to land your dream job, you’ll have to do well in your interview. Even if you are not a stellar interviewee, take time to do the little things right, like showing up on time, dressing the part and being pleasant.
If you’re nervous, be sure to send a follow-up email — one of the things you can do to improve your chances of getting a job. Reiterate your interest in the position and use that opportunity to be more eloquent if you express yourself better in writing than when speaking.
Interview Your Potential Employer
You should be prepared to walk into an interview knowing what the company’s pain points are and how you can be the solution to their problems.
“Research companies that you will be interviewing with thoroughly,” said Cheryl Palmer, a certified professional resume writer with Call to Career.
When your interviewer gives you the opportunity to ask questions, use it to show your interest in and knowledge of the industry and position.
Your interview isn’t a one-time meeting — it’s a process that starts with your resume submission and should hopefully end with you getting the job. What happens in between those points is still important, though.
“Not sending a thank you note within 24 hours of an interview shows poor etiquette,” said Michelle Chiu, a career coach at Prime Opt. “Only around 30 percent of job applicants send a thank you note to interviewers.”
Become a Consultant
If you aren’t getting traction applying to your dream jobs, consider becoming a consultant. These days, companies are more than willing to consider a contract worker instead of a full-time employee.
Hiring consultants can save on employment costs for employers and give them the opportunity to test potential candidates before committing to an employment situation. As a bonus, you get flexibility, plus much-needed experience in the field.
Start a Business
If you simply can’t break into your dream job or career, you could always start a business. Starting a company doesn’t have to be costly or use up your life savings. These days, you can start a business for a few thousand dollars.
Remember, you don’t have to commit all the capital up front. Make money, invest in the business and then repeat the process until your business can sustain you. If your business doesn’t pan out, you’ve still got real-world business experience that you can draw from in order to land the position you want.
Apply for Positions That You Don’t Qualify For
If your dream job is truly a dream, there’s a chance you might not be qualified for it. Don’t let that stop you from applying for a position you’d like to have, though. You might find that the job posting is more flexible than you think.
Apply for Positions That Don’t Exist
What better way to display your creativity and ambition by creating a position that meets your dream job requirements?
If you are already employed, you’d do well to approach your current employer with a proposition. Present a good, well-thought-out business plan for the position you want to create.
If you’re applying for a position with a new employer, be honest about your goals and what you have in mind as an applicant. That way, the company can tell you right away if it’s interested in your idea for a new position.
About the Author
Aja McClanahan is a personal finance and entrepreneurship writer, and influencer among the millennial crowd when it comes to creating palatable, actionable content in the realm of finances. She writes on my own website, www.principlesofincrease.com, as well as for a number of other web publications, including Huffington Post, Quicken Loans and other web properties.