Is it possible to find “the perfect job”? A dream job that pays what you need to live comfortably, utilizes your skillset, AND is something you enjoy? Do you think this article would exist if the answer was no?
Finding a job that suits you, your likes, and your needs is 100% attainable. Really! Many of you may feel like I’m promising that Ed McMahon will show up at your house with a big cardboard check. That’s not realistic. He’s dead. However! Finding the right job for you sooner rather than later is realistic.
I hope that by telling you what worked for me, I'll be able to lead you through the process of how to find a job that you will love.
Job hunting depression is real; I was miserable, and I was hunting at the worst possible time.
I left an unfulfilling job in April 2020 and it was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make. I didn’t have a job lined up. COVID-19 was rampant and new, and nobody knew how long it would last. The stock market was tanking. Companies were firing people left and right and putting holds on hiring. It was, as though by design, the least ideal job-hunting scenario for me to find myself in.
While the effects of COVID-19 are still very real today and pose challenges to job seekers everywhere, there are at least action steps we can take to combat those challenges. And the good news is that the economy is picking up again, and tens of millions of vaccines have already been administered. Sooner or later, normalcy will return for everyone. So, what can job hunters do to improve the odds of finding the right job for them?
Well, I learned some lessons during my eight months of job-hunting:
Lesson 1: Figure out what kind of job you want by applying for jobs that require skills you enjoy using.
I thought I was doing what I was supposed to do. I told everyone I knew to keep an ear to the ground for potential job openings and scoured the internet for listings. I added myself to Facebook Groups and Google Groups that were even tangentially related to the type of job I was seeking. I edited, re-edited, and re-re-edited my resume, tailoring it to skills and accomplishments I thought would get me the job.
I applied to dozens of places where I didn’t really want to work, but thought the experience might become decent enough to be worth relocating for. But when interviewing for most of those places, I ended up with unfortunate realizations: I didn’t want to relocate to where they were; the job responsibilities didn’t sound like what I was interested in; the salary was too low to live alone in the city. By applying to multiple jobs I wasn’t interested in, I set myself up to reach dead-end after dead-end.
Fast-forward many months. I was still unemployed, and worse, I felt like I hadn’t made any progress. I had tried to be open-minded by applying to jobs I didn’t really want, but I couldn’t seem to find the job that was right for me.
(Seinfeld voice) What’s the deal??
Lesson 2: Answer the question: What is a good job for me?
Look for the dream job that meets your needs.
I wasn’t identifying what I needed from the job. I was just trying to force myself to fit the mold of each “looking for” section in every job listing I saw. I was putting the requirements of the job before my personal requirements for the job.
It’s been proven again and again that applying to “just any job” does not work—you’ll remember; you’ve done it. Applying to whatever job looks “okay” with “some” of the skills you have is not the way to match yourself to a career you’ll enjoy and be good at.
Take a moment to remind yourself that you have just as much to offer as the company can offer you—if not MORE.
Lesson 3: Prioritize your preferences and expectations to answer, "What job is right for me?"
It was around the later stage in the job hunt—the frustrated, demotivated stage that involves laying on the couch replaying Last of Us 2 and sipping a cocktail at noon—that I realized something important:
I had spent a lot of time applying for jobs I didn’t really want, located in cities where I didn’t really want to live, and had salaries that wouldn’t really maintain the quality of life I was looking for. My job-hunt strategy was not working, and it all ended up being wasted time for me and every place I interviewed for. Not to mention, my motivation was at an all-time low.
So, what did these lessons teach me? Steps that you can take right now to start seeing success in your job hunt.
Let’s get started.
Advice #1: The best way to apply for a dream job is to apply for a job you actually want to do.
I get it. You’ve been out of work for a while. You don’t want to appear like a slouch. You’re getting anxious about finding something—anything—that will pass as an acceptable job.
But if you have the freedom to take a little time for yourself, or if you really want to find a job that suits you and your imaginings of an ideal future career, then only respond to job listings that actually sound good to you. (And then use these tips to optimize your job search!)
Think about it. If you were trying to find a romantic partner as a non-smoker who hated cigarettes, would you go on a date with someone who smokes? What would you do if you were allergic to dogs and found someone who owns several cats and dogs? If you want kids, would you date someone who was adamant about not having them? No! (And if you answered yes to any of these hypotheticals, why would you do that to yourself?!)
You must prioritize your personal preferences, both in dating and in job-hunting. After all, you’re probably hoping to work at your next job for a secure number of years, or if you love it, the rest of your life!
How to find that job you’ll love?
Advice #2: Prioritize your personal preferences: "I prefer a dream job that..."
This is the fun part, because you get to dream big. It’s time to think long and hard about your answers to the following questions:
- Where are the top five cities I want to work?
- What do those places have in common?
- Are there other areas I can work that fit my living criteria?
- Do I want to be able to work remote?
- What kind of hours do I want to work?
- How important is my work life balance?
- What kind of insurance coverage do I need?
- What kind of time off do I need?
- What is the minimum salary I’m looking for?
- What kind of job responsibilities have I enjoyed most in the past?
- What do those job responsibilities have in common? (e.g., was I working with people, was it mostly on the computer, was I able to move around a lot, could I utilize my creativity skills, my leadership skills, my people-person skills? Etc.)
- What kind of new skills do I want/need to acquire for my ideal job?
- What do those skills have in common?
- What do I need to do to acquire those skills? (e.g., need to learn computer skills, acquire certificates or internships, volunteer to gain experience, research expectations for the job you have in mind, etc.)
In your mind, you’re starting to shape some ideals you have for your future job. Keep going. Are there other things the job must offer you? Be selfish. Be picky. Create the job you really want.
You have good job skills that companies look for (even if you don't know it), so identify the ones you enjoy using.
Here’s another fun part: You get to decide what jobs you thrived at in the past, and why. Take the time to list some of the past jobs that you enjoyed, or situations that arose that you handled like a boss. Then, consider the skills you used in those positions and situations (you’ll recognize this as something that came up in the previous section).
For example, did you use people skills to advise, consult, coordinate, or heal? Did you work with data and ideas? Did you interpret/translate, design, develop, or use your intuition? Did you plan, research, study, repair, construct, operate, or manipulate things?
Of the skills you come up with, mark which skills you enjoyed using the most, then rank the skills in order of “most want to use” at your next job. Now we’re getting somewhere!
This was one of the most vital steps for me. I hadn’t realized that my people skills were transferable skills, or how much I had enjoyed leading at previous jobs! It really helped me narrow my focus to skills that I enjoyed using and have successfully used in the past.
For help with this step, I highly recommend reading What Color is Your Parachute?—the tried-and-true job-seeker book since 1970. (Note: We are not associated with this publication. I, the writer who read it, really believe in the resources this book provides.) Not only is this book encouraging and filled with grounding facts about the job-hunting world, but it is also chock-full of worksheets that will teach YOU precisely what you need to focus on as you job hunt.
I didn’t know it at the time, but after I identified my transferable skills, I began nearing the end of my job-hunting days. But there is one more thing…
Advice #4: Take a personality test.
I know, I know—but you wanted to know what worked for me, and this did! No judgments! We’re already too judgmental on ourselves and others during the job searching process. So just trust me on this one.
The highest-rated personality test out there is the Myers-Briggs Test, but if you don’t want to pay for it, there’s a great free version at 16 Personalities. After taking the test, you’ll be able to research what careers are best for your personality type. A great list of potential career paths is already provided for each personality type on the 16 Personalities website.
Let me tell you. In my own results, I not only found jobs that I have already worked and loved, but I found jobs I’ve always wanted to do and have the skills to do. Know what else was on that list? The job title I have now at a company I found only after optimizing my search preferences.
Know what else? It’s a job I greatly enjoy that stimulates me and has wonderful people and benefits.
It was after taking the above personality tests that my current job title caught my eye. I started searching for job listings for that position. Within a week, I had found something perfect for me. And it is the kind of job that, a year ago, I never would have imagined securing.
So, that’s how I got a dream job I love.
I stopped applying for jobs I didn’t really want, and I prioritized what I personally needed in a job. I identified the transferable skills I had and enjoyed using (with help from What Color is Your Parachute?). And finally, I took a good look at the career paths drawn from my personality tests. Not long after completing those steps, I was offered a job that I thoroughly enjoy, feel completely fulfilled by, and excel at (she says humbly)!
I know reading that last sentence would have royally peeved me as a job hunter, so you’ll have to forgive me. My point here is that if these steps worked for me, they may work for you, too. And if what you’ve been doing so far hasn’t been working, why not try something different?
Then when you're ready, you can search for a job that feels right for you.
I hope this article provided some help to you during your job search. If any of these steps helped you, be sure to comment below! Best of luck to you on your journey!