I’ve been hired for several of my dream jobs/professional experiences -- interning at the White House (Obama 2009), worked in technology consulting at an education reform organization I shamelessly stalked for years and working on several films by directors I admire.
I was reflecting on my dream job history with my dear friend Daniela last week…here’s a little Instagram love for you…
So, how have I landed several of my dream jobs?
Here’s an outline of what I’ve done to get my dream jobs/professional experiences:
1. (2-5 min) Set the intention in your mind that you’ll only apply to jobs you actually want.
Finding your dream job -- or even just a job you feel lukewarm about -- can be insanely overwhelming.
Even before some people start applying, I’ve heard them say:
“I have to see what’s out there.”
But, instead, flip this on it’s head and think:
“I have to decide what I want, and then find it.”
You don’t have to wait to see ‘what’s out there’ -- go for what you actually want.
Set the intention that you’ll only apply to jobs you actually want and feel excited about. (ehem...like dating, only date people you actually like...but I digress).
If the thought of having that job makes you feel drained or blah, then don’t apply. Only apply to those that make you feel excited when you read the job description.
2. (10-20 mins) List the “must haves” and “nice to haves” of your dream job -- things like:
Location - What’s your ideal location? Are you looking to move or stay put?
Responsibilities you actually enjoy - What would you be most excited about doing? What responsibilities give you energy?
Salary - What’s your minimum salary requirement (which you can always negotiate)
Nice to haves:
Commute time - Do you want a short commute time?
Autonomy - Do you want to work in a team or by yourself?
Alternatively, you can also write the job description for your ideal job. Think of it as Pinterest boarding for your dream job.
3. (30-60 mins) List 2-5 organizations and/or people you deeply admire and would dream of working for. (Hint: It’s probably the first ones that came to mind right now.)
For the organizations, maybe you read their publications, maybe you’ve always wanted to work there, and maybe you’re on their newsletter?
For the people, maybe you know them personally, or maybe you don’t, maybe you’re on their newsletter?
Decide which of these is your #1 dream organization or person to work for.
4. (1-2 hours) Do some research & rate what you find.
Start with your #1 organization or person on your list. Look at what’s on their job board, on their website. Write down 2-5 jobs that you’d love to do on your Dream Job Decision Matrix.
Include jobs you think you’re not qualified for.
Even if you don’t think you’re qualified for a job, but it excites you to think of having it, write it down. I repeat, even if you don’t think you’re qualified for them. GO FOR THE BEST PARKING SPOT.
You can even include jobs that aren’t posted.
Yes, not posted. I applied and got a job that wasn’t posted. I’d seen the job posted a year prior, but wasn’t looking at the time. A year later, I wrote an application to a recruiter at the organization (who I found on LinkedIn) asking about the job and basically pitching myself. I knew I’d be a great fit, and I knew they still had that department, and thus a need for those roles. So, I basically applied in a roundabout way. The timing and my initiative worked out. They were looking but hadn’t posted about it yet. Long story long, I got that job. So, even if they don’t have a job posted, but you know you’d be a great fit for them, list them anyway.
Write down 2-5 jobs that you’d love to do, then given them 2 points for every “must have” requirement and 1 point for each “nice to have”. As you connect with people and interview (#5) you’ll learn more about the work and the points you assign them may change.
Your bull’s eye will be the job (or prospective job) with the most points. That’s the one you want to focus all of your energy on getting. But first, search your network (#5).
5. (30-60 mins) Now that you’re focused on the bull’s eye, brainstorm connections within your network to that place/person.
Who are 2-5 people you admire in your network who may have a connection there? Who are mentors you’ve worked with in the past? What friends do you know that may have worked there in the past, or know someone who did?
These should be people you admire and actually want to maintain a relationship with. In other words, you’re being sincere -- your dream job and true heartfelt aspirations deserve sincerity. Otherwise, you’ll just end up with another job you don’t really like.
Search your LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends, and ask your personal network (past colleagues, mentors, former or current classmates, etc.) if they have a connection or know someone at the organization. Whatever you do, don’t send a mass email -- frankly, that’s in poor taste, and you’re too graceful and savvy for that.
You can send something like this:
SUBJECT: You & [Your #1 Organization/Person You Want to Work With]
How are you? How’s [insert an anecdote or memory from the last time you connected -- actually take the time to connect and catch up. This is someone you admire, don’t take their -- or your -- time for granted.]
I’m well, but looking to make a professional shift. I’m looking at working with [Your #1 Organization/Person You Want to Work With] because the work they do aligns with my professional aspirations [and any other reasons it’s your #1]. I know you [insert why you think they’re relevant like -- “I know you worked in that industry” or “I noticed on LinkedIn that you used to work there”].
Do you have any thoughts you’d be willing to share about [Your #1 Organization/Person You Want to Work With]?
Talk to people who’ve offered their time. Ask them sincere questions and be respectful of their time, knowledge and connections. Thank them and follow-up.
I’ve recommended people to jobs, written letters, shared references, and sometimes I don’t hear how it went. I felt used. (I was guilty of not following up myself, until I was on the other end and realized how used I felt when people I shared connections and insight with didn’t follow-up to let me know how things went. I really wanted them to succeed, but them not letting me know how it turned out made me feel taken advantage of.)
Always, follow-up and thank them sincerely -- no matter what the outcome is. Let them know you appreciate them and their time. After all, this is someone you respect and admire so following-up is only the respectful thing to do.
7. Apply (to only ONE job at a time!)
See how this is #7. Look at all the work that happens before this. See how different it is to apply knowing what you actually want not the other way around and just settling for what’s out there.
Also, rather than applying to a TON of jobs, only apply to one job (to the best of your ability) at a time. In other words, treat your search as if you’re only applying to 1 job, and only one job. That way, the quality of your application is instantly elevated and you’ll apply to the best of your ability -- and I mean thee (2 e’s) best of your ability.
For example, I’ve submitted extra materials with tailored examples to show that I can do the work. I once created a video resume for a specific job (it was for a film company so it made sense). I also sent extra sample calculations and proposals that weren’t required, just to illustrate that I can not only do that work, but that I had ideas already cooking for how I’ll solve their problems. After all, to put it simply, a job is a set of problems that someone needs solving. If you show that you can solve the problems, the better.
Do that by putting together a luxury-worthy tailored application. Think of service at a place that’s “mass market” (like Walmart or Costco) versus a place that’s tailored to you (like your favorite cafe, where they know your name and your order). Be like their favorite cafe -- the one that knows their needs, hopes, fears, wants, and can solve their problem even before you start working there. In other words, be the luxury brand they must have, not the generic brand/resume that could just do the job. Show them you can excel at the job.
In order to create a kick ass application, you need to focus on making your application steller, and to do that only work on one application at a time before moving on to the next.
Apply to what you actually want as much as you and your circumstances can muster! You’ve worked too long and hard to get to where you are today, there is no reason you should settle for unhappiness.
Repeat #3-#6 until you’ve found a great fit.
Finding a job is like dating -- it’s not a one-way street. You both need to be happy.
Once you're interviewing, negotiate your salary + benefits + vacation time, etc.! See this for tips.
10. Just cuz...I really just want to have a number #10 on this list because it makes it seem better than ending at #9. :)
So...let me know in the comments if this is helpful, are you looking for work, where are you stuck? Did you use this in a job search? Let me know so I can create other work to help you!
I’ve done this and earned most of the jobs I’ve sought. Otherwise, it’s been their loss ;)