Work: While it enables us to pay the bills and enjoy the occasional fancy dinner, sometimes we don't necessarily love the way we spend our weekdays. But even if you’re not necessarily at your “dream job,” the fact is that most of us have the freedom to match our personal desires, skills and interests with our professions—and that’s certainly motivating. The question is: How do you find a new fulfilling career when you have no idea where to start?
Enter certified career coach Kelsey E. Murphy, ACC, a former workaholic, corporate-ladder climber and advertising director for Elizabeth Arden and Nintendo who traded it all in to become a “life-ladder climber.” The San Diego-based entrepreneur and founder of Whiskey & Work—a community of women who inform and inspire each other—works with people all over the world to help them create more fulfilling careers (which she’s proven can be done). Read on for her best actionable tips on how to find a job that you love. (Homework included!)
1. Forget about “finding your passion.”
“‘Finding your passion’ is an exhausting thought that assumes a few sad things: You’ve been leading a passionless life thus far and there’s one end-all-be-all passion that you must go on a quest to find,” says Murphy, who believes people have many passions and you don’t need to “find them.” Instead, figure them out. The first step is simply deciding you want to be more passionate, period. “Feel more, laugh more and get lost in something more. Once you start to feel passionate about something—anything, really—it bleeds into the rest of your life, and that’s when you start to surprise yourself with all the passions you truly have.”
Dream-job homework assignment: Take 30 days to be passionate about one small thing—a challenge Murphy gives her community to assist those who need a little structure, because she believes there is power in simply choosing.
2. Ask for what you want before jumping ship.
Whether their needs are simply not being met or because they’re losing faith in their company because of a bad experience, a lot of people give up at their current jobs before exploring how they can make it better. Before you jump ship, Murphy suggests mapping out exactly what would make you happy at your current job—whether it’s flexibility or more feedback, for example—and asking your current employer for it (they can’t help you if you’ve given up before opening up). “This isn’t to say you should storm into your boss’s office and demand work-from-home-Fridays, but instead have a thoughtful conversation with them about what you need to be happy. The key phrase is creating something that is mutually beneficial,” she explains. “Your company might surprise you.”
Dream-job homework assignment: Envision what would make you happier at your current job and work on building your negotiation skills. For example, if you want to work from home one day a week, figure out a way to convey to your boss that it would increase your productivity.
3. Walk before you run and don’t overwhelm yourself.
With all the hustle-and-bustle in life, dreaming too big can often result in complacency. “Sometimes the overwhelm of a dream job or a ‘big goal’ feels like too much for us to tackle after a long day of work, so we go into default mode, pour a glass of wine and turn on Scandal,” Murphy explains. Instead of attempting to find your dream job in a day, take it one step at a time and do a little work every day.
Dream-job homework assignment: Start one great conversation, send an email or submit a résumé—every day.
4. Find a mentor and take them to coffee.
Who is it that inspires you by the life they’re living or the career path they’re following? If you don’t have a mentor, make that the top priority on your to-do list. “It’s much easier (and quicker) to move toward your dream job if you have someone to follow, advise and inspire you—simply by learning the path that they took,” says Murphy. “If you want to know the secret to finding your dream job, go find the person who has it and take them to coffee. You will be surprised at how generous happy people are with their time.”
Dream-job homework assignment: If you don’t have a mentor, do some research and find one! Friends, family members and trusted colleagues can be great resources in your search, as they may know someone who is further along on a career path you admire.
5. Know that quitting your job to “travel around the world” probably isn’t the answer.
Everyone knows someone who quit their stable job to travel around the world in order to “find themselves,” but Murphy’s mantra is that the happiest people are not the ones gallivanting around Europe maxing out their Visa—they’re the ones who find happiness right where they are, no matter where that is. Sure, traveling can be a great way to recharge and refresh, but before you give up your job and empty your bank account, Murphy suggests taking a moment to truly understand what it is you’re craving in life that travel will solve. “Often my nine-to-fiver clients are craving adventure, passion and excitement, so we focus on ways to bring those into their life right now from a local, daily perceptive.”
Dream-job homework assignment: Murphy proposes this challenge to her clients: Look around where you are right now, and see all of the things in your life with a renewed sense of adventure and discovery.
6. Surround yourself with good energy.
“People inspire you or they drain you—pick them wisely,” former soccer star Hans F. Hansen is famously quoted as saying, and Murphy agrees. “The people you surround yourself with will make all the difference. Listen to what the conversation is like,” she advises. “Are they complainers and distractors, or inspirers and creators? If you’re not inspired to go out and find your dream job, surround yourself with people who are, because chances are they may just rub off on you.”
Dream-job homework assignment: Ask yourself: “Am I surrounding myself with people who are personally and professionally challenging and inspiring?” If not, look around at all the people you know who are happy with their lives and careers, and try focusing on those relationships.
7. Don’t underestimate a “bridge job.”
Murphy didn’t decide to quit her job one day, then start her now-thriving business the very next. She had a bridge job in between, which was the job that paid the bills, provided clarity and helped her build the confidence she needed to go out on her own.
What’s a bridge job? A bridge job can be a part-time job, a consulting gig or a freelance opportunity—most importantly, a job that isn’t going to suck the passion out of you, so you have time to focus on your bigger plan.
“People forget too often about bridge jobs,” Murphy explains. “They get lost somewhere in the middle of really exciting stories of people going from a terrible dead-end career to the job of their dreams.” She likes to remind people about the real story of exploration, struggle and evolution of finding their dream job, which can sometimes mean stepping out of their comfort zone and taking a bridge job that will help them get out of a toxic environment and into a new situation… even if it’s not perfect.
Dream-job homework assignment: If your dream job is big and risky, like opening a store, writing a book or launching a dot-com, start thinking small and jot down ideas of ways you can make money and work while pursuing your passion.
8. Create 15 minutes of space in your day for the really important things.
Murphy maintains the happiest people are the ones who feel in control of their future, feel freedom in whatever job they are in and feel valued no matter the company. “But that doesn’t come naturally or from luck,” she explains. “It comes from creating space. They create time and energy to reflect, grow, know their values and devise a plan. You’ve got to create space, a simple 15 minutes in your day, to prioritize the really important things.” This time can be spent journaling, meditating, calling an old friend or picking up a new skill—whatever you find meaningful, or priorities that need some attention.
Dream-job homework assignment: Starting today, set aside 15 minutes in your schedule to prioritize something that is meaningful for you. Create the space to do something that brings you joy or helps you grow. One day at a time, make this a part of your daily ritual.
9. Enjoy both the process and the destination.
Finding the job you love is an exciting process, and if you wait to be “happy” until the end, you will most likely never be happy. That’s because once we get to where we originally wanted to go, we usually develop another goal. “Like many of my clients, I’m always looking for ways to be better and to grow. The problem with this is sometimes we forget to stop the growing and celebrate the growth,” Murphy says. “It’s so important to celebrate along the way, embrace the struggle, find the levity in it and enjoy the process.”
Dream-job homework assignment: Choose one day a week to sit down and write about all of your accomplishments in the last seven days. Remember to celebrate all the small wins you’ve had.
10. Let go of perfection and just explore.
Last, but certainly not least, let go of the idea of perfection, because the biggest mistake you can make is never starting at all. “You don’t need to know the answer before you start exploring,” Murphy explains. “Let go of perfection and just start.”
Dream-job homework assignment: Take the first step toward your destiny… right NOW!