Well, here we go. It’s time to get started on turning your dream career into reality. Before we get into the ideas I have for session 1 on Defining your dream career, I wanted to check in with you to see how you went with your preparation activity. I asked you to answer these questions:
- How will I get myself ready for the program?
- Why am I doing the program?
- What are my goals for the program?
- How do I feel about keeping a journal?
- What am I most looking forward to about the program?
What were your wins, challenges and insights from this activity?
Take a moment to write your thoughts in your journal
It’s important that you do each of the activities because just reviewing the material isn’t enough. You need to take action immediately even if it’s only the smallest step. I want you to get into that good habit from the start.
Overview of this session
Our first session will explore your definition of a dream career because you need to be clear on what you want before you can start to pivot. So this session will look at:
- A systematic way of assessing your dream career so you understand what it is you really want
- How to analyse your career history to identify patterns and get insights into your dream career
- 5 criteria you need to consider when designing your dream career
- Making sure your dream career represents your authentic version of success
- Understand what’s stopping you from having your dream career
Along the way there will be activities for you to complete. Use this worksheet to record your answers or copy and paste the questions into your electronic journal. You’ll also find some bonus activities to help you fast track your progress.
So, let’s get started on turning your dream career into reality …
A systematic way of assessing your dream career so you understand what it is you really want
Clouds in a dream are a symbol of your conscience and represent a goal you want to achieve in your waking life. It’s the same with the career dream you had when you were young. Mine was to be a flight attendant or an actor. I know, a bit clichéd but career dreams often are.
I see a career dream and a dream career as two separate but related ideas. Here’s why …
A career dream is usually a specific role that you’ve fallen in love with because of the way it’s been marketed to you. It usually comes with wealth, status or fame as the main feature. They tend to be one dimensional, only considering the positive aspects of the role. It’s an idealized situation rather than a real world view of that career. Your career dream rarely includes the hard work required to achieve that role, just the end result.
A dream career allows you to be the most authentic version of yourself. It offers numerous ways to achieve success. It’s not just one job title, it’s a range of options you get to choose from. That way your likelihood of success is far higher and your career can adapt as your personal circumstances change. Plus, it’s realistic when considering what your career will actually involve including the downsides. Dream careers aren’t perfect. They have their challenges but that’s part of the attraction. They’re always a work in progress and never a finished product as your dream alters over time.
So let’s apply that concept to my career dream of being a flight attendant or actor. Yes, I like them for the obvious reasons of travelling and being in front of an audience, but when I think about it my dream was really about fulfilling certain needs I have, like:
Flexibility | Creativity | Excitement | Variety | Unpredictability
You can easily see how the career I ended up pursuing, professional speaker and coach along with my passion for ballroom dancing, have allowed me to fulfill the desires that my career dream symbolised.
So what was your career dream when you were young? For your first activity here are 5 important questions to help you systematically analyse that dream. We’re going to use the answers to help you start to design your dream career.
- What was I actually doing in my dream?
- Who was I working with?
- Where was I working?
- How did my career dream make me feel?
- Why did the idea of this career excite me?
Write your answers on the worksheet
You probably won’t be able to answer all these questions at once. You might need to talk to some people who knew you back then to remind you of what your dream was. Some people find it helpful to sleep on the questions and wake up having had a dream about it.
You might also find that your career dream was a bit vague. Career dreams tend to only focus on the good bits not the reality. That’s helpful because what you focus on can give you insights into what your career dream is really about. Your career dream is a sign you don’t really want to do that but something that satisfies the same desires.
Feeling stuck? If you’re having trouble doing this because you never had a career dream then think back to what your career nightmare would have looked like. Your nightmare will still give you valuable insights into what it is you want from your career by focusing on the opposite. Sometimes you can be more motivated by what you don’t want than what you do want. It’s at least a good place to start.
Now take your answers and see if you can come up with your own list of 3 to 5 key words similar to the ones I used above.
Here are some words to inspire you:
Write your answers on the worksheet
How to analyse your career history to identify patterns and get insights into your dream career
Most of the people who sign up for the Dream Career Program have been working for a while so they have a career history. That history can be really helpful when designing your dream career.
Philosopher George Santayana reminds us that:
“those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”
I’ve seen too many people fail to understand their career history and keep repeating the same mistakes. Don’t be one of them!
In a former career as a recruiter I would spend time asking people about their past roles and was often surprised that they couldn’t see the patterns that I could. They didn’t understand why job A didn’t work out for them and then accepted job B, which came with the same issues. That’s why they were now sitting in front of me trying to get job C! That’s because they hadn’t done the work to figure out what they really wanted.
Here are some questions to help you work that out. As you answer them be 100% honest with yourself. Don’t just put an answer because it sounds good, this isn’t a job interview.
- Why did I choose my original career?
- What has been the path of my career so far?
- What do I like about my current career?
- What do I dislike about my current career?
- What have been the highlights of my career?
- What have been the low points in my career?
- What was the best role I’ve had?
- What was the worst role I’ve had?
- What do you wish I’d done differently in my career?
- What patterns can I see in my career?
- What have I learnt about myself from my career?
- What insights can I get about my dream career from this analysis?
Write your answers on the worksheet
5 criteria you need to consider when designing your dream career
So now that you have some key words that inspired your original career and you’ve analysed your career history it’s time to consider some practical considerations for your dream career. That’s because it’s easy to get carried away by how you want to feel and not consider other aspects.
I’ve chosen these 5 criteria because in my experience they represent the keys to creating a dream career that is right for you.
Customised A dream career isn’t a “one size fits all” career. It’s a career that’s customised to fit you. If you have to conform with a rigid set of rules then it probably isn’t a dream career. For example, some occupations you must spend a certain amount of time in each position before being promoted regardless of your skill level or how hard you work. That is definitely not customised.
Flexible A dream career shouldn’t lock you into one role or one way of working. It should have enough flexibility to allow for changes in your personal circumstances. The big one here is having children. Can you take a career break or alter your working hours to fit your needs when that happens or will it damage your career?
Resilient It’s important your dream career is resilient enough to bounce back when things go wrong including economic downturns, legislative changes and evolving consumer tastes. Don’t fall for the trap of choosing the latest “on trend” career only to find that a few years from now demand drops off and your career disappears.
Controllable You should have a good amount of control over your career rather than feeling as though your organisation is setting your career path. Many people find themselves pushed into leadership roles when they’d prefer to stay doing the “technical work” and have no control over this process.
Longevity A dream career should be able to see you through your whole career. Some careers are too physically, mentally or emotionally demanding to be long term and others prevent you from having relationships or a social life. A high pressure role might seem appealing today but how will it feel in 5 or 10 years from now?
When I think about my career dreams (Flight Attendant or Actor), it’s obvious neither of them meet all these criteria. Sure, they met some of them but they didn’t align with my definition of the terms. That’s an important point: each of these terms actually mean different things to different people. That’s the great thing about a dream career: you get to choose what’s important.
So your activity for this section is to define what those terms mean for you. When you think about your dream career what comes to mind for each of these words:
Customised … Flexible … Resilient … Controllable … Longevity
Write your answers on the worksheet
Later on in Session 4 on “Setting a new direction that works for you” I’ll introduce you to the different types of pivot you can do. You’ll see then how you can create a dream career that adapts over time so you can keep meeting these criteria as your needs change.
Making sure your dream career represents your authentic version of success
If you look up the meaning of the word success you’ll find three definitions:
the attainment of fame, wealth or social status
the accomplishment of an aim or purpose
the good or bad outcome of an undertaking
Unfortunately too many people take the first definition to be the only definition. Our obsession with fame, wealth and status is causing too many of us to go into sleep mode to cope. As a result we start to hide who we really are and stop being authentic.
Authentic means to be real or genuine, not copied or false.
When you’re authentic you are showing the world your true self, rather than a version you think is acceptable. This is vitally important to your career success and here’s why…
People can tell when you aren’t being authentic Whether they are your leader, team members, peers, customers or suppliers, being inauthentic impacts their level of trust for you and without trust you can’t develop the kind of relationships you need to succeed in any career. Think about people you’ve encountered in your career and I’ll bet you can immediately pick the authentic ones from the inauthentic ones. Now think about how their level of authenticity impacts your relationship with them.
You will find it hard to keep up the façade you’ve created When you aren’t being authentic you end up performing what Arlie Hochschild calls “deep emotional labour”, having to go against your values in order to do your work. Over time this creates high levels of distress as you have an internal battle over the lies you’re telling yours and others to keep up the façade. That can wear you down and burn you out.
You start to feel like an imposter Imposter syndrome happens when you doubt your competence and feel like your accomplishments are fake and you don’t deserve your success. You fear being exposed as a “fraud” despite evidence of your skills because when you succeed it doesn’t feel that way because it wasn’t the real you who succeed. The result is you work even harder to prove to yourself you deserve success, which causes more distress.
Instead of being in distress you want to aim for eustress. This is the positive kind of stress that helps you perform at your best. It doesn’t mean you never make mistakes or get frustrated but those feelings don’t have a negative impact on you. Eustress allows you to get into what psychologists call “the flow”. This is when what you’re doing is challenging but achievable. You lose track of time and give it your full focus. At the end you feel proud of what you’ve achieved. I think that sounds far more rewarding than the alternative.
So who is the real, authentic you when you take away the masks that many of us are encouraged to wear in the name of being “professional”? Here are some questions to get you thinking …
- What are my proudest career achievements?
- What are the career moments I’m ashamed of?
- When have I felt authentic in my career?
- When have I felt inauthentic in my career?
- What are the common themes in my answers?
Write your answers on the worksheet
Now that your getting clear on the authentic you its time to challenge your definition of success. Are you simply basing it on what other people think is important? This is where the second definition of success is more helpful:
“the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”
So what is your aim or purpose in life? Here are some ideas to get you thinking. Do any of them resonate with you or do they inspire you to think of your own version.
Leaving a legacy … Helping others … Making a difference … Doing your best … Having peace of mind … Freedom to make choices Being proud of your achievements
Write your answers on the worksheet
Feeling stuck? If you’re struggling with this activity we’re going to do more work on it in Session 2 “Creating a well defined core”. This activity is designed to get you thinking. The answer might take some time but your brain has this great habit of processing thoughts and later giving you a solution.
Understand what’s stopping you from having your dream career
It’s one thing to define your dream career but another to actually turn it into reality. Later in the program I’m going to show you a 5 step process to help you get your dream career but that will only work if you first identify and deal with the barriers that are likely to get in your way.
If you’ve ever watched the reality show “Masterchef” you’ll have met lots of contestants who are looking for the show to help them achieve their food dream because they can’t do it on their own due to some barrier. The most common ones are:
Risk aversion You start to see this early on in the show. They tend to produce dishes that are good but not innovative. The hosts push them to take more risks and show their full potential. Some do but others crumble in a sea of tears the minute they’re put under pressure. What they don’t realise is that every career choice comes with risks including playing it safe: you risk getting stuck in a career you like but don’t love. That means you never really give it your best.
Sunk costs You can see the contestants thinking about how much time, money and energy they’ve put into getting to where they are now. They think about what a waste it would be to set that aside and try something else. Every career decision comes with an opportunity cost of not pursuing something else but the work you’ve already done can help you in an alternative career. It’s not wasted. What is a waste is staying in a career that isn’t right for you. Plus, a lot of the time a pivot doesn’t have to be huge, it might only be a small shift that creates a big impact on your career satisfaction.
Expectations Family and friends will have a set of expectations they believe they must meet. They’re often the good girl or boy who always does what’s expected of them. Their parents often want them to have a better life than them, which generally includes a degree backed, white collar job not getting dirty in a kitchen. They also use the show as a way to prove to their parents they can succeed in this career. Most of the time the people around them want to see them happy and will get over the initial shock of going against their wishes if it’s clear they are serious.
Stereotypes The show loves to play up the popular stereotypes … old, young, cultural background, religion, quirky personality, etc. Some contestants hide behind their label but others use it to their advantage. Stereotypes are only true if you believe them. Many of the contestants set out to overturn their stereotype and often succeed. There are so many examples of people who’ve gone against the norm and been successful. The food industry contains many different careers paths so there is something for everyone. Most industries are the same.
Self limiting beliefs I’ve had a friend try out for the show and know that the producers look for a mix of personalities not just cooking ability when choosing contestants. As a result they always pick a few people who have great skills but lack the confidence to deal with the pressure. It makes good TV. But those self limiting beliefs end up derailing the contestants because they tell themselves “I can’t do this” or “I’ve never cooked that before”. Once they actually succeed at that round it changes their beliefs about themselves.
What all these barriers have in common is that they are perceived barriers. It’s their mindset that needs to shift. This program will help you deal with that but first you need to identify them.
So what are your perceived barriers?
Risk aversion … Sunk costs … Expectations … Stereotypes … Self limiting beliefs
Write your answer on the worksheet
The other type of barriers you need to recognise are what I call actual barriers. They include things like:
- Locked into an employment contract so you can’t leave, have to repay education costs or are blocked from working elsewhere in the industry
- Not meeting the physical criteria like height or eye sight
- Not meeting the legal requirements like age or nationality
You may not be able to eliminate these barriers but you can still create a dream career that takes them in account. You just need to be more creative. Don’t let one of these barriers stop you.
So do you have any actual barriers?
Write your answer on the worksheet
Finalising this session
OK, now it’s time to apply all the skills you’ve learnt in this session. Look back over your answers on the worksheet and use them to write a story about your dream career. Here are some questions to consider:
- What would a typical day, week or month look like for me?
- How would that career make me feel?
- How is it different to what I’m doing now?
- How is it similar to what I’m doing now?
Don’t think about a specific job title or role for now. There are many positions that could be your dream career. For now just think about the big picture. We can fill in the details during the rest of the program.
Then, write an entry in your journal to summarise what you’ve learnt about yourself from this session. What stands out for you as the key points?
Where to from here?
Now that you are clear on what your dream career looks it’s time to introduce you to the pivot process. These 5 steps are the result of more than 20 years of experience. I’ve found out the hard way how to have meaningful career success so you don’t have to. When I look back at all lessons I’ve learnt and ideas I’ve gathered from observing 1,000s of people, I realised they had a lot in common with my favourite hobby: ballroom dancing.
You see as a dancer I regularly need to pivot. That simply means moving my body around a central point. A pivot requires a solid core and good alignment. You then decide on a new direction and take advantage of leverage to create momentum so that a can use a small amount of effort to achieve a big shift.
Creating your dream career involves the same 5 steps:
In the next 5 sessions I’m going to take you through each of these steps so you can pivot from where you are now to your dream career using minimum effort to achieve the maximum outcome.
In session 2 we’re going to look at step 1 in the pivot process: “Creating a well defined core”. You need to really know yourself so you can pivot from a solid foundation or your attempt to take your career in a new direction will not succeed. So this session will look at:
- Why a strong core is the foundation of any successful career pivot
- The 5 parts of your core that will determine your career success
- A process for examining each part of your core that will help you make better career decisions
- How to strengthen your core to make your pivot easier
Watch out for an email with a link to your materials that will arrive next week. I’m also going to send you a quick email mid week with a reminder to complete your activities and a quick tip.