Identify Your Ideal Job & Set Up Your GPS For Getting There

job search career pathBy Vickie Elmer

Anyone who wants a new job or a new assignment this year could start with a clear picture of their ideal position – their destination – and then develop a roadmap on how they'll get there.

Write down your ideal job profile – and be sure to consider both the slot you want to fill and the type of employer where you're most likely to thrive. By defining both, you will make it easier to create an action plan for getting there, said Paul Glover, a business and executive coach in the Chicago area.

"People are not as intensely focused on what they need to be. I'm continually asking people: 'What do you what to be when you grow up?'" said Glover, author of a book called WorkQuake, which looks at the differences created by huge shifts toward the knowledge economy.

Identify your ideal career by focusing not just on your skills and experience but also on your well-being and wants: What feels meaningful, what would make you feel happy or successful or useful, Glover said.

"Those opportunities are out there. When we don't focus on them, we don't see them," he said.

If you're not sure, start browsing through some job listings and save those that most appeal to you in a file. After you've amassed 10 or 20, look through them for trends and common traits in the job and employer. Or start a career journal and write regularly about what you like about your job – and what you visualize in the next one. I once created a list titled "I want a job that..." and showed my interest in a kind collaborative boss and team, flexible hours and the chance to write about topics that interest and appealed to me (such as careers). I carried it around with me, and posted a copy in my home office – and now, I'm in the middle of it.

Then, once you have your ideal job identified and written down, come up with a few goals that will aid you in achieving it, Glover suggested. Create a concise career action plan for yourself with your ideal job as the big goal and some smaller stepping stone ones leading there. Write down your plan and goals so they feel more real.

Glover's plan for this year, which includes a second book, is written down and "will be pasted up on the wall right next to my desk. I can't avoid it," he said. If you put yours on the wall at work, make sure your supervisor knows you're gunning for a promotion before she reads it there.

Then you use your ideal job and the goals you set as the target and GPS to guide you. You probably need to expand your network "to get to the table," Glover said. "The networking you do now has a different focus" – one that brings you closer to your first choice job. As you consider what seminars and educational opportunities to take, you choose those that will fill in skills and knowledge needed for the ideal job.

If your goals look too huge, break them down into quarterly and then monthly steps. "You could break it down into weekly goals" that are small, he said. Start by joining your alumni association and then add its networking events to your calendar. Decide how many and what kind of people you want to meet at each one.

"The concept of the action plan requires exactly that – action," said Glover. So build in some ways to measure progress toward your goals and ideal career and look for someone – a co-worker, a mentor, an old friend or a coach – to hold you accountable.

Sometimes your career path could take a detour or an opportunity that seems outside of your target area. "Be open to the opportunities that come your way," said Glover, and also decide whether they will move you toward your ideal job. For those who think setting a target means you can rule out everything else, think again. "You cannot be so choosy about what you're willing to do as long as it's moving you toward your goals," he said.

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