When the economy sucks big time – the way it does now for so many of you – it can feel like a real luxury to spend time thinking about that ideal dream career instead of keeping yourself focused on finding a “real” job to pay the bills. Especially when you’re also busy worrying that you’ll never get any job, much less a dream job working in some pie-in-the-sky dream career.
Job search can wear down the best of us. I know some of you have been unemployed for a while and are starting to wonder if you’ll ever get a real live paycheck again. Others are trapped in jobs that make you want to scream, and yet you know you have bills to pay and mouths to feed and can’t just quit and go running after dreams. Or can you?
I remember hearing a story in one of my career development classes about a career counselor who was working with some 50+ folks. She was trying to get them to think about things they are passionate about. “Passion?” one guy in his early 60s yelled at her. “I’m so sick of all this talk about passion. I just want a job. I can find my own passion, thank you.”
Career? I just want a job!
So for some of you right now, the job itself is dream enough. And I am not here to tell you otherwise. Job search is a (mostly) full-time job and takes strong commitment – and a lot of mental effort.
I just want you to know that, while you are waiting to hear back from all your job search efforts and while you continue to network and look for jobs to apply for, this is also a great time to let yourself dream of possibilities you might not have thought about, and explore things you do care deeply about…perhaps even feel passion for.
You never know what new ideas and opportunities might show up while you’re dreaming. And at the very least, you can help re-energize yourself while also setting some exciting future goals that may help get you through even a less-than-dreamy job. What you set in motion now can set the stage for the rest of your career.
So where can all this passion get me?
You may already have an idea of what kind of job you want next. And that’s where you’re aiming your job search. And it might feel confusing or even at cross-purposes to try to open up to other directions. But that’s what I’m asking you to do. Even if you are absolutely sure what job you want next. In this economy, it simply may not be there for you right now – at least not exactly the way you’re seeing it.
This is a great time to expand your options (while bolstering your energy, spirit and interview stories) by:
- Taking classes in things you are really interested in or skills you’ve always wanted to give yourself. Why? First, it’s laying the groundwork for your future career at a time when you have extra time. Classes not only open up your mind to new ideas, but you meet people with whom you can network – or just get moral support from, an important thing during job search. If cost is a problem (and I am not a fan of getting into huge debt), then look for community colleges or even classes at your local library.
- Volunteer for an organization whose mission you support. You may find a new career direction. You may meet new people. Or you may even be in the right place at the right time when that organization is hiring. And it’s a great thing to talk about during your interviews – as is anything that shows you are not one to just sit and be a couch potato. (Of course, if the job you’re interviewing for has nothing to do with what you’re doing as a volunteer, either emphasize the transferable skills or make sure you show equal or greater passion for the job in question.)
- Think about transferable skills that you love using that also can be used in other careers. Transferable skills are skills like project coordination or analysis or problem-solving or research or relationship management or typing or whatever that, even with a different job title, can apply across jobs and careers. Sometimes you have to be creative (another transferable skill) to see the connection, but you might love a job in a field you never though of as long as you get to use skills you enjoy.
- Find conferences or meet-ups or lectures or any kind of public event on the topic. Great for networking and for getting new ideas.
- Pursue hobbies or new business ideas. Again, you’ll meet new people AND perhaps lay the foundation for your own business later on.
The main point is that you have every right to dream of possibilities and go after them, even knowing you may first have to take a job that doesn’t quite ignite your soul fire. But the energy you expend exploring your dreams, could open up new pathways sooner than you think.
And even if you do have to take that plain old “job job” this time, once you are inside, the time you’ve spent exploring may open up doors you never imagined. Often the best place to look for new opportunities and show how much you have to offer can be from the inside. And at the very least, you have begun the process of starting to dream about your new someday career (there or elsewhere) while still getting paid.
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