As humans, we’re image-driven creatures. We have a marvelous ability to visualize pictures of everything from previous experiences to future activities. You can leverage that ability to your own advantage when you’re envisioning your next career step.
To build that clear picture, it’s important to start by avoiding any thought about being realistic. When people tell you to avoid dreaming about the future, they probably mean well. But their advice is typically going to be rooted in their own experience or observations - and if they’re not doing something that really motivates them in their work, chances are good they’re going to anchor you to the same “reality” they believe in. You need to dream.
Start by making a list of the topics and activities that are most interesting to you. What do you regularly read about? What topics interested you when you were younger, and still hold some fascination for you? What do you already know something about, and which you’d like to learn more about?
Next, go to eParachute.com. You’ll get a variety of insights about yourself, including your best-loved skills and knowledges. You’ll also receive a set of ideas about the kinds of work you might find exciting to explore, or subjects you might find interesting to study.
Look at the range of suggestions for the kinds of work you might do. Take the pieces from each suggestion that really resonate with you. Make a list of all those elements. Add any others that would make this kind of work even more interesting.
Now you have a great starting place for your picture. If you’re really visual, you might even want to make a real picture, drawing the various aspects of your ideal job. Don’t worry about the art itself; just draw something to satisfy you.
Whether you actually drew a picture or not, take your image of your ideal work, and start talking to people about it. Who might you know who’s doing this kind of work, or something similar? If you don’t know someone directly, who might know somebody who knows somebody? Keep talking to people, and you’ll keep getting closer to something in life that’s close to your picture.
Now, it’s not likely that you’ll find absolutely everything that’s in your ideal picture (though that could happen). But use that image as your guide, and you should be able to develop
Okay, now that you’ve dreamed, you need information. Who does the kind of work that fascinates you? What kinds of organizations do they work in? What can you learn about their work from research online? Hopefully, the more you learn from research, the more excited you can become about the kind of work that you might do.
But online research can only take you so far, so the next step is to actually go out and talk to people. Your research should have helped you uncover the kinds of organizations where people do the kind of work that excites you, so now you need to approach people in those organizations who can help you learn more about that kind of work. Remember that you’re not looking for an actual job: You’re just trying to find people who share your passion. Find out how they got into their line of work, what they love (and don’t love) about their work, and where there might be others in their field that you could speak with.
By giving yourself permission to dream, and by actively searching to find people doing the kind of work that jazzes you, you’ll gain a wealth of knowledge about the kinds of work that would make you thrilled to get up in the morning.