This article is the second in a two-part series on Career Planning & Self Development.
Last week, I invited you to ask yourself some foundational questions when planning your next career move. You need to know who you are and what you want, and you need to get curious about the opportunities around you.
But once you know those couple things about yourself, you’re ready to advance to the next level of your career planning!
Odds are, if you find a listing for your dream job, the required qualifications aren’t going to look like a photocopy of your own resumé. There are probably a few gaps along the path between you and occupational bliss. Whether it’s a certification you don’t have, a degree you never finished, or simply not enough years of related experience, it can be incredibly disheartening to realize you’re still far off from the thing you want.
But there’s good news: You can do something about it!
I’m sticking with the videogame metaphor not just because I’m a nerd with a penchant for nostalgia, but because it’s very fitting. In older games, you were never dropped straight into the final castle fight. You had to gain the know-how for navigating this strange world around you, and you had to build up the tools and resources in your inventory. It’s the same when it comes to your career. It takes time and energy to build yourself up to the point of becoming the perfect fit for that prized role.
Reality check: Your potential future boss already has a full-time job (which does not include holding your hand and showing you every step that you need to take). It’s imperative to develop yourself! Employers respond to those who are proactive and able to figure out what needs to be done. Demonstrate some of that know-how by filling in the gaps on your own resumé.
Okay. Deep breath. This is where things get a little scary.
At some point, you have to actually say what it is that you want. And for many people, that’s more difficult than it sounds. But difficult does not mean impossible, and fortunately, it gets significantly easier with a bit of practice.
Here’s an exercise for you: The next time you’re alone or with someone you trust, practice verbalizing:
1) What your dream job is, and
2) At least two things you are doing to make that dream a reality.
This is often referred to as an “elevator speech” – you should be able to get through those two points, plus a brief introduction, all within the time it would take for a quick elevator ride with a stranger.
If you find yourself struggling, try writing it out on an index card. Just be sure that you don’t stop with writing it down. Get used to the sound of your own voice saying the words.
A final note on asking for what you want: Sometimes the answer will be no. Sometimes you will apply for the job and they’ll “go in a different direction.” Sometimes you will get the job, only to realize that it isn’t what you had originally thought. Sometimes your boss will listen to your well-thought-out case and say, “Nah, we’re going to keep doing it the same way.”
Those moments will sting. They may even be devastating. But they won’t be fatal. Let yourself be upset for a little bit, then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and head back to the drawing board. Trying and failing cannot be the end of your road. (And trying and partially succeeding can still land you in some amazing places!) So, roll with the punches, and don’t ever give up.