Many of us, at one stage or another, find ourselves either in a job or a career that we don't particularly love or, in some cases, even like. If you are in this situation, you might spend a great deal of time wondering how you can get out of your current role and find the job you've always dreamed of...after all, plenty of people are living their dream and working in fulfilling careers and jobs, so why can't you? How do you make what can often feel like a gigantic leap from a job you hate, to a job you really love?
The answer to that question is not a simple one. There is no "one" particular reason why some of us end up doing the same thing, day in day out and never seem to escape from it, but rather a set of circumstances which, over time have conspired to create our reality and have made it easier to stay where we are than to leap into the great unknown.
The great news is that if you are in this situation and have been dreaming of bigger and greater things, but up to this point have had no idea how to get from A to B, there are some very practical ways which can help you to achieve your goal of finally finding (and more importantly, getting) that dream job.
Both as a person and as a business consultant, I am one of the most practical people you will ever come across. I don't really subscribe to what I call "wishy-washiness"; instead I prefer to focus on practical, sensible and genuine ways to achieve goals and dreams, so everything you will read in this article is as a result of my own tried and tested methods. Of course, what works for one person does not always work for another, but I genuinely believe that if you want something badly enough and work hard enough, anything is possible and if you can employ these practical methods, there is absolutely no reason why you cannot achieve your goals and dreams, whatever they may be.
1. Positive Mental Attitude
Getting yourself prepared mentally for anything, whether it is for a job interview, a race, a dental appointment, an exam or anything mentally or physically challenging, is the single most important thing you can do to give yourself the best possible chance at achieving your goals. In this particular case, your goal is to get the job of your dreams. Not almost get it, or kind of get it, or sort of get, but to actually Get It. The best possible way to achieve anything in life, is to believe that you can achieve it. You must believe before you can achieve and without self-belief, total confidence in your abilities and a strong desire in your heart for what you really want, applying for a job that you don't really believe you can get is a waste of time. So, the very first thing you need to do is prepare yourself mentally for your goal. For some people, this will always be the biggest hurdle for them. There will often be a little voice (either a real person such as friend or family member) in their ear that says "This is a waste of time" or "What chance have you got against all those other people?" In some cases, the little voice will be themselves. Self-doubt creeps in and starts whispering things such as, "You can't do it" or "Why are you even bothering? Stick with what you know, it's easier..." or "You've never been any good at anything, you might get that job and then find out you can't do it..."
Listening to negative voices and opinions is self-destructive when you have an important goal in mind. To achieve your goal of getting the job of your dreams, you must shut out all the white noise, all the negativity, all the "Can'ts" and "Won'ts" and instead you need to practice positive thinking every moment of every day until you reach your goal. It may help you to limit the number of people you discuss your ambitions or plans with. This can be difficult if you come from a big family or have a large circle of friends. Some of us (including myself) during our career, have worked in jobs where we were surrounded by negative speakers and thinkers who constantly fed us with thoughts and opinions such as "This place sucks" or "Nothing ever changes in this company but hey, it's a job, right?" Over time this can permeate not just our work-life, but other areas of our life, so if you are currently in a negative work situation you need to do your absolute best to slowly extricate yourself from such a situation. Listening to, or participating in negative conversations at the water-cooler, in the office kitchen or in the cafeteria at lunchtime, must become a thing of the past if you are going to get in the right frame of mind to help you get out of the situation you are in and get the job you have always wanted.
Limiting the amount of people you talk to about your plans can be difficult, but it can be done; there will always be people who don't want you to be better than them or achieve more than them (this can even apply to family members or friends you've known for a long time - it's hard to believe, I know, but it happens). Other people's jealousy can affect us in ways we aren't even aware of and it's a sad fact that sometimes the people we love and trust don't always have our best interests at heart.
However, if you are to achieve your goals, you need to listen to one voice only and that's the positive one inside your head that says, "Come on! You can do this! What are you waiting for? Go for it!" It is this voice that will help you, encourage you and push you to achieve your dream and get the job you really want. Replace words such as "I can't" or "I won't" with "I can" and "I will". Sometimes you have to dig deep to find positive thoughts, particularly on challenging days when things don't always go according to plan or you're feeling downhearted or have other pressures, such as financial worries or family issues. These are all very real and very valid reasons why we can often look inward and start feeling negative about our situation. The problem with negative thinking is that it often spirals out of control. Surround yourself as much as possible with people who genuinely want to encourage you to be the best "You" that you can be. Spend time with those who want you to be happy and who believe you can do anything you want. Get into the habit of replacing every negative thought with three positive ones and do not let that little voice tell you that you cannot do this. You can. And you will - if you want it badly enough.
2. Perfect Your Resumé
Over the years I've seen some pretty crazy things on Resumés, ranging from "I love fast motorbikes" in the Interests section of a Resumé (fine if you are applying to work in a motorbike shop, but not really suitable if you are looking for a job in a corporate firm or bank and want to be taken seriously), to Resumés which were 7 or 8 pages long and contained endless repetition, misspelled words, badly phrased sentences and a whole host of other Resumé no-nos, such as attaching photos from 10 years ago and including lots of personal and unnecessary personal information about exes, children and custody arrangements.
I cannot stress enough the importance of perfecting your Resumé. It should be no more than 3 pages long and you should consider your Resumé as your best marketing tool before you get the opportunity of an interview. Your Resumé is a paper version of you and you should give it the time and respect it deserves. Watch out in particular for spellings, grammar and punctuation. Keep the description of each role you have worked in concise and to the point - 4 or 5 bullet points per role is ideal, any more than this is overkill. Make those bullet points really count and ensure you have included all and any relevant information. If your dream job is working as a teller in a bank, for example and you are currently working as a cashier in a supermarket, then you need to make sure you are focusing on those vital skills you have learned as a cashier, i.e. handling large amounts of cash and the responsibility that entails, dealing with customers on a daily basis, knowing and understanding customers' needs, being a good listener and responding to customer queries in a timely and appropriate manner. How you phrase each bullet point is very important so spend as much time as possible getting them absolutely perfect. You want a potential employer to look at your experience on paper and say "Yes! This is the kind of person we need in this company, someone who really cares about their customers!"
Whatever your current role is - whether you are CEO of a large multinational and looking for that next big role that will define your entire career, or you are working in a clothes store but have dreams of becoming a designer and want to find a great intern position - it doesn't really matter. What does matter is how you look on paper and what the potential employer or recruitment agent will see when they receive your Resumé, because if your Resumé is not perfect (and I really do mean perfect), you may not even get an interview. Something I tell my clients is that even just the knowledge that your Resumé is as perfect as possible gives you an extra sense of confidence because already you have an advantage over anyone else applying for the same job and that in itself, is extremely valuable.
Equally, when writing your cover letter or email to accompany your Resumé, check it and then double-check it before you hit that "Send" button to make sure there are no spelling mistakes. Avoid using phrases such as, "You should hire me because..." or "If you don't pick me you'll regret it forever..." (I have actually seen these on cover letters and I don't need to tell you where they have ended up). Stick to the facts and write your cover letter as if this is the one and only opportunity you are ever going to get (even if it isn't, you need to approach your job application process with as much gusto and enthusiasm as you can possibly muster), and write your cover letter professionally, succinctly and with confidence. Outline why you have applied for the role and why you believe you are the right person for the job. Mention your skillset, tell them why you are qualified for this position (this applies even if you do not have the exact qualifications for a role - I have seen underqualified people who did not have the requisite degrees or diplomas walk straight into jobs and become enormously successful because they had the professional experience and right personality to do the job at hand). Tell them what you can do for their company and the personal qualities you can bring to a new role. Keep it simple and don't use too much jargon, elaborate words or complicated phrases.
Remember - your Resumé and cover letter are your marketing tools. Keep this in mind throughout the writing process and re-read your Resumé and letter several times before you send them. That way you can be absolutely sure that the content you have included is as perfect as you can possibly get it.
3. Prepare For Your Interview
None of us particularly relishes the thought of preparing and going for a job interview. Interviews can be nerve-wracking, unsettling and turn even the most seasoned professional into a quivering wreck. However, there are a number of things you can do to make the interview process more comfortable and considerably easier and these can be broken down into a step by step process.
For anyone to put themselves through the interview process for a job they really want, they need to do just that - want it. It goes without saying that in the current economic climate, many people are applying for jobs they don't particularly want, but they may have no other option because of their economic and family circumstances. However, I have written this article to help you prepare for, apply for and, most importantly get the job you really want, so the approach for this process must be different to any other. Rather than applying for twenty jobs and hoping you will get called for interview for maybe one or two of them, the processes and methods in this article are designed to help you get that one job you desire above all others.
Desire is the keyword here, because without desiring something enough, you are cutting your chances of achieving it by at least half.
There are a number of things you will need to do before you attend that all-important interview. The first of these is to know your Resumé inside out. Know the dates and periods of time you have spent in each previous role and know your bullet points and responsibilities without having to glance back at your Resumé to check. Make sure you have everything covered. I cannot emphasise how important this is, because if you are asked about a role you had 5 or even 10 years ago that the interviewer feels may be relevant to the job you are applying for now, you will need to delve into your memory bank and pull out that information at a moment's notice.
Prepare your interview attire the night before and, regardless of the type of role you are applying for, ensure that your clothes are freshly laundered, ironed and that your shoes are clean. This may sound like second nature to most people and you might be thinking that it goes without saying that you'd be cleanly dressed and fresh out of the shower, but I have seen people not get called for second or third interviews based on the fact they wore untidy clothing, scruffy shoes and in one case, had greasy, unwashed hair. You might be the most qualified person in the world, but for many companies their image is extremely important, particularly if you are going to be the "face" of the business, meeting customers or dealing with clients. If you are applying for a job with a company where jeans and casual attire is the norm, they will usually tell you this in advance and most companies who have a "dress down" or casual clothing policy will not expect you to wear a smart suit to interview (and very often they prefer candidates to wear casual clothing so they can see how they will fit in with their company ethos and general office vibe), however, if you are not told to "dress down" in advance, then wear the best suit, dress, skirt or trousers you possibly have. Think smart and look smart.
Make sure you plan your route and know exactly where the interview is being held. Allow for an hour of extra time if at all possible to get you to the venue and check the traffic reports before you leave to make sure there are no accidents or roadworks on the way there which might necessitate finding an alternative route. Don't leave things to chance - you must prepare for this interview in every possible way. You want to walk into that room with total confidence knowing that you have done absolutely everything you could do to get the job of your dreams. Arriving in a flustered state with 5 minutes to spare, sweating because you had to run, or you missed the bus, or couldn't get a taxi will throw you off your stride and leave you feeling overwhelmed and underprepared. Arrive for your interview in plenty of time. If you are ahead of schedule, then walk around the block for a few minutes to compose yourself and give yourself time to focus. Don't drink too much coffee or water beforehand. Nerves may get the better of you and it's better to have a glass of water beside you in the interview that you can sip from if you are thirsty (it also helps to take a sip if you are asked a question and need a couple of seconds to formulate your thoughts).
Practice and familiarise yourself with the different types and styles of interview questions commonly asked. Over the last five years there has been a big shift in terms of how interviews are conducted. It is not unusual nowadays to attend up to three interviews, so you need to be completely prepared for the type of questions they may ask you. Apart from being asked the usual questions such as "Take me through your Resumé" and "Tell me what you do in your current role", it is vital that you know how to answer other types of questions and in particular, Competency Based Questions. These type of questions are often asked at the first or second interview and are used to determine how qualified you are for a particular role by assessing how you answer certain types of questions around competency. There may be questions asked of you such as, "Tell me about a time when X happened and how did you handle it?" or "Give me an example of a situation where there was conflict in the workplace and tell me how you diffused that conflict."
An interviewer will also want to test your responses to questions around competencies such as Ambition ("Tell me about a project you gave up and why you didn't see it through to the end"), Forthrightness ("How upfront are you in certain situations? How do you feel this helps you to achieve goals?"), Confidence ("Tell me about a time when you had to find a solution and how sure were you that your solution was the correct one?") or Interpersonal Skills ("How do you gain the respect and trust of your team members? How do you feel you relate to others?")
You may also be asked to give solid examples of times you showed maturity or an ability to do the right thing in a role (Integrity), an occasion on which you had to think on your feet (Decision Making Ability), or a time when you demonstrated your willingness to help others or perform over and above the call of duty (Flexibility).
There may be only a handful of these questions or there may be many, but it is important that you are completely prepared to answer questions such as these because interviewers like to get responses to their questions, so staring blankly while you try to think of good examples or saying "Um..." or "I can't think of anything" will put you at an immediate disadvantage.
You will also need to ensure that you have fully done your research on the company you want to work with and know as much as possible about it and its employees. Without a doubt, you will be asked "Why do you want to work for us?" and you might even be asked "Tell me what you know about X Inc." Ideally, you should have two or three genuinely great reasons why you want to work there and you should also have two or three facts up your sleeve about the company such as, "It's listed in the Top 100 companies to work for which really enticed me", "Your reputation as an equal opportunities employer really attracted me to working here" or "I want to work for a company that has a Green Policy and cares about the environment and this was one of the reasons I chose X Inc." These are just examples but, whatever reasons you decide to give for wanting to work at your chosen company, make sure they are valid and genuine as this will come across to the interviewer immediately. Stay away from subjects such as money, salary, bonuses until the interviewer brings it up - even if you know the company has a good reputation for paying its staff well, keep this to yourself until you are asked about your salary requirements.
Remember that not only do you want to get this job, but you want to know that you have done absolutely everything you possibly could to get it, so give yourself every advantage before the the interview and do your research properly and thoroughly.
Finally, I want to wish you the very best of luck and I hope that these methods will work as well for you as they have for me. Everyone has to start somewhere, but with a little determination to succeed, some hard work and a strong desire to get the job you have always dreamed of, you can achieve anything you want. The world is your oyster.
"Whenever I hear it can't be done, I know I'm close to success." - Michael Flatley
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