April 22, 2020

Improve Your Self-Awareness and Find Your Dream Job

Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who’s got it all figured out and you have already found your calling. If so, good for you. But if you are like most people; still trying to find your dream job, this article is for you.

I’m going to help you find your dream job by showing you how to develop your self-awareness work out what makes you tick. Then I’ll walk you through how to identify occupations that will bring you a high degree of job satisfaction. But first, I’m going to tell you my story.

How I Found My Calling

When I was a kid, I dreamed of growing up to be a graphic designer. I would get to draw, use computers, and make cool looking stuff all day. So, I practised my drawing skills and studied art, then went off to college and got a design degree. After graduating, I landed a job designing magazines and worked on branding projects for freelance clients. I had hit the jackpot; everything was great.

And then, one day, something changed. I realised I didn’t enjoy it any more.

I was bored of looking at the Photoshop and Illustrator menus. I was sick of the endless rounds of revisions. I was tired of using the same colour schemes and layouts all the time and didn’t feel inspired enough to create new ones. My dream job had become a grind. Something had to change, but I didn’t know what my next move should be.

After some self-reflection and soul-searching, I worked out the main thing that bugged me was that I didn’t like being at the whims of poor client briefs without the power to change them. I wanted to have input earlier in the process. I wanted to work on bigger problems higher up the decision-making tree, like developing marketing strategies and writing the briefs to deliver them. I wanted to solve the puzzle, but not necessarily execute the solution.

Once I had this realisation, I managed to get hired as a marketing manager based on my experience developing brands as a designer. I entered this new challenge with enthusiasm, but my transition from maker to manager was rough at first. I had no management experience, and I didn’t know what I was doing. Luckily, my employer had faith in me, invested in some training and things started to click. I built a solid, high performing team, we did great work together, and I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t my childhood dream, but it was more rewarding.

Fast-forward a few years, and I recognised that my work wasn’t quite scratching the itch like it used to. I needed to pivot once again to find true satisfaction. I have always been interested in psychology, something I leveraged as a marketing manager, and this had exposed me to a lot of psychological tools. Coupled with my interest in personal development, I used a self-awareness tool to identify that the best career move for me was to move into mentoring.

So, I enrolled in my university’s industry mentoring scheme as an alumni member. Having previously marketed to students, I had good insight into the demographic, so I began delivering supporting undergraduate students by focusing on preparing them for the workplace after graduation.

During my mentoring sessions, I realised that many graduates do not know what they want to do for a living or have a vague idea at best. They also need to world of work demystifying so they can get a better sense of what it is really like.

By using my own professional experience and insight from working with students and recent graduates, I have developed a technique that can help people figure out their career goals and identify job roles that are a good fit for them.

My experience as a mentor has been nothing but gratifying. It draws on my natural attributes and professional experience and allows me to help others to find their path. Seeing the lightbulb go on in their minds as they find clarity while I work with them is extremely rewarding. I have always enjoyed exploring ideas, sharing knowledge and helping people. My mentoring role brings these passions together for me. So does my writing. It’s addictive, and I can’t get enough of it. I want everyone to be able to find that for themselves, and that’s why I am sharing this process here.

Why People Fail to Find Their Dream Job

In my experience, people often struggle to find their dream job for one of two reasons. Either they lack focus and get paralysed by the amount of choice available in the job market, or, they choose to go into a field that ultimately doesn’t match their expectations.

People often set their sights on working in a particular industry or role within a company because of pre-conceived ideas they hold about it. In our rush to succeed in a profession, it can be easy to overlook the day-to-day realities of working in it. By acting on our preconceptions of a job without genuinely understanding all it entails, we make critical career-defining decisions based on perception, rather than reality.

In doing so, we close ourselves off from other opportunities that may be a better fit for us and could bring greater job satisfaction. This myopic approach can lead to disillusionment, a lack of motivation and, ultimately, unhappiness.

If people could reframe their thinking, they may be able to find more rewarding career options outside of their self-imposed narrow field of vision.

I have used the powerful technique I’m about to outline to support many people (including myself) in figuring out their next career move. In some cases, people have even used it to plan their entire career path. It can help you clarify your career aspirations and define what you want from your career and find your dream job.

The root of its effectiveness lies in focusing outside the world of work to develop your self-awareness and understand what is important to you in life. You can then use this heightened awareness to select job roles that are a good fit for you, without limiting yourself to specific industries or professions. It can throw up eye-opening results and encourage you to seek new, rewarding opportunities where you previously thought there were none.

You can use the process outlined in this article at any stage of your career. Don’t fall for the sunk cost fallacy and think it is too late to pivot professionally. Life is too short to do unrewarding work, and job satisfaction can greatly affect your wellbeing. Indeed, when you find your dream job, it has the potential to fulfill all five elements of Martin Seligman’s PERMA model of happiness, which will have a huge impact on your life.

All you need is an open mind and an hour of spare time. When you’re ready, grab a notepad and pen, and let’s get started.

Step One: Define Success

Before you can identify your dream job, you need to zoom out and define what success means for you. It doesn’t have to be money; it could be having flexibility, security, the ability to travel, being your own boss, or living a certain kind of lifestyle.

Don’t be rigid or limit your thinking when it comes to settling on your definition. Success is different for everybody, and your idea of it will change as you level up through different stages in your life. Whatever you come up with, the only stipulation is that it should be realistic. It can be as challenging and ambitious as you want, but it must be achievable. Once you’ve got something you’re happy with, write it down.

If you struggle with this first step, skip it and come back to it after working through the rest of the steps in this article. Even if you don’t struggle with it, come back and review your vision of success after you complete the process and check it still holds true.

Step Two: Get to Know Yourself

Self-awareness is a meta-skill that makes the development of other skills easier. The most convenient, reliable way to figure out your natural tendencies is to undergo some self-evaluation using a personality inventory framework. This will help you be objective and bypass your unconscious biases and your ego. I recommend using a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or a Kiersey Temperament Sorter (KTS). They both have a proven track record and give you easily understandable, actionable results.

Both of these tests ask you a series of questions to determine what kind of personality you have. They assign you a personality type based on the answers you give. These personality types describe your dominant traits; things like your temperament and communication style. They are a powerful way of developing self-awareness and can support all kind of life decisions, not just those relating to your career.

If you’re lucky, you can sometimes find available them free online. If not, the small fee required to access one is money well spent. Taking an MBTI test was a lightbulb moment for me, which kick-started my personal development journey and created a step-change in my personal growth.

Step Three: Assess Yourself

Once you have some contextual direction from an objective tool, you can take a further stab at self-evaluation to tease out some more useful information. The next step is to make a list of your main strengths and weaknesses. Consider key traits that may inform the type of work you are best suited to, such as whether you are a big-picture thinker or a detail-orientated person. Aim for 4–6 items in each column. Your personality inventory results should help you identify these.

Be honest; don’t tell yourself you’re good at something you’re not just because you would like to be — it’s counter-productive. You can always get training for any weaknesses that you want to become strengths. Failing that, being aware of them at least helps you work around them.

Next, make a list of the things you like to do and things you don’t. Consider environments as well as tasks and activities. Think about how these could translate into potential job roles. Are you a people person who loves being involved in large team projects, or do you prefer to absorb yourself in deep work in isolation? Do you prefer to be outdoors or indoors?

Try to identify why you feel the way you do about anything you write down and look for patterns. Use any insight from this process to identify other appealing activities that may share these qualities and write these down too. Be as broad as possible. The idea is to identify a wide range of potential career options that may be a good fit for you. We want all options to be on the table at this point.

If you write down any favourable activities that you have not yet tried, make a commitment to give them a go soon. By developing a wide range of experience, you will keep your options open, and you will be able to make more informed decisions down the line.

Step Four: Define Your Values

Personal values are the things that we consider important to us. Some people value money over ethics or empathy, some people feel the opposite way. Some people seek risk and adventure, others the quiet life. You need to work out what is important to you and write it down. This may be the most crucial step in the process. A robust list of somewhere between 5–10 items will give you the coordinates that can help you to find your dream job. If you don’t get this right, you will be like a ship without a sail as you try to navigate your way to employment nirvana.

Once you have your list, you need to look for potential employers whose values align with your own. Most companies publish some variation of a mission, vision and values statement on their website. Use this as a starting point to filter out who you would and wouldn’t like to work for. Don’t limit yourself to your tried and tested industries or professions; keep your options open. Let that definition of success you came up with earlier be your guide. We’re going to continue filtering to narrow the possibilities down further.

Step Five: Choose Your Corporate Culture

Go back and review your personality inventory results, your personal values, and your vision of success. What are the common threads? Using these, you should be able to figure out the types of corporate culture you would like to work in. If you’re a creative person, you’re not going to be happy working in a systems-driven culture, and vice-versa. Are you better suited to large established organisations, where you have more resources at your disposal, but could be a cog in a bureaucratic machine? Or, would you prefer to work at a young SME, where you may have more flexibility and autonomy but might find your remuneration and opportunities for promotion to be limited?

For some people, this will be an easy, clear decision. If not, you will have to decide which factors are most important to you and which ones you are prepared to compromise on. Again, use the findings from the earlier stages of this process to guide your decision-making when making trade-offs.

Step Six: Putting it All Together

Once you get to this stage of the process, you should have a list of potential types of job roles that align with your idea of success, your strengths, your interests and character traits. You should also have a list of companies that match your personal values and personality style.

Now you can explore the kind of opportunities these potential employers offer. As you do this, ask yourself, which ones are a good fit for your strengths, interests and other personal attributes you have identified? Do you want to contribute to a corporate mission you believe in, or do you want to do work that satisfies your intellectual curiosity?

Notice how we have got to this point without focusing on specific industry types or job roles. By concentrating on your personal qualities before considering any particular occupations, you should have been able to broaden your horizons and identify opportunities that you had previously ignored.

On the flip side, if you were initially struggling to define your career path because you were paralysed by choice, this process should have provided some clarity. Now you can thin the field and focus on a narrower selection of potential occupations that will make it easier to find your dream job.

Time to Review

Once you have followed this process through, you should have a clearer idea about what you want from your career and which types of roles are a good fit for you. Now, go back to that initial definition of success you came up with. Does it still hold true? If not, what needs to change?

Look back through your findings from each stage of this exercise. Does anything lack alignment with the bigger picture you have come up with? If so, this is something you need to focus on and fix. That may mean getting some training, or it may mean letting go of something and making a compromise somewhere. All of the elements must work harmoniously with one another for this technique to result in its desired outcome. Once everything stacks up, you should be good to go, armed with a stronger sense of self-awareness, a clearer picture of your career path, and some new potential opportunities to explore.

Wrapping Up

How you spend your time is how you spend your life. Doing work that leverages your strengths so you can contribute to outcomes that fulfill your personal values should lead to a high degree of job satisfaction. The key thing to realise is that satisfaction is found not by chasing a particular position in a specific industry, but by aligning your work with your natural attributes and wider life goals. This is an important thing to remember if you want to find your dream job.

That is what makes this technique so powerful. You can use it at any stage of your career, but it is particularly valuable when you feel stuck in a rut or are considering a career change. Revisit it whenever you’re ready for a new challenge and need to determine your next move. It should help you to open doors and identify new opportunities that are more rewarding than where you’re currently at. It is also a great way to sense-check a career decision before you make the leap.