Founder & Chief Education Officer, Career Protocol
Angela Guido runs Career Protocol, the web’s most refreshing destination for no-nonsense career advice.
Actor Jim Carrey has talked about how his Father's failure in his career helped embolden his acting career, saying "I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which is that you can fail at what you don't want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love." With things being so uncertain in today's world, what are some reasons people should go after their dream career?
I can name three more big reasons, but they ultimately boil down to the same things: Love.
When it comes down to it, we only have two choices: we can take action out of love or we can take action out of fear. Love is not the romantic kind, of course. It’s a way of relating to yourself, others, the world, and everything in it with kindness, compassion, and enthusiasm. Between the two options, you should always choose love. Because in the long run, what you do out of fear will never leave you satisfied or fulfilled.
Here are the three more big reasons to do what you love:
- In a job you don’t like, you are giving up your time – you’re giving away your life. Doing work you like is the ultimate act of kindness to yourself because it takes back the 50% of your waking hours you spend working. Instead of giving them away, you’re giving them to yourself.
- You have a song to sing – you have a unique gift (many gifts!) to offer this world. And if YOU don’t offer them, no one else will. How you feel about your work tells you how you’re doing. If you love what you do, then you can be sure you’re expressing your gifts. If you dread Mondays like oral surgery, then the world is likely missing out on all you have to offer. And if you’ve checked the news lately, the world needs you!!
- You will regret it if you don’t. Bronnie Ware, a hospice nurse, conducted a study over many years. She asked people as they were dying what they regretted most. The number one regret of the dying was “I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” When all is said and done, I hope you will be able to look back without this regret.
These three things all boil down to loving yourself: treating yourself like you have something great to offer and giving yourself the chance to be all that you can be. It’s your life, you owe it to no one but yourself.
Author and speaker Mark Victor Hansen has said "Goals are new, forward-moving objectives. They magnetize you towards them." How can setting goals help someone both identify their dream career, and help give them a path to get there?
The first thing you need to understand is the difference between goals and dreams. Despite the fact that they are both forward-looking, they are entirely different categories of things. In this picture, the dream career is the road itself. Goals are the car that move you along the road.
Dreams are for inspiration–ideals to cherish. If you really allow yourself to dream, you will have no idea how to achieve them. And that is fine! Goals, on the other hand, are for outcomes – discrete, specific, time-bound events. Things like “Finish a marathon by the end of November under 4 hours.” Or “Get a top score in my next performance review.” These aren’t dreams – they’re pragmatic ends you’re going to apply action to achieve.
When you can understand that difference, then it will make sense to you that a dream career is not a goal. It’s not an endpoint; it’s the journey. Your dream career will unfold naturally if you spend your time working on things that matter to you, having an impact, and making meaningful friendships on the way. Check out Steve Jobs’ famous commencement speech to the Stanford class of 2005 if you want a clear example of what this really looks like over the course of a lifetime.
If you want to be able to look back and say you had your dream career, then the thing to do now is figure out what matters to you, how you want to make the world better, and who you want to work with to achieve those outcomes. Then reexamine your answers to those questions periodically – as you grow, they will change. That is what will help you get on and stay on your best path.
Although goals are essential, sometimes they can be overwhelming, if you think too broadly. Once someone has a goal for their dream career in mind, can you offer some suggestions on how to break that down into smaller, more manageable chunks?
You have to keep everything in its right place here. As I said above, don’t set a goal for your dream career. Instead, think about what matters to you and what you want, then make choices in the short term that align with that. I call this being a long-term visionary and a short-term pragmatist. Here’s what it looks like:
Step 1: Let yourself dream: Envision your perfect work life. What does it look like? Are you sitting at a desk? Traveling the world? Laboring outdoors? And who is with you? What kind of people surround you? What kind of impact are you having? (For example, are you helping feed the hungry? Are you making the world a more beautiful place? Are you helping people communicate better?) What kind of positive changes are you effecting in the world? The sky is the limit. Dream big. You don’t have to have any idea how you will achieve these things. This is called being a long-term visionary.
Step 2: Make strong choices in the short term that move you closer to these ideals. Think about:
- What do you need to learn to be more capable of creating the outcomes you want?
- What kind of impact matters to you on a day-to-day basis? (For example, do you just love solving problems on your own? Do you want to build things? Do you need to see how your work directly affects other people?)
- Which environments support your development and look most like your ideal work community?
- Which people have you met on your journey that you really like and want to collaborate with?
Choose jobs, companies, and teams in the short term that FEEL good to you against your long-term vision. If a job doesn’t get you closer to what you want in the long-term, than wait for one that does. Sign up for Vocate to understand not only which options you are a match for, but also which options are a match for YOU.
Step 3: Use goals to help direct your action day-to-day. Make them Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For example, if you wanted to one day start your own app development company, here would be some good goals:
- Get a job where I am involved with app production by the end of the year
- Find 10 new professional mentors in the app development/user design field in the next 6 months
- Launch my first experimental app in collaboration with a colleague or friend within a year
Oprah Winfrey, speaking on how to build a career, has said, "Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity." What are some of the most important initial preparations for someone looking to break into their dream career?
I am repeating myself, but you don’t break into your dream career. Your dream career is what happens while you are working hard on things that matter to you, doing tasks you really enjoy with people you really care about.
To make steps in that direction, you need to do 3 things:
- Figure out what matters to you, what tasks you really enjoy, and the kinds of people you like and respect. This is a function of self-reflection and it combines a look at what you’ve done so far with the values you hold most dear. If you can, do this WITH someone, since it’s very hard to see yourself completely. This is part of what we do with our clients at Career Protocol, but even an objective friend can help.
- Learn how to communicate better. Absolutely all career success comes down to communication. It may not be a sufficient condition to have everything you want in your career, but it is necessary. Learn how to tell a story. Learn how to rock a resume. Learn how to persuade and influence with grace.
- Build real relationships with everyone in your professional orbit. Relationships are where your future opportunities will come from. The most exciting job you’ll get 4 years into your career will come from someone you know who likes your work. So make friends and keep those friendships alive.
Doubting yourself? All of the above are skills that can be learned, by – yes, even – you.
To follow up, how can proper preparation help someone stay focused in finding their dream career, for the long haul?
That first skill – self-awareness – is key. I recommend that people go through a structured exercise of self-reflection twice a year. Look at what you’ve achieved, what you’ve learned (about the world and yourself), and consider what you want next. Then let those insights drive your next choices.
This is easy to say and incredibly hard to find the discipline to do. Because, busyness. We don’t have so much time to sit and think, we’re so busy doing. But doing will eat you alive if you don’t push it back occasionally to really examine life. This is the only cure for getting stuck in a rut where your talents are being exploited to ends that don’t fire you up.
Colin Powell has talked about 'the secret of success', or lack thereof, saying "There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure." We've already talked about the importance of preparation in building your dream career, but what lessons should people starting their careers take away from failures?
Have you ever noticed you don’t learn that much from success? Success feels good, yeah, and we need a big dose of it or we get demotivated. But failure is really the only way we learn in life. I would say that the secret to success is actually learning how to fail.
Here are just some of the things each and every failure can help you learn:
- Your limitations and where you might want to upskill yourself
- Relationships – whose support could have helped you? Whose input did you overlook? Who do you need to influence next time? How can you strengthen your professional relationships so you have more resources when you really need them?
- Your fortitude – every time you pick yourself up and move on, you are stronger.
- Your values – sometimes you face setbacks because you are aiming for the wrong targets – use failure to refocus.
If you consciously turn each setback into a lesson, pretty soon you will be invulnerable to failure because you will have transformed it into your greatest friend. Then you will make it your goal to fail often, because that’s how you know you are really challenging yourself and growing. You'll be like:
To follow that question up, what are some common 'failures' you've seen, in career counseling, that are actually lessons in disguise?
All of them. Every last one. Whether you hit send without thinking and then later had to clean up a mess, made a big mistake in an important presentation, took a job you ended up hating, failed to get the support of your manager for a career move, or anything else that you didn’t like, failure exists so we can learn. Without failure, we’d never change or grow. And growth is part of the point of life!! It’s also what will make your career more personally fulfilling – the feeling that you are growing as a person. If the word failure feels bad to you, get rid of it, and replace it with “lesson.”
Career Protocol offers numerous solutions and resources for people looking to build their dream career, including an online job search course. What are some things that you go over, teaching people how to master the job hunt?
First, we teach folks to adopt the mindset that the world is their oyster. You’ve got one precious life to live, and you owe it to yourself to have what you want – that includes at work.
Then we teach them HOW to find the pearls inside themselves. We are all unique and magnificent. We all have extraordinary gifts waiting to be discovered and utilized. We all have causes that we care about deeply. Knowing that is true is easy, but knowing exactly what they are for you is much harder. This is why “follow your dreams” tends to ring as hollow advice – because it sounds like a very good idea, but most people have no idea where to start. We teach our students a finite and systematic process of self-discovery so they can uncover the best they have to offer the world and therefore also potential employers.
Then we teach executive level communication skills so that our clients can build genuine professional friendships based on their strengths and passions. This is what creates true confidence. When you know who you are and you know how to talk about yourself in a way that resonates with recruiters, employers, bosses, and colleagues, then you will have unwavering self-assurance as you go for what you want.
You teach students how to master job hunting by building communication tools for finding their dream jobs. What are some of these communication tools? Also, what are some reasons job seekers need to stay organized in their quest for their dream career?
Take for example, our MBA Resume Protocol. MBA here stands for “Manifest Big Accomplishments.” This is an online course that teaches you not how to write a great resume (though you will create an incredible resume in the process), but how to think and communicate like an executive. Executives communicate in 3 key ways:
- They talk in terms anyone can understand to achieve maximum influence.
- They can explain real world events in terms of cause and effect – they know how reality works.
- They are obsessed with results and impact – they want to know the “so what?” Not just the “what”
If you can think and communicate this way, then you can explain to anyone how you will add value to any team or any company. Seriously. Because all companies want to hire people who can speak clearly, think logically, and create positive results.
You need to stay organized for two key reasons:
- You can’t apply for every job. It takes research and insight to present a strong candidacy. So you need to prioritize the jobs that fit you. Vocate will help you a ton with this so give Vocate a try.
- You are on a long journey. Even getting your next job might take some time, but all the work you are doing in this job search will contribute to your next one because – to repeat myself – relationships are what create opportunities down the line. This means you want to keep in touch with the people in your network now and always (even if that means emailing once a year just to say hello!) and that takes some persistence and organization.
Career Protocol offers bespoke career counseling services to help your clients find their dream jobs. First of all, what are some things you go over in your career counseling sessions? Secondly, what are some common characteristics that you see in people who are able to break into their dream careers?
We work with clients on all the stuff I’ve outlined above – understanding themselves, targeting the right short-term opportunities, learning as much as they can, communicating effectively, and building genuine professional friendships. People think of us as a best friend for their career because we help them get what they want and have more fun in the process. We also offer tons of useful free advice to our Insiders, so sign up for our Insider’s list if you want to join the club.
The people who get what they want take ownership of their destiny. Plain and simple. They recognize that no one is going to hand them their dream job. They have to create it themselves and they have to do so in collaboration with the people they work with. So they work hard on their self-awareness, communication skills, and relationships. Anything is possible with this mindset and a little hard work.
Want to learn more about the journey to your dream career? Click here to get started with Vocate today!