For a long time I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was stuck in limbo looking around for an idea, a direction, something to tell me where I was supposed to go. I had too many options and none seemed interesting. Eventually I found some direction; I picked a city, picked a career track and started working toward it.
If you are stuck, about to graduate college or looking for a new career, pay attention; this will help you.
- Make sure you’re comfortable and you have a few minutes.
Write down 5-10 things you would really love to be
- List the stuff you’ve wanted to do since you were a kid, the crazier the better.
- For me they were things like Film Director, Rock Star, CEO and Celebrity Chef. There were a couple more ideas and you probably have a bunch, just make sure you’re writing down actual jobs people have and not vagaries like “I want a job where I don’t have to work hard and I want to work at home and go out to bars but I also want help people and…” That’s not going to get you anywhere.
Arbitrarily Pick One
- Once you have your titles written out, pick the coolest sounding one. Don’t think about how hard it’s going to be to get there, just pick the one that you want the most.
- Now, it’s research time
Hash out a career path
- Let’s say you picked CEO like I did. Now it’s time to do a little bit of research. Hit up Google and type in “CEO career track.” There you’ll find a couple articles, a couple WikiHow entries and a few Quora answers, but all of them have the same seed: it turns out, CEOs are appointed by the Board of Directors from C-level executives.
- Now, we need to take it a step further, so go a level down from where you want to be. I picked Chief Marketing Officer or CMO. Search “CMO career path” on Google and you’ll find out CMOs are promoted from Marketing Director, MDs are promoted from Marketing Managers, and Marketing Managers start as Assistant Marketing Managers which as far as I can tell is the entry level position.
- Now the hard part:
Meet New People
- You’ve done the searching, you’ve honed down and you’ve found an entry level position for your dream field, but how do you know if you’re going to like it? It’s time to do some first hand research or what Ramit Sethi calls “natural networking.”
- Go to LinkedIn and type “assistant marketing manager” in the search box. You’re greeted with thousands of people who already have the job you think you want, and they’re all ready to answer questions.
- Next, find someone you think is interesting, copy their name and paste it in Google next to the word Twitter so you can get their handle. Once on Twitter, most profiles, at least those of top performers, have a link to a private blog. Read a post or two, figure out something you guys have in common and find their email address.
Send An Email
- Go over to gmail and write them an email to schedule a phone call or, if you’re in a same city, a 15 minute coffee meeting. Open with a friendly intro, mention the thing you have in common, suggest an exact time for the meet up and a timeframe. Say you only have 2-3 questions to ask them and give your phone number. Do this five or six times and one of them is bound to want to meet, if not give the email to the busiest person you know and have them read it quickly and give feedback. Make sure the message is under 7 sentences so new people won’t get bored and tune out.
Go to coffee, be interested
- At the coffee meeting, make sure you ask real questions so you can figure out whether you like the job or not. Ask about their aspirations, why they took the job, how they got the job, whether it’s challenging or not, what they did before and what kind of culture their company has. Do this for a little while and you’ll not only have a job, you’ll have the beginnings of a career and be on track instead of just messing around or feeling sorry for yourself.
- Caveat about coffee meetings:
- Don’t talk too much about yourself, but don’t make it 20 questions either. It works if you ask your question by telling a story that highlights either your experience or how you are as a person.
- Be careful about wasting their time, busy people hate that.
- Don’t worry about them not wanting to help you. If they don’t want to help, they won’t respond to the initial email so have multiple targets.
If after meeting with people you decide this particular aspiration isn’t for you, cross it off the list and start over with the next one. Even if you go through the whole system and find out you would hate the job, you just learned in a month or two what most people don’t find out until they’ve committed two years to a job.
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