Dream Big: Don't Settle for Dull, 'Realistic' Career Goals

Getting creative with your job search is the key to making that dream actually happen

At some point as you reimagine your life, a well-meaning soul is probably going to advise you not to dream too boldly because you need to "be realistic" about the career change you're contemplating. Cut down your vision, this person will say. Settle for one quarter of your dream. That's all the world allows us.

The advice is well-intentioned, but also sad. Maybe the saddest advice you will ever hear.

Let's examine that advice. Why should you do work that only half motivates you? Why should you get up in the morning and go dutifully out the door to a job you just can't get very excited about? All in the name of "being realistic." If you didn't love your previous (or current) job, why should you spend so much time and energy just finding more dull, boring work? And if you actually loved your job, but lost it for one reason or another, don't you deserve the same excitement in your next job, work or career?

You were born with a set of skills, interests and attributes. The way you've linked them together makes you unique. Over the years, you've fine-tuned this linking process in more and more effective ways. The problem is that many of us don't grasp our unique pattern, linkage or web, so we don't know exactly what is special about us. That means we don't necessarily know what we'd most love to do in our work. Or, if we have some hints about what we enjoy doing the most, we may not know the best way to explain to others, or how we might get to that dream opportunity.

Suppose you had a really complete picture of who you are, and especially of the things you most enjoy doing. You'd have a thorough inventory of the skills you love using, your interests that you love working on, and the various aspects of a work environment that would motivate you.

Now suppose you really understand the range of options that are open to you. Suppose you've done your homework to develop a list of amazing opportunities to do motivating work. Armed with this self-knowledge and a best-options list, you'd be in a much better position to find the work of your dreams, right?

Ah, but here's where your well-meaning adviser usually chimes in. "So what? In the world we live in, you're never going to find that dream job, trust me."

Well, true, if……………. If you depend just on traditional methods, like sending out resumes and posting on job boards. Most often, with these, you do get really poor results. You may know this well because you've tried these methods, and been completely discouraged. It may even be you now—not a well-meaning friend—who is telling yourself that you need to be "realistic."

Okay, time to get creative. Creative career change or job search means using a variety of imaginative techniques to find that dream job. Like information interviewing—asking people about their work, and about other people to whom they could introduce you. Like talking to "bridge people," contacts you know, or can find, who can help you learn more about target organizations—and maybe even find job openings that haven't been listed yet. Like approaching organizations your research indicates are looking for people like you—and proposing a new job.

Amazing things can happen when you ignore conventional wisdom and stop listening to advice about "reality." In fact, that's the only way that you'll find the work of your dreams.