How to Land Your Dream Job? Try These 5 Steps

This story was originally published May 18, 2018.

Whether you’re a new graduate or having a quarter-life or midlife crisis, it’s easy to feel like the job you truly want is snapped up before you even have time to apply.

Knowing how to land a dream job might be easier than you think, however. It requires networking so that your connections can help you get there. But before that point, it’s imperative to create a roadmap toward that ultimate career so that you can work your way there as efficiently as possible.

Consider these and other tips to learn how to land your dream job on a faster timeline.

1. Make sure it’s really your dream job
2. Create a career road map
3. Work your way up
4. Build your network
5. Check for blind spots
Plus: Now you know how to land your dream job — get going

1. Make sure it’s really your dream job

When Laura Mael was laid off from a banking job she liked in 2011, she did what many newly unemployed people do: She regrouped.

“I found my dream job by evaluating what I really loved to do over my 25-year career and listing the things I wanted to keep doing as well as stop doing,” Mael, who now works for a consulting company, tells Student Loan Hero.

There were 17 things on the positive side, and Mael got to do all of them at her next job.

How to land a dream job: Consider other strategies to ensure that the dream job you’ll be chasing is worth getting. Start by interviewing someone who currently holds the position you covet. Don’t just ask how they got it. See if you can shadow them for a day or more so you can get a feel for what the job is really like.

2. Create a career road map

Rachel Carroll had the benefit of knowing during her college years that she wanted to be a designer. Upon graduation, she sought out a junior designer role only to be rebuffed.

“Before landing my dream job, I was an intern,” Carroll, who’s now a product manager, tells Student Loan Hero. “It isn’t always easy pursuing an internship, [as] the demands are high, and many internships are unpaid or provide only a small stipend. [But] the payoff is invaluable.”

How to land a dream job: If you find yourself in Carroll’s shoes, don’t think internships are beneath you. They could lead right into your preferred role.

If you’ve been out of college longer, see if you might have to retrace your steps to earn a different degree, continue your education or take on an entry-level position. You won’t want to be disqualified by hiring managers for your dream job because you never gained a basic certification.

3. Work your way up

Your road map should outline each step up that it’ll take to answer the question of how to land your dream job. Carroll, for example, wanted to lead the UX team for her previous startup. So she started on a spectrum that included titles such as intern designer, UX or user interface designer and head of design.

If Carroll didn’t enjoy the ins and outs of UX design, she probably wouldn’t have loved managing a design team. So, working her way along the spectrum also gave her confirmation that she was pursuing the right gig.

How to land a dream job: Make your career road map even more worthwhile by estimating how much time you should spend in each position. You can find hints by considering the job description for your dream role. The description could reveal what experience you need to qualify.

Also, getting hands-on experience is imperative. It could prove to hiring managers that you’ve experienced — not just read about — everything you need to know for your ultimate gig. It’ll also confirm your career choice for yourself — as it did for Carroll.

4. Build your network

Throughout her career, Mael hasn’t been afraid to switch employers if it kept her pointed north on her road map.

When trying to figure out how to land a dream job, she knew a switch might be necessary. So Mael started reconnecting with friends and colleagues, including those she worked with at four previous companies.

“I started sharing with everyone, ‘I love to do this, do you know anyone who needs someone who does this?’” Mael says.

How to land a dream job: Keep in mind that every former colleague and current co-worker is a connection that could help push you where you want to go. Your alumni network could be useful too. Include all your contacts as you network your way to the top.

More networking tips from Mael
● Attend seminars, talks and conferences related to your dream job field.
Find a career coach or mentor with experience in the field.
● Make connections at every turn, and add them to your optimized LinkedIn profile.
● Remember that not all career advice is good advice.

5. Check for blind spots

Now imagine interviewing for your dream job. You’re sitting across from a hiring manager, and they have your resume in one hand and the job description in the other.

What isn’t going to match up? It’s healthy to ask yourself this question as you follow your road map — and before you start applying for your dream job.

Mael, for example, had more than two decades of experience working toward her dream job as a public relations professional. However, she identified four gaps in her resume, including lack of experience with TV or radio and lack of connections with influencers in her field.

One of Mael’s less-than-dream jobs on her way up the ladder, however, allowed her to interview C-level executives on-air. That experience helped her fill some of the holes on her resume.

How to land a dream job: When critiquing your candidacy for your dream job, be constructive. When you identify areas where you’re lacking, strategize on how to improve. Volunteer to take on extra projects at work if you have to. Better yet, start a side hustle to build your expertise.

Now you know how to land your dream job — get going

Not everyone’s career path is as straight as Carroll’s. It’s more likely that your path will resemble Mael’s.

Like Mael, it’s OK to be flexible. Your dream job could change as you gain experience and build connections. What you want to do today might be different from what you want to do in five or 10 years.

As long as you’re working in the right direction, you’ll end up in the right place — where your dream job will be waiting.

Oh, and if you have education debt to repay, consider dream careers that lead to student loan forgiveness.

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