LinkedIn announced some fascinating stats about cool careers this morning and it reminded me of a conversation I once had with someone about their dream job. When I worked at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, my very first client told me that he dreamed of being a pilot. Being legally blind he knew that flying a plane wasn’t in the cards for him, but after exploring what about being a pilot was so exciting and interesting to him, we were able to find other options that spoke to both his passions and talents. He ultimately landed a job as a project manager for a prominent business where his skills at encouraging different departments to work cooperatively and his great instincts for priority led to a successful career.
It never hurts to dream big and sometimes they really do come true: nearly one in three LinkedIn members say that they either currently have their childhood dream job or work in a related field. But if your childhood fantasy was to become a professional swimmer or an Olympic athlete (the top choice for U.S. men surveyed) chances are you may need to have backup plan. However, if you think about what it is that you love about competition—either in the pool or on dry land— you might find exactly what you’re looking for in the career you already have. And if your dream career is within sight, but you just need a little help bringing it into focus, LinkedIn can help. Here’s how.
Do some digging. Make a list of the people who are working in your dream career and then hit up their LinkedIn Profiles or their employers’ LinkedIn Company Pages. What was their trajectory? What skill sets do they have? Armed with this information, think about what transferable skills and experiences you can bring to your own job that will make your existing career more enjoyable. Are there volunteer experiences that you can add to your career repertoire? If you have a limitation (degree, age, etc.) that prevents you from getting the job done, take a look at what these people did before and after. This may awaken you to other options out there.
Reach out. Once you’ve tracked these people down, they’re the quickest way into your dream career, so connect with them ASAP. Odds are they’ll be happy to help you out—people who are working in their dream careers generally love what they do and are delighted to talk about it. In fact, more than 70 percent of those surveyed said that “taking pleasure in your work” was the most important characteristic of a dream job. Ask educated questions about how to build the experiences and skill sets you need to break into the career, including whether it’s really worth it (we often have fantasies that don’t always reflect the reality of the job). This is the person to ask about the day-to-day ups and downs.
Talk it up. If you’ve had a dream career (and remember that it may be someone elses’ dream job even if it isn’t yours) make sure to add it to your profile. One of the misnomers about LinkedIn is that it’s only for people with traditional careers. With 150 astronauts and 30,000 wine and beer specialists on the list we can safely say that if you’ve done it, we want to hear about it! Did you join the circus to pay for college or start your career as a quarterback before becoming a businessman? Include it! After all, there are very few people in the world who can claim that they are legitimately a, “Living Logo – Mermaid at Atlantis Resort, Bahamas” who “creates her own functional yet highly exquisite artistic mermaid tails.” The career experiences that you’ve had make you unique and they may be the very things that differentiate you from your competition.