With jobs, knowing what you want can be difficult because so many factors are involved. But here’s an outline for how to figure out what your (current) ideal job is.
- Identify Your Dream Job
For now, stay in the real world. (Don’t choose “unicorn wrangler” as your dream job.) But don’t worry about money. Ask yourself what you would like to do all day if money were no object.
Would you read and write at your leisure? Watch Netflix? The world is your oyster in this step.
- Identify the Real-World Job Closest to Your Dream Job
Next, figure out how close real-world jobs come to your dream. For example, I initially wanted to become a book editor because that’s a real job where you read a lot of fiction and get paid for it.
- Evaluate the Economic Reality of This Job
When I got into my editing minor and learned that book editing jobs require long hours outside of regular hours for no extra pay, I decided I didn’t want to be a book editor that badly.
At that point I shifted to magazine editing, which offered the same benefits, plus writing and less time at work.
- Articulate Your Job Philosophy
When I was initially choosing my career path, I wanted a job that would support me and potentially a family but that I enjoyed. At the time I was more idealistic and more ignorant about systemic inequality.
I also had a greater subconscious belief in the American Dream and a semi-conscious misapplication of the thoughts of Betty Friedan. I didn’t necessarily believe that “having it all” was possible or desirable, but I didn’t fully anticipate the trade-offs I’d need to choose among even while working full-time and not being married or having kids.
- Identify Your Core Work Values
Though I apply them differently now, my work values have remained consistent so far. When I choose a job, I prioritize learning, integrity, stability, family, and creativity.
- Reassess Your Needs and Interests as Necessary
I feel kind of stupid about this now, but during my undergrad, I somehow ignored the obvious reality that the magazine industry is dying. Academia hadn’t caught up with the industry yet, and my classes and messages from past students helped me believe that I could get a job with a small trade magazine because tons of them exist around the country.
I lived on a magical ivory tower where everyone believed that we were adequately preparing for the real world and that with enough hard work, we’d live the dream or whatever.
I had a great internship with an international magazine, but after that I got a job and realized that magazine jobs are increasingly rare, generally don’t pay well, and aren’t adjusting to digital formats as well as I’d believed they eventually would.
Also, I learned that the federal poverty level hasn’t been appropriately adjusted in years and that all of my projections for how much money I might need in the future were off.
- Choose a Job That’s Economically Feasible and Preferably Not Awful
I looked at the job market and identified marketing/copywriting and technical writing as the choices that fit my skill set. And then I chose marketing because it interested me more than technical writing.
- Repeat Steps 3 Through 7 Until You Retire or Die
The economy changes, and so do you and your situation, so I think that your ideal job changes over time as well. You have to pick depending on your options.
Right now I’m exploring the world of digital marketing and looking into management. I’m interested in this path, but taking it is also a move for stability because copywriting and editing jobs are increasingly outsourced to freelancers (who don’t get health insurance, which I want).
However, I’m open to freelancing in the future, and the idea of going back to school in clinical psychology is also growing on me. I don’t know exactly where I’m headed, and I’m okay with that.
How has your career path unfolded so far? What do you want to do next?