5 Steps To Uncovering The Dream Job You’ve Always Wanted

Most people hate their job, but few are willing to do anything about it. That’s where I typically come in — I make a living convincing people that the career in technology they’ve been considering is, in fact, a very real possibility. I’ve been fortunate enough to help more than 600 people launch new careers in web development, UX design, and digital marketing over the past three years at Bitmaker. It’s been a process, but I’ve learned a lot about career development during that time.

This past week we announced that Bitmaker was acquired by the world’s largest tech skills accelerator, General Assembly. Since starting my role at Bitmaker I’ve been able to grow along with the company and couldn’t be more proud to see my efforts contribute to one of the few acquisitions happening in the Toronto tech scene this year. However, over the past several months I’ve also felt like I’ve hit a wall with my own professional development.

I’ve decided to leave the nest this coming Friday with the intent of finding something new and outside of my comfort zone to help me develop my professional skills further.

But here’s the rub — Over the past month, I’ve needed to figure out exactly what direction to take next. When I decided to leave I found myself asking the same question most people ask when they first meet me to discuss joining a Bitmaker course…

What should I do with my career?

Once Bitmaker’s acquisition was certain and I had more free time, I was describing what I could do next with a colleague over drinks. Like most of our students start out, I was all over the place!

Maybe I should go back to a more corporate company? Maybe now is the time to start my own company? Maybe I should find a different sales or customer support job? Maybe I could do more project management? Or maybe I should blah, blah, blah…

Finally, my colleague cut me off and joked, “I think you need to eat your own dog food.” He was reminding me that I’ve been explaining to our students how to figure this problem out for so long that I kind of forgot that it will work for me too! I’ve got to practise what I preach (Even if it tastes a little like dog food).

Instead of the common “spray and pray” method of applying to jobs, I recommend you target specific companies. The trick is figuring out what the elements of your dream job are. That way you can target specific companies that match exactly what you’re looking for. Here’s how you do that:

  1. List all the companies you would love to work for.
  2. List all the locations in the world you would be willing to work.
  3. List all the characteristics of your dream job.
  4. Decide which of those characteristics you couldn’t live without.
  5. Research companies and network hard.

To be clear, this is definitely not a how-to guide. I’m not remotely close to unlocking the secrets to getting you a job at Google, Facebook, or Apple in 5 easy steps (I wish!). Instead, in this article I’m attempting to share the process I have Bitmaker students complete in order to focus their efforts while on the job hunt. I believe this process helps clarify those thoughts bouncing around your head about what exactly your dream job is.

Let’s get into it!

1. List all the companies you would love to work for.

Let’s start with the obvious: Where have you always dreamed of working? It can be anywhere. Don’t limit yourself because of trivial things like the job postings currently listed on their website.

Some students are reluctant to include companies they’ve already interviewed with because they didn’t get the job. I’d argue that’s irrelevant. We’re trying to write out all the thoughts swirling around your head, remember? If you want to work there, include it in your list.

The list doesn’t have to be long. You shouldn’t need to do a bunch of research to come up with the list. You’re going to be doing that all over again after this exercise is complete. Not including a company is ok too. We just want to think about the kinds of places you want to work.

If you’re at a loss for where to start, check out www.greatplacetowork.com. But don’t get too caught up researching companies at this stage — Just use this link to help out if you’re stuck!

2. List all the locations in the world you would be willing to work.

This is the easiest step for some people and hardest for others. I think that’s because where you live affects so many different aspects of your life. It’s hard to definitively say where you want to live and work without more plans laid out to make it happen. Try to suspend those worries and remember that deciding to live somewhere is the first step to making it happen.

For me this was easy: I’m not very interested in living outside of Toronto right now. I don’t even have much interest in working in the GTA. Maybe someday I’ll be interested in living in Berlin, Hong Kong, London, or New York. But for now, Toronto is where I want to be.

I urge you to really consider this step carefully because it will have the biggest impact on the number of opportunities available to you. If there are more areas you’re willing to work, then there’s likely a larger number of jobs that will be available to you. Conversely, a smaller area doesn’t necessarily mean fewer jobs, but if you’re in a small town (like my hometown of London, Ontario) you definitely won’t find offices for Google or Facebook.

Creating this list forces you to consider what you’re willing to sacrifice to get the career you want.

3. List all the characteristics of your dream job.

Here is the meat and potatoes of this exercise. The goal is to list out all your dream job characteristics, no matter how aspirational they may be. These are the thoughts that you know you have, but never say out loud. We want to write them out in order to more clearly define them.

What are the best aspects of your current job? What are some of the professional skills you’d like to develop and how could that be done? What aspects of a company’s culture matters to you most? Do you want to work at a big, stable corporation? Or maybe a small, nimble startup? What industry is the company a part of? Do they allow dogs in the office?

These are just a few examples of the kinds of questions you should be examining while creating your list. Write out everything you want out of your new job. Here’s what I came up with for myself:

4. Decide which of those characteristics you couldn’t live without.

You may have noticed something about my list above — I’ve included stars beside some of my points. This is the next step: You need to read over your list repeatedly and ask yourself which points are deal breakers should they not be a part of your next role.

I believe this is the most important step because you will be referencing it as you progress through the research, application, and interview process during your job hunt. Completing this step will help you focus your search and filter through the opportunities you uncover. You don’t want to accept a job that will make you unhappy in the end, so what things can you not live without?

5. Research companies and network hard.

Now that you have a template to follow, you need to start researching companies you could apply to. You can find these companies based off their industry and location before digging through their website to figure out if they’re a good fit.

Here’s a quick example: Interested in medical technology? A 5 minute search will lead you to companies like ThinkResearch, Klick Health, VitalHub, and uMoove.

Simply pick a characteristic about your dream company and see if you can find something that matches. Continue researching a company to see if they check other boxes on your list.

After determining there are no apparent deal breakers, you can look for job postings on their website and job forums around the Internet. But you shouldn’t be discouraged if they don’t have something currently available. That’s what networking is for.

In fact, I encourage networking over applying through a website in the first place. Most jobs are not posted online and 80% of all jobs on the planet are gained through personal connections. These article sources aren’t the best, but if you do some research online, you’ll find similar numbers across multiple articles and research papers. That means you should be connecting with people as much as possible instead of merely trying to apply to companies online.

I’ll need to write more about networking some other time, but for now here are some quick networking tips:

  • See if the company will soon be hosting any events and attend them.
  • Follow the company and its employees on Twitter.
  • Reach out to people on the team to ask if you can grab a coffee and talk to them about the company. Do not ask for an interview at this stage.

Bitmaker students are always surprised by how generous people in tech are with their time. Lots of people want to help you, so don’t shy away from asking!

One other quick networking recommendation: Don’t think about what you’re trying to get out of someone when networking. That makes it feel sordid and brings to mind the term “brown nosing.”

Instead, focus on them and their experiences. Share your experiences with them. Only after you’re satisfied that you’ve learned something about them and have contributed your thoughts should you be considering asking about job opportunities with their company. You are trying to build a rapport that will last beyond your attempts to find a job.

In my case, completing these 5 steps has helped me realize that I don’t want my sales and customer service skills to be the core of my next role’s responsibilities. I’m interested in managing projects, products, and teams of people. Some of the companies I included in step one would be perfect for this, while there are still more companies I’ve uncovered after doing further research (Here’s looking at you, SoapBox and Rangle.io!).

I’ve only just begun networking at the time of writing this article, but I’ve already found that this exercise has helped prompt me to ask important questions when I’m meeting new people and talking about their companies. I feel much more productive when I’m doing company research too!

This process I’ve developed is by no means bullet-proof, but having used it with a number of Bitmaker alumni I can say with certainty that it’s a worthwhile exercise if you’re struggling to figure out what you want to do with your career. I believe it will at least be helpful to write out all the ideas swirling around in your head.

If you have any questions or comments about this exercise, leave a comment below or feel free to tweet at me. I’d love to keep developing it, as I’m sure there are improvements to be made. Better yet, please share the processes you’ve used to uncover your dream job. Maybe it’ll help me on my journey!

Please let me know if you use this exercise! I’d love to see what your list looks like. It’d be amazing to hear if it worked for you!

If you enjoyed reading, please encourage me to post again by hitting that little heart!

… And if you’ve got an exciting role for me, be sure to reach out!

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Email: erikdohnberg@gmail.com

Twitter: @edohnberg

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