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Stop Fixating on Your Dream Job and Just Get a Better Job

This column was originally published on on December 22nd, 2017

I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time in my first job out of college. I started as a press secretary for a prominent member of the United States Congress and was thrilled just to be on Capitol Hill. I thought I’d be in the position for a short time until I found something that felt like a better fit.

A few short months out of college I learned a lesson that I continue to learn to this day; opportunity is typically a result of necessity. The communications director decided to leave shortly after I started, and I was left doing both of our jobs. While searching for a replacement during the months following the director’s departure, the Congressman decided to promote me. Six months out of college, I was the communications director and hired my replacement.

There can be so much pressure to land the perfect job out of college that it can be paralyzing. From my experience, that fear doesn’t really go away as you progress in your career. It often feels like every career move must be calculated and fit into a perfect long-term plan to be justifiable, but that’s not true. Below I cover the reasons why the focus for your next career move shouldn’t be about landing your dream job.

It takes time to figure out what you’re good at. And it will change.

In my current role, I frequently interview recent college graduates. I love asking what they believe they’re good at because it’s a very telling experience to see how the respond. Frankly, no one knows what specific value they’ll add to an organization before they’ve entered the workforce. The recent grads I end up hiring answer this question somewhat vaguely but make it clear that they’re excited to figure it out. I’m intrigued by people who understand that they constantly need to remain curious and will never stop learning. As a manager, that’s a lot more important to me than skills listed on a resume.

Keep in mind that you may know what you’re good at and what you enjoy, but it will likely change. If you don’t want to become stagnant in your career path, focus less on what you think you’re good at and more on what value you can add to the next organization you work for. But if those two things align, that’s a good indicator that it’s the right move.

Finding the right fit should be less about the title and more about the opportunity.

I have taken roles in organizations that appear to be a step down from whatever my title was at the time, but it ultimately made the most sense for my career path. It’s a lot more important to determine if there are opportunities for growth and development than whether or not the specific title you are applying for is the perfect fit. Once I traded titles for one that much was less impressive, but the company I was going to work for gave me many more options — and it paid off.

Time and time again, I’ve found that focusing on what I can learn from a new role is a lot more important than my title. Thankfully, good organizations recognize hard work, and a new title can come with that recognition. When interviewing, ask questions about whether or not people are encouraged to do more than their assigned roles. Just don’t let a title keep you from working for a great company.

Your career is about you, not what people think about you.

At the end of the day, your career is about you. In today’s world, I think it can be easy to get caught up in working for innovative companies and having a cool job that you can announce on social media. But that may not make the most sense for you or your industry. I love making career decisions that don’t seem obvious because they’ve made my experience more diverse.

Potential hires are no longer looked down upon for working in different capacities in several places. In fact, it’s often seen as a strength. Make decisions about your next career move based on what makes the most sense for you, not what you think you should be doing based on unsolicited advice or traditional choices.

When making decisions about your career path, focus less on finding the perfect fit and more on heading in the right direction. Career paths are no longer linear and predictable. When I got my first job I could’ve never predicted where I’d be today. And thankfully, dreams can change.

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