Career 14: Turning dreams into reality

By Dionne Christian

Everyone has a different idea of what their dream job is. While the wish list differs from person to person, the how of getting the dream job is similar no matter what career you’re considering.

Getting your dream job begins long before you see an advertisement or hear about an opening.
Getting your dream job begins long before you see an advertisement or hear about an opening.

We're not talking about figuring out what your dream job is; the how is a critical difference because it focuses on the job hunting process.

Let's set the scene: you decided a couple of years back your job wasn't challenging or interesting or fulfilling enough so you reflected on what you'd rather be doing or where you'd rather be. You thought long and hard about your core values and matched these with occupations which interested you before talking with people already in those jobs or industries. Maybe you completed some study so you'd have the necessary qualifications or you did some unpaid work in the sector you're aiming to move into.

But you don't want to build castles in the air any longer; it's time to turn the dream into reality: you need to identify an opportunity and sell yourself to potential employers.

Tom O'Neil is the managing director of cv.co.nz and has spent years helping clients around the world develop the strategies and tools needed to get the jobs they want.

He says getting your dream job begins long before you see an advertisement or hear about an opening. It starts with the things listed above: working out what is your authentic dream job, upskilling if necessary and building a profile in the industry you want to work in.

"Dream jobs don't happen overnight. They're often about finding a niche and then backfilling in order to move forward and that involves developing your own brand and pushing yourself forward."

Tom's a big fan of doing volunteer or unpaid work related to the sector you're aiming for. It helps build up work experience, especially if you're moving into a new field, as well as giving you a first-hand look of what's involved and expected. It allows for networking and demonstrates you're serious about the industry.

He also suggests getting online on sites such as LinkedIn and joining groups related to your desired industry or vocation; read and comment on the blogs and in the forums, and start discussions. Consider starting your own blog and setting up a Facebook and/or Twitter account which allows you to start networking and getting known.

"Here's an example of what I'm talking about: Mike's in his fifties and knows everything about the sea; just ask anyone at the local workingmen's club where he spends his free-time. Danny is 32, doesn't know as much as Mike but is passionate about the sea and marine rescue work. Danny joins Coastguard as a volunteer, starts to blog about marine conditions and comment on maritime safety stories in the news. Who has got the profile and demonstrates the passion? So who's a potential employer most likely to look at?"

You may be fortunate enough to score an interview or even a job offer through these channels; Tom himself landed work for the Harvard Business Review through LinkedIn. But even in our online and connected world, chances are you'll be using a variant on tried and true job-hunting methods: scanning the situations vacant columns in newspapers and online employment websites; visiting recruitment agencies and even cold-calling firms you want to work for to ask if they have any vacancies.

Read carefully a job description and associated advertising. Tom suggests highlighting key points in any written material - print or online - and then writing a thoughtful covering letter which links your qualifications, experience and achievements to the
job advertised.

He cites a statistic from a recruitment colleague who said just 11 per cent of candidates sent a professional and well-written covering letter which talked about how their experience and achievements equipped them for the role. Guess which 11 per cent of candidates moved toward the next step in the recruitment process?

"There's a technique called 'mirroring' where you use language which is very similar to that used in any advertising to show you understand the role and are the right person for it," he says. "Any job advertisement should be read as a company making a call for help: they have a problem and they need a person to solve it. This is the time for you to show you are the solution."

The letter needs to be backed up by an equally professional curriculum vitae around two - four pages long. Tom recommends those who have been in the workforce for some time start by listing their achievements, followed by qualifications and then a more detailed breakdown on where they've been employed and key responsibilities.

"The aim is to emphasise the difference you have made in the roles you've worked in; what your achievements have been. Tailor your covering letter and CV to each opportunity so, yes, it means a slightly different package for different roles."

Those with more limited work experience, or who are just starting out, may want to start their CV by listing qualifications and success they have enjoyed during training. Tom is quick to point out it's not a time for dishonesty about qualifications, experience and achievements. By all means, he says positively frame situations and show your enthusiasm for a role, but don't lie.

"Going after your dream job should be your time to shine. I'll use a car analogy: there are a lot of people out there who are Ferraris but they come across as Ladas. This is not the time to be bashful about your experience and achievements, but it's absolutely vital to be honest.

Otherwise any integrity, trust, reputation you have built up is going to be undermined." And he's got something to say about having the confidence to pursue your dream job, too.

"Don't assume because someone has more experience than you that they're going to get the job. Sure, they may have 20 years experience to your three but they may also be feeling burnt out while you're fired up and ready to go! Often it's not all about skills and experiences, but about passion and enthusiasm. If it's your dream job, you should have loads of that!"

How to get your dream job

• When you've identified what your dream job is, start preparing for it by researching it, getting to know people and building a profile in the sector you want to move into.

• Get connected whether it's online, joining industry groups, blogging or doing volunteer work.

• Write a professional and well thought out cover letter tailored to each job you're applying for.

• Use your CV to emphasise your achievements and the difference you have made in the roles you've worked in; not just where you worked and what you did.

• Don't undersell yourself by being bashful about past successes; but be careful not to exaggerate to the point where you're being dishonest.

- NZ Herald

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