The phrase “find your passion” is so overused these days, I almost hate to use it here. But when it comes to deciding what you want to do with your life, it’s just so damn obvious: you have to find what it is that makes you happy and energized, and it has to be something you want to do every day for hours upon hours. And you might figure that out at the most unexpected moments.
Below are seven tips for networking and landing the job of your dreams adapted from my new book, POWER YOUR HAPPY: Work Hard, Play Nice, and Build Your Dream Life.
1. What you find yourself doing in your spare time is the passion you should pursue. Don’t decide what you want to do with your life; let your life tell you what your path is.
2. Your early jobs are important not just for the experience but for helping you understand what you don’t want to do. Don’t be too proud to take an internship even after you’ve graduated from college; they are actually the perfect way to get your foot in the door. Learn how to be a good co-worker, a problem-solver, and how to support yourself on your own money. From there figure out what direction to go.
3. When you meet someone in your field who you connect with, whether it’s at an industry event or a friend’s cocktail party, take notes. If you think you might want to reach out later, ask for a business card and jot down a few details on the back about what you talked about or anything else to help you remember them later.
4. When you get your hands on a contact who might be able to help, don’t be afraid to take a chance and send them an email, even if they’re a total stranger. If possible, ask your mutual acquaintance to introduce you over email or if you can mention their name. The worst that can happen is that no one writes you back. The quicker and cleaner the email, the higher the likelihood this helpful stranger will read it. Be friendly yet professional, check for errors before you hit send, be direct about what you’re asking, and don’t ramble.
5. Get as much as you can out of the company you work for. Whether you’re an intern who’s still in college or a veteran considering a career change, chances are there is someone at your company who can and will be happy to offer some insight, so find the person whose job is closest to the job you think you want and ask for a quick, informal meeting. Most people are far more willing to spend 15 to 30 minutes chatting with a colleague than a complete stranger, and even if they can’t help you, they probably know someone who can. Just make sure you do your research first. Because there is so much information available online, don’t waste someone’s time asking basic questions you could answer on your own.
6. Finding a career that you love and you’re good at is no easy feat. Often, once you find it, you just want more; it’s only natural when you find a fulfilling job at a company you love to start thinking about next steps and how to expand your role. Own it. Think big. Be ambitious. Just don’t lose sight of what makes you happy. Do what you want to do, not what you think you should do. Focus on strategic ambition, asking yourself: Do I want my boss’s job someday, or my boss’s boss’s job? If not, where do you see yourself in two years? Trust your gut: if the thought of having your boss’s job makes you cringe, then that might not be the path for you. If you find yourself gravitating toward responsibilities at the next level, chances are, you want to move up at the organization.
7. If you think you’ve figured out what kind of work you find addictive, don’t wait for someone to hire you to do it. Just do it. If you want to be a food writer, start your own food blog. If you want to be a photographer, build an Instagram following. Don’t worry about “not having time,” because if you love doing it, you will find the time. My advice: set small, attainable goals for yourself that you can achieve even in your spare time. Hold yourself accountable, and keep track of what you’re doing and learning in the process.
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