The Recruiter's Guide to Getting Your Dream Job
Written by Kelly Babb
Dream-jobbing ain’t easy. As a recruiter, I talk with people every day who are still figuring it out. The steps I include here are straightforward and simple, but they likely won’t accomplished on the one fateful day you decided to read this article. This isn’t a story about how to get any job; it’s about how to get your dream job. It’s not going to be acquired overnight—but let’s get started.
Step zero: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Before you know which direction to head, you have to ask yourself what you want to be when you grow up. I love this question for its boldness alone; it’s audacious to think we’ll ever really have an endpoint to our growth. For some of us this is an easy one and we’ve just known in our gut since 2nd grade that we were made to be a doctor or an artist (or both!). For most of us, it’s a daunting query both unanswerable and limiting at once. If you can be anything in the entire world, how the heck do you choose?
The best advice I’ve been given to narrow things down is to work backward. Instead of declaring a specific professional path, take an inventory of your measurable skills, lifestyle preferences and personal goals (such as, I want to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged youth) and see what shakes out. If you’ve learned you’re miserable sitting at a desk all day, you should seek a career where you can always be up and moving about. If you know you love to travel, don’t just go for a lucrative career that will offer financial freedom; kill two birds with one stone and pick a job that includes travel as part of the day-to-day. It might take you your entire life to even know what your dream job is, but if you can start to uncover details about what it will look like, you can at least start heading in the right direction.
Step one: Is your resume ready?
Interchange the word “resume” with CV, portfolio, LinkedIn profile or whatever it is your dream job requires you to show in order to get through the front door. Whatever it is they want to see, is it ready? Is it updated? Do you have a copy that’s easy to pass along if you happen to share an elevator with the right person? If you do, move to step two. But, you probably don’t—so if not, get started.
Your resume doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s a living document you will constantly be tweaking and updating. Don’t get in your own way by waiting for it to be perfect. A quick Google search will pull up hundreds of options for resume templates, but LinkedIn is a great place to start a profile which quickly translates to an online resume. For the more creative and technical types, having your own website with work samples or GitHub links is a must. As you move through your career, your resume should grow too. Keep it up to date even when you’re not looking for a new job.
Remember: You’re looking for your dream job! An opportunity could present itself at any time, and you’re going to want to be ready. Always have an updated copy of your resume in a Word doc and PDF format on your phone and a cloud-based tool such as Google Docs so you can pull it up (and email it off) at the drop of a hat.
Step two: Are you ready?
In other words, are you qualified for your dream job? It’s one thing to want it; it’s another thing to be ready to be successful doing it. The top reason recruiters and hiring managers pass over candidates is because they are not yet qualified. It’s always great to take a chance and shoot for something above you, but even dream jobs have very real minimum qualification requirements.
Ask yourself: What can I do to make myself a better fit for the job I want? This means finding out what’s required, making decisions to collect the right education and experience and being realistic about the time it might take to become qualified. Sometimes this will be a specific degree or certification, other times this will be exposure to a certain industry. Go online to view job descriptions, talk to friends and mentors you look up to and try to find actual documentation indicating what’s needed to qualify. It could take you years to be fully prepared for your dream job, but making conscious choices every day to move in the direction of that position will consistently and systematically elevate your qualifications and aptitude. Dream jobs aren’t earned overnight—but it’s up to you to make yourself ready so that when they appear, you can snatch the opportunity.
Step three: How are you going to be noticed?
At this point, your resume is updated and you’re confident in your qualifications. Now, it’s time to put yourself out there. If you’re aggressively and openly seeking a new job, posting your resume to job boards such as Indeed and CareerBuilder will give you access to a wide variety of open positions and recruiters. If you’re more passively looking or don’t necessarily want your current employer to be alarmed, update your profile on career-focused sites like LinkedIn and join groups within the industry of your dream job.
Still a few years away from being ready? Add to your education and experience by networking with people who can help prepare you. Before Kobe Bryant even retired from basketball he famously started cold-calling titans of business like Oprah and Nike CEO Mark Parker to pick their brains on advice about his next steps. Next to experience, networking is one of the best things you can do to making tangible moves toward your dream job. Surrounding yourself with other people who are already in that world will teach you so much about how to get in, what to expect—and sometimes even where there might be an opening. More importantly, they’ll get a chance to meet you. You’ve heard the saying “it’s all about who you know,” but really, it’s all about who knows you.
It’s a daily battle to curate our lives and careers into something we truly love. It’s important to remember though: as daunting as it may feel, you are not alone. Lean on your friends, ask a lot of questions, introduce yourself to strangers, listen—and above all, pay it forward (and backward) by helping others. Each day you spent committed to working towards your goals is a step closer to the hustle you’ve always dreamed of.
Kelly Babb is a lifelong connector of dots, working daily to help people find their dream jobs. At present, she is the internal Corporate Recruiter for an IT Staffing and Solutions Firm, Kavaliro. She can be found on LinkedIn when you log in today to make sure your profile is up to date.