Leadership Q&A: How do I stay focused on my dream job?

focus“I know what I am passionate about, I know what I love doing. I get excited and focused. Then I struggle. I lose focus. It’s hard when you can’t seem to find the job you are looking for. How do you stay focused and energized as your search drags on?” I could hear the urgency in her voice. She desperately wanted the answer, she desperately wants to find that job. 

I answered a question similar to this a few months ago in the post, How do you stay motivated during a job search? That post provides some helpful guidance, however, this question was not necessarily about motivation. This person was clearly motivated to find a job, she just could seem to keep her focus and energy on her passion. 

Dream Job

Let’s start with the concept of a dream job. Frankly, I debated with myself about using that phrase in the subtitle of my book. A dream job is one that leverages your strengths and skills, at an organization that is aligned with your values, in which you can pursue your passions, and fulfill your purpose. In other words, one that aligns with your personal brand. It is a job where you see eye-to-eye with your boss (for the most part), and one in which you feel valued by the organization and believe in its mission and vision. 

What a dream job is not is your last job. Dreams change, you change, the organization changes. I’ve had three or four dream jobs (perhaps more when I stop to think about it. 

The other thing a dream job may not be is your next job. Your circumstances may dictate, especially in this economy, that you need a job…any job. That’s ok. You are not settling, you are being practical. A bridge job may be exactly what you need! 

Are you ready for it?

You may also need a job as a stepping stone. It is possible you do not have all the skills or the experience to move directly to your dream job. You may need a stop or two along the journey. What skills are needed? Do they align with yours? What experience is required? Do you have it? Can you get it by taking a step back to move forward? 

You may need to assess your dream job. Is it realistic? All those memes that say if you try hard enough you can do anything, are inspiring, but at some level, they are, well, bunkus. I’m not trying to shatter anyone’s dream, but if I’m 5’ 10 ½ “ with a vertical leap of about an inch and half, I can practice and train all I want, the odds of me becoming the center for the Boston Celtics are very, very small. Perhaps I need to look to an adjacent career, say as the head of IT for the Celtics. 

I know this is not really answering the question, so let’s get ourselves out of the rabbit hole I took us down. “How do I stay focused on my dream job?”

Journal, Journal, Journal

You probably knew that was coming. I am, after all, a huge proponent of journaling. While journaling is not the answer to every question, it is part of the answer to this question. If you form the habit of journaling, it will provide a gift to you. That gift is insight and perspective. 

When you are focused and energized in your search, write about it. Why are you focused? Why are you energized? What does it feel like to be focused and energized? 

When you lose focus or energy for your search, write about it. How did you lose your focus? What got you off track? Why is your energy down? What triggered this? What does it feel like? 

The mere process of writing this down will help you focus on what is important. Studies have shown writing a journal helps to quiet the noise in our heads and focus. Try it! 

Writing in a journal is a written record. When you go back and read it (and you should go back and read it often), you gain insights and perspectives. You can discern patterns. You can identify roadblocks to avoid. As you read about the focus and energy you had, you will start to feel that focus and energy. Try it! 

Coach Accountability

Holding ourselves accountable is hard. It is easy to rationalize or justify our lack of progress. Life is busy, life is hectic, life is filled with noise and distractions. We all need someone in our lives that can help hold us accountable to our plans and our progress. Accountability is one of the reasons I recommend coaches. Be it a career coach, life coach, or executive coach, a coach can provide a level of accountability beyond ourselves, our friends, or even our spouse or significant other. 

A coach is great at asking the right questions, providing unbiased feedback, and, motivating us. They are not cheerleaders, but over time they learn the triggers that inspire us, motivate us, and energize us for the journey ahead. 

A coaching relationship is not a one-and-done. It is one that takes time to build. You have to have trust between you and that takes time. There needs to be consistency in your interactions, weekly, monthly…you work that out with your coach. When I was in a job search, I met with my coach on a weekly basis. Later when I had an executive coach we met once a month. It’s important to set a cadence and stick to it. 

Coaching is an expense that is well worth every cent, however, you may not be in a position to be able to pay a coach during a job transition. If that is the case, locate networking groups in your area that are specific to people in transition. Those organizations provide many benefits, not the least of which, is coaching. Many career coaches, practicing and retired, volunteer for job seekers networking groups. They are there because they care and want to help. Use them! 

Highs and Lows

There are going to be highs and lows in every job search. I’ve talked with people this year whose search is going on 7, 10, 12 months and longer. It can get discouraging. You can lose motivation. Distractions occur and you can lose focus. It can be exhausting and drain your energy. If you are in this position, I hope these thoughts are helpful. I encourage you to reach out to friends, family, a coach, or someone in your network. One of the ways to combat the impacts of stress is to feel connected to other people. Use those connections. Heck, reach out to me, I’m always up for a Zoom call! 

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