Do you have a dream job?
Do you have aspirations that go beyond the role or title that you have today?
For most of us, our career is a journey. Gone are the days of getting one job and holding it for forty years, patiently waiting for scheduled promoted and pay raises. Few people expect to be at the same company they’re at 10 years from now, which on one hand, is a good thing. People are always looking ahead, striving for more, and looking for new opportunities.
But on the other hand, all this looking ahead can make it hard to engage with the job you’ve got right now.
And if you’re not engaged in the job you have now, well, how likely is it that you’re investing the kind of energy and focus that will propel you forward into the dream job you want?
Every role is a learning opportunity. But if you spend all your time daydreaming about founding a company or working from home, it’s easy to forget that those things don’t come easy — they come to the people who work hard enough to get the opportunity to do them successfully.
You need to learn how to identify your goals and make incredible progress on them today — not in some distant, future, someday role — but today. Your current job is the best opportunity you have right now to grow your career. Are you investing in it?
It is possible and in fact, it’s necessary. If you want to be crazy successful, you can’t start working towards it tomorrow. If you want to have a dream job, the time to start working towards it is now.
What exactly are you working towards?
Seriously — what are you working towards? Too many people see themselves working towards vague dream job ideas like, “next steps” “more money” or “more freedom”. Well, these things all mean really different things to different people.
Years ago, I worked in an office job where I felt stuck — I wasn’t challenged and I wasn’t motivated, but I also didn’t have a good reason to leave. Every time I thought about quitting I would get so overwhelmed by the realization that I had no idea what I’d rather be doing, that I just stuck around rather than figure it out.
It took many months before I finally sat down and said, “OK. What do I want?”. I wrote down what really wasn’t working about my current role. And then I wrote what my ideal day would be.
For me, I wanted more autonomy, I wanted to make my own schedule, and I wanted to leverage my greatest strength – writing – which was a tiny part of my office role but always my favorite things to do.
I connected with a college friend who worked at a content marketing company that hired writers to write short articles on topics like coupons and buying used cars. It wasn’t glamorous or even interesting, but I spent my evenings after work (I kept my desk job for 6 months after I started) cranking out content to build up some credibility in the field.
In addition, I doubled down on saving money — I put away as much as possible from every paycheck to help cushion what I knew would likely be a bumpy transition to freelancing. I worked overtime, and got more vocal about asking for opportunities to write so I could continue to build my skills.
Finally, I was able to take one of the biggest leaps in my career and start freelance writing. I got the autonomy I wanted (I picked my own projects and got to decide how they got done) and I got freedom to travel, work when I wanted, and spend quiet introvert time working from home.
Of course, I took a huge pay cut and I had to hustle all the time to make ends meet. To me, this was a fine trade for the freedom and autonomy — but for other people, this would be totally undesirable.
What would it mean for you to be crazy successful?
If you had your dream job, what would your day look like? When would you take up? What would you do first? Who would you see? Where are you?
Success means different things to different people. You can’t have everything — but you don’t want everything. You just want the things that matter to you. Maybe that’s a title, maybe that’s a company, maybe that’s a salary…you have to find the formula that really means something to you, so you can know it when you get it.
To know how to make your current job work for you, and not just be a random bullet point on your resume, you need to know where it’s taking you.
Once you know where you want to go, there are a few key lessons you must learn in order to leverage where you are now to get you there.
Here are just a few:
Think about your career capital.
What are you worth? What do you have to cash in?
In his book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport explains that the best careers are those where you do something unique and valuable. Passion actually comes second in this equation. When you do something that the people around you value and that you do well, you’ll get opportunities to pursue it further in increasingly satisfying ways.
Well, once you have accumulated what Newport calls “career capital” (which you earn by applying your valuable and unique skills for people who need them) you’ll be able to cash in the value you’ve been providing to get more of the things you want out of your career. So for example, if you’re the number 1 piano tuner in the world and everybody knows it, you can start pursuing more of the things you want out of your life.
You can ask for more money. You can start your own business and make your own hours, knowing you’ll still be in demand when you choose to work.
The more value you add and the more highly valued you are, the customized your career can be to the life you want to live.
Find your niche.
What do you do better than anyone else? What are people in need of, that they find valuable, that you can offer them?
Your niche is where you truly shine. Maybe it’s the thing you love to do, but finding your niche isn’t quite the same as pursuing your passion. You don’t have to eat, sleep, and breathe your niche or have it be the thing that jolts you out of bed every morning for it to guide a truly successful career.
Instead, you need to think of yourself like a business. What are you great at, and where is a market that needs your skills?
Get really good at what matters.
Every job has lots of elements. You might be an engineer, but you don’t just code on one thing all day long. You spend time in meetings, you send emails, you probably have a couple projects you could be working on in any given day.
It’s up to you to prioritize your time and effort on the things that really matter for your career. For example, if you want to be a manager, spending all day at your desk coding isn’t necessarily the best way to get there. A manager needs to be a good communicator and leader, so finding opportunities to practice those skills and get on everyone’s radar is critical.
Not all tasks have equal weight. If you can only do 5 things each day, make sure you are picking the 5 that are really moving you forward and not just spending your time.
If you want to be really sure what matters, you can’t just guess. The best way to find out is to talk to people — start with your manager, and then talk to the superstars on your team. Talk to people who have had your role in the past, who have since been promoted.
Find out what moves the needle forward, and then pile your energy on that. Delegate what you can of the rest, and make sure you’re not getting bogged down with busywork rather than doing the things that will really make an impact both on your team and in your career.
Find your path.
One thing the most successful people have in common — somewhere in their career, at least once, they did something on their own. They stepped off the beaten path and tried something — whether it was jumping industries, teaching a class, speaking at a conference, or starting a side project with someone inspiring.
Finding the path to crazy success usually means proactively jumping out of the day-to-day. Crazy success isn’t handed out on a platter — it it were, everyone would be crazy successful, right? It takes a willingness to do a little extra work — take a risk, start something, meet with someone, study something — that everyone else doesn’t do. It often takes nights and weekends spent, not doing work email, but pursuing greatness in something that matters.
Think of Warren Buffett growing up studying markets and investing. Think of Rand Fishkin diving so deep into SEO and building a business that he spent years in debt, carving out his own spot and becoming one of the biggest names in a new industry?
It takes a combination of luck, hard work, and being willing to jump when the opportunity comes. The path of the crazy successful is by necessity not the path that everyone takes, so you must be willing to say yes to hard work and unfamiliar situations.
Surround yourself with greatness.
Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” And it’s true, right? The people closest to you have the biggest influence on you. Their habits and attitudes rub off on you when you spend time together.
Are you spending time with people who lift you up? Or are you comparing yourself to people who do the bare minimum? To be truly successful, you always need to be holding yourself up and aligning yourself with people who are pursuing the highest standard.
In our newest Pop Star course, users will get the complete guide to taking the career you have in front of you, today, and using it to work towards your dream job. Figure out what you have to offer, who wants it, and how you can work right now to start achieving great success.
Ready to do something awesome? Your journey starts today — if you want it.