How to Find Your Dream Job: 7 Career Path Exercises (2024)

Use these exercises to help you discover your dream job.

Some people are fortunate enough to know exactly what they want to do with their lives from the time they are young. However, not everyone has such a clear set of career objectives.

According to a recent Gallupreport, over 67 percent of the American workforce is either not engaged or actively disengaged at work. If you fall into this category, this article is for you. Whether you're 25 or 55 years of age, there's still an opportunity to pursue a career that you will find meaningful. Below are some of my favorite job-goal exercises to help you narrow down your search for a rewarding career.

1. Inventory your work history

Take a piece of paper, Word document, or Google document and make three columns. In the first column, make a list of every position you've held over the course of your career. This includes paid and unpaid experience, full-time, part-time, and temporary positions, internships, and volunteer experience.

In the second column, write out what you liked about each position you've held. Be as specific and detailed as possible. What about the work environment, nature of the work, company culture, industry, pay, your boss, your colleagues, etc. did you like?

In the third column, list what you disliked about each position you've held. What was frustrating, upsetting, or limiting? Again, be as specific as possible.

Once you've filled out all three columns, take a step back and review your findings. Look for themes or clues that will help you understand the types of work and work environment you enjoy most.

2. Pretend you have 9 lives

I originally adapted this exercise from Karen James Chopra, a career counselor and owner of Chopra Careers. The rules of this exercise are simple:

What nine jobs would you hold? The idea behind this exercise is to remove all the barriers the “But…” statements create so you're free to choose professions that truly interest you:

  • “I'd love to be a doctor,butI can't afford to go to medical school at this point in my life.”
  • “I want to be a ski patroller,butthe pay isn't enough to support my family's lifestyle.”
  • “I've always dreamed of becoming a country singer,butI don't have raw talent required to be successful.”

Ignore the “but” that immediately pops into your mind and write down the nine jobs that you're attracted to, no matter how unrealistic you believe they are.

Once you have your list, take a step back and give it a good look. While many of these careers may not be realistic options today, they can help you identify important themes, such as a love of art, the need for autonomy, or an altruistic spirit, that will guide you towards your new career path. Remember, the types of jobs that didn't make the list can be just as telling as the ones that did.

3. Build your own job post

If you could create your own position, what would it look like? Write out what you're hoping to find in the perfect job ad. Brainstorm a list of responsibilities you'd hold in this role and which of your skills you'd utilize in order to be successful. For some people, this may be a blend of the jobs they've held in the past or a combination of their recent position and a hobby they're passionate about. Don't forget to describe the company where this job would be held. Think about the corporate culture, the industry, the size of the organization, and where it may be located. Write these details down as well. The more specific you can get, the better.

You can also run searches on job boards to find opportunities that interest you. As you browse the listings, copy the portions of the job descriptions that appeal to you and paste them into a Word document. Use all these different pieces to construct the ideal job description.

4. Create your billboard top hits

Consider your proudest moments over the course of your lifetime. Think about your college career, your professional work history, your volunteer experience, and other extracurricular activities you've been involved in, and brainstorm the top five accomplishments that you found to be rewarding and satisfying.

Once you have that list, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why were these achievements so important to me? What about them did I enjoy most?

  • What was my involvement? Was I tasked with the project, or did I initiate it on my own?

  • What was my key motivation? (e.g., recognition, pay, a promotion, contributing to the greater good)

  • What was the environment like? Was it entrepreneurial and fast-paced? Slower but controlled?

  • What was the focus of the project? (e.g., the arts, new program development, social consciousness)

  • What core values drove my work during this project? (e.g., collaboration, empowerment, accountability, innovation, efficiency, diversity, service excellence)

This exercise will help you identify the key skills, core values, and ideal work environment in which you thrive. Use this information to brainstorm possible career paths and associated job goals.

5. Pinpoint your core skills and talents

When considering skills and talents, it is critical to think outside your job description and industry. Go beyond what you can do (e.g., reconcile cash accounts, answer the phone) and identify your underlying abilities.

Are you amazing at diffusing tense situations with irate customers by actively looking for a win-win solution? Can you put small details together into a big picture that tells a story and highlights patterns? Do you naturally and easily inspire the team to make that last bit of effort when everyone is discouraged and tired?

Some of us have a difficult time seeing talents and superpowers inside ourselves. If that is the case for you, ask people you trust what they think you are great at.

6. Recall your childhood passions and dreams

Think back to when you were young. Before you were limited by what was rational and practical, you had a dream. What was it?

Now, you may come back with a dream of “wearing dinosaur costumes in Japanese monster movies” or “an administrative assistant.” Reflect on what those meant to you as a child. Did you connect to the fun of creating make-believe worlds? Your desire to help others? A flair for showmanship and drama? What is inside this package of a childhood dream that reflects who you are?

A way to clarify your thinking is by completing this sentence: “As a child, I wanted to be someone who…” Perhaps you wanted to be someone who puts a smile on other people's faces. Think about the impact you want to make — whether in a technical field or in the lives of others.

7. Research the professionals who inspire you

If after, all this work, you have identified some potential career paths, look for professionals who are involved in your areas of interest. Start by digging through your personal network.

Your goal should be to connect with at least five people who work in that field. Set up phone calls or face-to-face meetings, and get their thoughts on what their professional lives are like.

How did they get to their current position? What advice do they have for the younger version of themselves? What do they love about their jobs, and what is their least favorite thing? What challenges should someone like you expect on the path, and what is the best way to deal with those challenges? What pay can you count on in the beginning?

Play detective and pick up on the small details that Google won't mention to you.

For this step, don't limit yourself to just one or two conversations — with your future on the line, you want to gather as many perspectives as possible. If what you learn is exciting and a little terrifying, you have some good early signs to keep investigating that direction. If you discover that the real-life version of the intriguing career path is nothing like the brochure and you have a difficult time getting excited about it, switch your focus.

Map out 5 ways to get there

In the early stages of the dream job-discovery process, it is best to keep judgments out of your thinking. Sure, your logical mind might pipe in with all sorts of helpful tips, such as “But you don't have the degree for this!” or “You could never break into that field!” or “You are too old to start this.” Do your best to ignore it for the time being. There will be a time for the feasibility analysis, but that time is not in the beginning.

Challenge yourself to imagine at least five ways (more is better) of how you could find yourself working in a field of interest. The scenarios could range from totally logical to far-fetched. What you want is many possibilities. They may not play out exactly as you imagine, but see that there are multiple ways to get what you want.

Determine a small next step

With your mind and imagination primed, you are ready for your next step toward a dream job. Start small. Most change happens gradually, so identify the smallest action you could take today to get closer to what you want.

It does not have to be involved, expensive, or dramatic. Perhaps you love flowers and want to be someone who puts a smile on other people's faces. How about picking up a weekend shift at a local florist's shop or volunteering to do flower arrangements for a friend's baby shower? Or maybe you are pulled toward writing, and your next step is to launch a blog. Do you think that being a yoga teacher is your calling? Make a commitment to go to at least four yoga classes next week.

Final thoughts

Discovering your true career goals is not easy. As you go on this journey, try to keep your focus on what you really want — what is fulfilling and makes you happy. It is OK to not know where this road will take you right away — the commitment of walking a few steps every day is enough.

If you want more resources to help you on your way, try these:

Once you identify your dream job, you'll have to land it. Get a free resume review to find out how your resume stacks up.

This article was updated in February 2021. It contains work written by Natalia Autenrieth.

Recommended Reading:

  • 5 Steps to Define Your Career Goals

  • What to Do When Your New Job Isn't Your Dream Job

  • 5 Tips to Help Students Prepare for Their Careers

Related Articles:

How to Find Your Dream Job: 7 Career Path Exercises (2024)


How do you choose a career path in 7 Simple Steps? ›

Top 7 Steps to Decide the Right Career Path
  1. Begin by determining what you like to do. ...
  2. Carry out a SWOT analysis. ...
  3. Carry out a thorough market research. ...
  4. Choose the prospective fields and industry for work. ...
  5. Carry your skills with experience. ...
  6. Get required trainings and education in the career of your choice. ...
  7. Be optimistic.
23 Jun 2021

How do I find my dream career path? ›

  1. Lead with Your Strengths.
  2. Evaluate Your Past to Avoid a Dead End.
  3. Talk to People to Learn What Your Dream Job Is.
  4. Take Classes First, Figure Out What Career You Want Later.
  5. Consider What Work Environment You Need.

What are those six 6 secrets to creating your dream job? ›

6 Secrets to Creating Your Dream Job
  • Start small.
  • Be flexible.
  • Surround yourself with the right people.
  • Continue learning.
  • Find balance.
  • Don't give up.
15 May 2015

How do I decide my future career? ›

Use the list below to help you begin that process.
  1. Examine yourself. ...
  2. Reflect on your motivations. ...
  3. Think about your long-term goals. ...
  4. Take different self-assessment tests. ...
  5. Explore sectors. ...
  6. Explore industries. ...
  7. Seek out professional resources. ...
  8. Explore career options on your list.
16 Aug 2022

What are the 5 stages of career planning? ›

The model in this paper describes five processes criti- cal to effective career planning: initiation, exploration, decision-making, preparation, and implementation (Magnusson, 1991, 1992). The processes are cyclical, al- though a few clients may begin at initiation and proceed sequentially through to implementation.

What are the 5 levels of careers? ›

What are the five career stages?
  • Exploration. Typical age range: 21-25. ...
  • Establishment. Typical age range: 25-35 years old. ...
  • Mid-career. Typical age range: 35-45 years old. ...
  • Late-career. Typical age range: 45-55 years old. ...
  • Decline. Typical age range: 55-65 years old.

How do I write a career plan? ›

8 Steps to an Effective Career Plan
  1. Identify Your Career Options. Develop a refined list of career options by examining your interests, skills, and values through self-assessment. ...
  2. Prioritize. It's not enough to list options. ...
  3. Make Comparisons. ...
  4. Consider Other Factors. ...
  5. Make a Choice. ...
  6. Set “SMART” Goals.

How can I make my dream job come true? ›

5 Ways to Make Your Career Dreams Come True
  1. Think big. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who believe leaders are born that way and those who believe anyone can do or be anything. ...
  2. Be confident. You chose your dream, now believe in it. ...
  3. Don't expect instant results. ...
  4. Edit your friends list. ...
  5. Be grateful.

What is a good dream job? ›

Top 10 dream job ideas
  • Writer/author/critic. If you're a skilled wordsmith, just think of all the pleasurable ways you could earn a paycheck. ...
  • Actor/model/musician. ...
  • Pro athlete. ...
  • Entrepreneur/inventor/CEO. ...
  • Sommelier/food taster. ...
  • Doctor/lawyer. ...
  • Police officer. ...
  • Artist/illustrator.

How do you prepare for a dream job? ›

Here are 12 key steps to best prepare for finding your dream job:
  1. 1) Let go out of the notion of the perfect job. ...
  2. 2) Contribute Value to the World. ...
  3. 3) The world of work is changing. ...
  4. 4) Get Your Ducks in Row. ...
  5. 5) Think big picture but take small actions. ...
  6. 6) Do Your Homework. ...
  7. 7) Develop new skills & Be a life-long learner.
11 Mar 2020

Which career is the best? ›

10 Best Career Options in India - Top Career Opportunities
  • Data Science.
  • Digital Marketing.
  • Big Data.
  • Artificial Intelligence.
  • Programming.
  • Actuarial Science.
  • Management.
  • Banking.

What makes a person to have a great career? ›

Remember that passion is necessary for a great career, but it is not sufficient. There's no magic here. Success also demands persistence, focus, discipline, independence of mind, resourcefulness, experimentation and high creativity.

What career is in high demand? ›

Registered Nurses and Medical Professionals

Medical professionals are definitely at the top of the list. People will always need medical care and, while the technology we use to deliver some of that care is changing, the necessity for nurses, doctors, and medical professionals will always be there.

Can't find a career that interests me? ›

Try these ways to find a career that meets your interests and strengths:
  1. Identify your strengths. ...
  2. Consider your hobbies. ...
  3. Take a career quiz. ...
  4. Look for a role model. ...
  5. Try something completely new. ...
  6. Research potential salaries. ...
  7. Talk to a friend. ...
  8. Find an internship or apprenticeship.

What are the 6 career paths? ›

All jobs are divided into six different Career Paths:
  • Arts & Communication.
  • Business Management & Technology.
  • Industrial & Engineering Technology.
  • Health Services.
  • Human Services.
  • Natural Resources Agriculture.
6 Apr 2021

What age is Late career? ›

What is late career? 'Late career' refers to that life-stage when individuals adjust to the prospect of retirement. Late career used to be a life stage around 55-70 years of age, but these days two significant social changes are set to extend this late career stage.

What is career life cycle? ›

1. The lifecycle of the employee-employer relationship beginning with ones awareness of the organization through their employment at the organization to the exit from the organization.

What is a career model? ›

A career model is a common platform for career development and talent management comprising three components: 1. Career Stage Profiles (CSPs) define career paths and key stages along a career path, performance expectations for each stage, and what it takes to get to the next stage.

What are the 4 career stages? ›

It consists of four stages: Career Awareness, Career Exploration, Career Preparation, and Career Placement. Adults also continue to grow and develop in their careers as they age, albeit at a slower rate than children.

What are the 4 stages of career development? ›

Career development is an ongoing process consisting of four main recurring steps: self knowledge, exploration, decision-making, and action.

How do I plan for my future? ›

How to plan for the future
  1. Consider your ultimate personal life goals. ...
  2. Set short- and long-term goals. ...
  3. Review your career goals. ...
  4. Consider your time frame. ...
  5. Create a budget. ...
  6. Write your goals and plans down. ...
  7. Actively work toward your goals.
17 Mar 2022

What is a smart career goal? ›

SMART is an acronym used for goal setting – it stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Goals are part of every aspect of business/life and provide a sense of direction, motivation, a clear focus, and clarify importance.

How do I choose a career path in high school? ›

Explore your interests
  1. Learn about yourself. Understanding what you enjoy—and what you're good at—is the first step in exploring careers, say school counselors. ...
  2. Identify possible careers. ...
  3. Do your research. ...
  4. Internships. ...
  5. Jobs. ...
  6. Other activities. ...
  7. In high school. ...
  8. After high school.

How do I choose a career as a student? ›

7 Essential Tips in Choosing a Career for Students
  1. Uncover your passion. ...
  2. Develop your skills. ...
  3. Present your WHY. ...
  4. Understand your values. ...
  5. Use your resources. ...
  6. Make sure your career is consistent with your coursework. ...
  7. Be willing to embrace change.
23 Mar 2020

What is your career path as a student? ›

A career path is simply all the positions that you can hold as you grow and expand in your field. Your first job, or even the college degree, that you get can mark the start of your career path. As you start to gain more skills and knowledge, you can progress to new jobs or new responsibilities.

What is your career path essay? ›

A career goals essay refers to a piece of writing that explains which career path you wish to pursue and what you want to achieve. In the essay, you'll write about your career aspirations, relevant achievements that put you in a better position to fulfill your goals and ways your ambitions can help you go even further.

What are some career ideas? ›

Here are some popular career choices to consider:
  • School teacher.
  • Professor.
  • Flight attendant.
  • Sales representative.
  • Physical therapist.
  • Engineer.
  • Database administrator.
  • Registered nurse.

How do I help my teenager choose a career? ›

12 Smart Ways to Help Your Teenager Choose a Career Path
  1. 12 Smart Ways to Help Your Teenager Choose a Career Path. ...
  2. Part-Time Jobs Teach Teen's Valuable Skills. ...
  3. Explore Careers by Reading Biographies. ...
  4. Learn about New Careers by Volunteering. ...
  5. Take a Class or Unit Study. ...
  6. Find the Best Career Fit by Completing Personality Tests.
19 Feb 2020

What are the top 3 career choices? ›

Top 100 Careers
RankOccupation# of Jobs
2Registered Nurse712,900
4Computer Systems Analyst120,440
92 more rows

Which is best career option? ›

10 Best Career Options in India - Top Career Opportunities
  • Data Science.
  • Digital Marketing.
  • Big Data.
  • Artificial Intelligence.
  • Programming.
  • Actuarial Science.
  • Management.
  • Banking.

What are 7 factors to consider when choosing a career? ›

7 Important factors to consider when choosing a career
  • Your passions and interests. ...
  • Your desired salary. ...
  • Education requirements. ...
  • Work/life balance. ...
  • Travel requirements. ...
  • Opportunities for growth and development. ...
  • Job market outlook.
1 May 2022

How do you write a career plan example? ›

Follow these steps to begin creating your career plan:
  • List your career options. ...
  • Organize your list. ...
  • Compare and contrast. ...
  • Consider peripheral factors. ...
  • Choose your most viable career paths. ...
  • Identify goals. ...
  • Create a plan of action.

What are career goals? ›

A career goal is the ideal state that you aim for in your professional life. Career goals can be characterized as short-term or long-term, depending on how much time you anticipate working toward achieving your goal.

When should you start thinking about your career? ›

So when should career planning really become a priority? The easy answer to this question is: now. It doesn't matter what stage you're at – the sooner you put your mind to it, the easier it will be to build a career you really want.

What are your career goals Where do you see yourself in 5 years? ›

In five years, I want to complete the internal training program for my position. I've read about it on your website, and I think it's a fabulous program. Not only would I get all the training for my role, but I would be on the fast track to becoming a project manager. That's my top career goal.

Why is career important in life? ›

There are many benefits to having a career purpose. First, it will inspire you to do and be more in your job, which will light you up and make your life come alive. You'll make more progress in your career too, because you're engaged and interested in what you're doing.

What makes a person to have a great career? ›

Remember that passion is necessary for a great career, but it is not sufficient. There's no magic here. Success also demands persistence, focus, discipline, independence of mind, resourcefulness, experimentation and high creativity.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Van Hayes

Last Updated:

Views: 5688

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (46 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Van Hayes

Birthday: 1994-06-07

Address: 2004 Kling Rapid, New Destiny, MT 64658-2367

Phone: +512425013758

Job: National Farming Director

Hobby: Reading, Polo, Genealogy, amateur radio, Scouting, Stand-up comedy, Cryptography

Introduction: My name is Van Hayes, I am a thankful, friendly, smiling, calm, powerful, fine, enthusiastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.