How to craft your dream career (when it doesn’t exist)

Aug 19, 2021

I work with leaders and business owners in professional services. Industries like law, accounting, finance and consulting. Where traditional business models, social norms and ways of ‘doing business’ exist.

But what if this isn’t the right fit for YOU?

You love your work, clients (or aspects of what you do). Yet your ‘ideal’ role or the way you want to work is… outside the box.

Over the years, I’ve seen so many talented people leaving jobs in search of the ‘right role’. Or walking away from their careers completely. They think the issue is their existing employer and the solution is to find a new one.

So they start a new role and at first, it’s great. Then 6 months in, the dissatisfaction starts creeping in. Some people change companies many times but find moving jobs doesn’t fix it.

Searched high and low for your ‘ideal’ role to realise — it doesn’t exist? Then, create it!

Designing your dream role isn’t a crazy idea. We’re all going to experience several career changes throughout our working lives. Many future occupations don’t even exist yet!

Innovation and adaptability will be key to futureproofing our careers. It’s smart to think outside the box and craft the career you want.

Feel like your job isn’t the right fit? Here are six tips to create a career on your terms.

TIP #1 — REALISE THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU

Does it seem like you’re moving jobs every other year in search of ‘something better’? You feel flaky and shame about job-hopping. Like you’re always looking for the right role or employer.

You start to ask yourself — is there something wrong with ME? I go through this cycle every few years and I’m beginning to think I’M the problem.

First of all realise, there’s nothing wrong with you. It’s okay to outgrow an organisation or change jobs. Gone are the days where you stay in a role for life, get the gold watch and retire.

Some people need consistent change and variety in their day. The challenge of an unfamiliar organisation or work environment. Or the opportunity to learn from and develop relationships with new people.

Others like the stability and stay longer. Neither is wrong or better, so stop beating yourself up!

TIP #2 — START SEEING THE POSSIBILITIES

Your existing knowledge and experience limits your ability to find your ‘ideal’ role. If you’ve never had this role before and don’t know anyone who has, it’s easy to assume it doesn’t exist. But you haven’t experienced it yet!

In 2013 I left the corporate world because I wanted to do things differently — and create a career on my terms. Yet I was so conditioned by the way I’d learnt to ‘do business’ and had no other experience to compare it to.

I ended up replicating the same corporate business model in my own business. And I felt trapped and miserable!

There was no logical reason for me to operate my business this way. But it was all I knew.

Our brain can only show us what it knows and has experienced. The reticular activating system (RAS) filters unnecessary information so we receive what’s important. It’s the reason when you’re looking to buy a certain car, you start seeing the same model everywhere.

To show your brain what’s possible, you need to surround yourself with people who are doing the work you want to do. Tap into your network, take these individuals for coffee and talk to them about their careers. If you need to look broader, ask your mentors or follow people on social media — LinkedIn, podcasts, YouTube.

The more evidence you give your brain, the more you’ll begin to see the possibilities which exist.

TIP #3 — GET TO THE HEART OF WHAT YOU WANT

The biggest mistake I see people make is starting from the ‘outside in’. Meaning — they focus on the job FIRST and make their career choices from there.

In contrast, the framework I teach starts from the ‘inside out’. Your purpose, values and the impact you want to make through your work. I’ve found this is key for career success, sustainability and fulfilling work.

Those external, work-related aspects are important and critical for high performance. Your employer, team and clients; job responsibilities and work environment. But if your work isn’t aligned to your purpose and values, you’ll struggle to stay motivated long-term!

If something isn’t right at work, most people assume an external factor is the issue. So they try and fix it by changing jobs. Yet without addressing these critical ‘internal’ factors, the same problems follow them to their next role.

Instead, get connected to your purpose and values. What’s the vision for your future career? What does your ideal career look like and feel like?

Use this information as the starting point to create the career you want. Then, check it makes sense from a financial standpoint, supports your vision and ideal lifestyle. Finally, consider the work-related aspects which are important to you.

TIP #4 — FOCUS ON YOUR ZONE OF GENIUS

The smartest and most successful people create their dream role around their zone of genius. This is what you’re good at and love to do.

Whether you’re a corporate leader or run your own business, start honouring your strengths as much as possible. Then delegate, outsource or eliminate your weaknesses.

What do you love to do? When are you in ‘flow’? Focus your time here.

Also — pay attention to when you’re angry, frustrated or resentful. This is a sign you’re out of alignment with your work and need to make changes.

If you need to, track your activities for a week and write down how you spend your time. Then start to remove tasks outside your zone of genius, one at a time. Focus on the strategic work which moves the needle in your organisation too.

TIP #5 — LOOK FOR THE OPPORTUNITIES

Pinpointed a problem in your organisation? Talk to your employer about creating a role around it. Highlight the benefits and the skills you have to help them solve it.

Also remember, over 70% of jobs aren’t advertised. Invest in developing your network and tap into the hidden job market. Look for opportunities to create your own role before companies go to market.

TIP #6 — MANAGING MULTI-PASSIONS

Are you an individual with lots of interests? Need variety in your work? Feel constrained by your job because there’s so many things you love to do — and it’s impossible to do them all in one role?

When you’re multi-passionate, it can be challenging to create your dream career. Because you have so many ideas and passions!

If you’re struggling to figure out how to bring them all together in one role, take the pressure off yourself. Realise not every passion needs to become your day job or an entrepreneurial endeavour. Give yourself the freedom to enjoy some interests and passion projects outside work.

Testing ideas + passions

Know what your ideal role looks like? Find ways to test new skills or experience different aspects of your preferred role. Consider learning new work-related skills, volunteering or shadowing someone.

Love speaking? Join Toastmasters to develop your skills. Or do some free speaking gigs to promote yourself as an expert in your industry. It may lead to paid work, a second income stream — or even your future career!

Interesting in coaching? Look for ways to coach people in your current role. Do a short introductory course before committing to a long-term certification program.

Portfolio careers, side hustles + starting a business

Portfolio careers are also becoming more common and acceptable to corporate employers. I’ve met many Lawyer/Life Coaches, Accountant/Artists and HR Leader/Podcast Hosts!

Becoming your own boss may be the best way to craft your dream career long-term. Start by building a side hustle and transitioning into your business over time.

It’s frustrating to feel like your career doesn’t fit and to always be searching for the ‘right role’. But the good news is, it’s completely possible to craft a career on your terms. These strategies have helped my clients create their ‘ideal’ role and I hope they support you too!

Want help to craft your dream career?​

Book your free 30 minute consult HERE to get started!

Stacey Back is a Career Strategist, Leadership Coach + Founder of Profile Careers. She helps high-achieving corporate leaders and business owners at a mid-career crossroads find the work that lights them up, increase their income, impact and create a career + life on their terms.

Stacey also supports professionals to transition from their corporate job into their own consulting business. She works virtually with individuals based across the globe.