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Creating Your Ideal Job. Throughout Your Career.

It’s up to you to choose your path.

What’s your ideal job? How many times have you been asked that question? Probably too many to count. Is there just one perfect job for you?

I like to think of jobs as steppingstones in your career. What may be ideal at one stage of your career may not be so in five years. Or there may be part of your career path that you know you need to conquer from an experience perspective, but it may not be your favorite role. So how can you turn that into your “ideal” job?

Here are ways to create that elusive “ideal” job:

Know Yourself

Know what you do well, and what you prefer to delegate or partner on. We all have different skill levels and interests. That’s not to say you should avoid work you are not comfortable with but recognize how you may minimize its impact on your current role. Easier said than done? Sure, most things are, and that is why trying a variety of roles is so helpful in crafting the idea of what you love to do versus what you tolerate. Make sure you think rationally about your chances of success with new ventures. What level of performance is needed? What is your personal history with similar responsibilities? Get a realistic assessment of your skills from colleagues and coaches.

Visualize It

Have a vision for your next job. What do you see yourself doing now, and in the future? I always say, look for the next after the next. How does each role help you get to that “next next?” The work you do when you start out lays a foundation for the roles you may gain over your career. Client service roles are an excellent way to build a knowledge of the business. You learn fast and build a credibility you will carry the rest of your career—with both future employers and clients. And your future teams will appreciate the empathy you have toward their client-facing roles. That’s how you become a good leader.

Change It

Not in the perfect role yet? How can you expand the role you have to include tasks that you enjoy? Look around your firm and see what is not getting done because it is a “on the side of the desk” responsibility. What new initiative is your firm trying to get off the ground? Raising your hand to take on extra responsibility not only gets you noticed but also lets you try on new roles and responsibilities with minimal risk to your current job. And suddenly your run-of-the-mill role has some new accountabilities that just may be the ticket to your ideal job. Sometimes you need to change your employer if you do not see a path forward that builds on your ideal career ladder. Before you do that, talk to your management to let them know what your goals and passions are. The ideal job does not have a time limit and may be a few years down the line. No one can recommend that for you if you do not let them know what you want.

Sync With Your Personal Values

Your career is not just a series of jobs. It can become “who you are.” I don’t mean that your life gets taken over by work, but when your career is aligned with your personal value set, they often become intertwined. “You” and your “role” become synonymous because the work you do feels like second nature. It often stops feeling like work at all. That can be good considering the amount of time you spend in your career. It’s like you are getting paid to be you!

Don’t Get Distracted by Shiny  

There is always a hot new job trend. But are the skills you learn going to get you to the next level in your career? Do you want them to? It is important to take stock often to ensure the roles you are mastering are getting you to where you want to go.

Stay Motivated

I know it seems like I say this too much. But it is your career. No one else is going to create the ideal job and reach out to you to ask you to apply. Over the course of your career, you are going to work more than 80,000 hours. It generally takes six months to master a new skill, 10,000 hours to become an expert. That is a lot of time to create new possibilities for yourself. That is how you build up your reputation and gain access to new opportunities. Again, that is up to you. Keep in touch with your PBOD (personal board of directors) to help you stay on track and keep you inspired and focused on your path.

Does the ideal job exist? Maybe not, but I think the ideal career exists. One that shifts and flows as you gain new skills and passions. Just make sure you are the one choosing that path.

Kate Healy is a financial services industry executive and NextGen advocate, focused on building brands. She was recently named managing director of the CFP Board’s Center for Financial Planning, starting Sept. 1.

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