Five Ways to Start Your Dream Career
There's something about the back-to-school season that inspires you to dream big about your job. Caroline Ceniza-Levine '93BC tells you how to jump-start your perfect career.
My most recent career change (adding a second business, Costa Rica FIRE) turned one earlier this year. Where are you with your dream career?
In a recent Forbes post, I shared five ways to get started on a dream career with little time or money. Even the wrong first step is better than no step because it is taking action that enables you to course-correct along the way. Since getting started is so important, I want to make sure you don’t get stuck on what to choose for that first step. Here are five more choices for that first step. Whatever it might be, here are five ways to start your dream career right away:
1 – Start a dream fund
You don’t need money to get started, but you will likely need some money to continue on the path. You may need to invest in additional training or certifications. You may need to join a professional association or attend a conference. You may need to slow down or leave your current job as your new career gets busier, and you’ll need money to bridge that gap. Start a dream fund now to have the money you probably will need later. If you don’t end up changing careers or if you don’t need the money after all—say, your new career takes off without any interruption to your current career—then you can spend your dream fund celebrating!
2 – Remake your schedule
In addition to money, you’ll need to invest time. In the beginning, when you don’t know exactly where to spend your time, you can at least start planning where this time will come from. Time for your dream career must come from something else—we can’t add more hours to a day. Take the time now to wind down other activities. Block time off your upcoming calendar, so you don’t inadvertently schedule too much. Practice saying "no" to requests even if you have the time now, so it’s easier for you to make time for your dream career later.
3 – Remake your network
A new career doesn’t mean you need a whole new set of friends. However, depending on how far afield your dream career is from the one you have currently, you will likely need to meet additional people that are active in your new career field. You can start small by joining online communities in your new field, or attending one-off Meetups. A bigger commitment would be to join a professional association. With your existing network, prioritize people who themselves have pursued a dream and will likely be encouraging and supportive to you.
4 – Savor your alone time
While it’s helpful to surround yourself with people in your new field, as well as people in your network who you know will be supportive, it is premature to involve everyone in your new career plans. There is a coaching school of thought that believes if you want to make a big change, you should announce it loudly and broadly, thereby making yourself accountable to such public proclamations. While I agree there is accountability, I think this benefit is outweighed by the risk that naysayers will talk you out of your big change before it has a chance to flourish on its own. You probably already have doubts and anxiety about making a big change. You don’t need additional people piling on. While a career change often requires increased networking, I would focus on your new network and deliberately hold off on most everyone else. This might mean more alone time in the early days, as you are building that new network.
5 – Visualize yourself in the dream career
You may think all your fantasizing about your dream career means you have done too much visualization. But getting lost in your daydreams is not the same as taking dedicated time, in a quiet space, to very specifically and colorfully visualize yourself in the dream career. See yourself working in your ideal space, doing the role you love, surrounded by the best team, and feeling the joy, fulfillment, creativity, and intellectual challenge of the work. Visualization will keep you inspired and also strengthen your confidence and resolve that you will attain your dream career.
I have used all of these steps in the multiple career changes I have made. In my most recent career change, when I expanded a side interest in real estate investing into a full-fledged second business focused on real estate, FIRE, and travel, the dream fund was a big step given how much more capital-intensive this business was. But even something seemingly more intangible like visualization was critical for me to see myself as someone beyond the career work I had been exclusively focused on to date.
Which action step will you start with? Can you visualize yourself in your dream career?
Caroline Ceniza-Levine is an executive coach, writer, speaker, and co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching and CostaRicaFIRE.com, a real estate, travel, and financial independence blog. She writes for Forbes and teaches professional development courses at Barnard and SIPA. She has coached professionals at Amazon, Conde Nast, Goldman Sachs, Google, Tesla, and other leading firms. A classically-trained pianist at Juilliard, Ceniza-Levine stays active in the arts, performing stand-up comedy. Learn more about Ceniza-Levine and the Columbia Career Coaches Network.