5 Easy-to-Follow Rules to Achieve Your Dream Career
Ryan's 5 Dream Career Rules
Finding your purpose and passion isn't easy. Many of us spend our entire lives without even knowing what our purpose is, let alone how to apply it to the work we do every day. It doesn't help that a lot of career advice sounds the same and doesn't do much good in helping you to uncover the core values that will move you toward your Dream Career.
Career change and advancement take hard work, so you need some easy-to-follow rules that will guide you in the right direction.
Ryan did it. Here are his 5 Rules that he used to achieve the Dream Career that he always wanted. Make them your own and adjust them to your specific needs, and then let us know how they're working for you!
1. Earn At Least One New Certification Every Year
Look, industries are changing faster than they ever have. With the rise of AI technology, new specialties, and changing work dynamics, if you blink you might easily be left in the dust. Let me share a harsh truth: nobody cares what degree you have. Sorry. We live in a "what have you done for me lately" society, so the degree that you earned 15+ years ago certainly set the groundwork for where you are but it's not enough to move you forward.
So what certifications and specialties can you commit to earning right now? Each year, you should devote part of your budget to a certification that will advance your knowledge and make you more marketable. Do some research to figure out what certs will get you higher pay or will make you highly sought-after. Think big. Ideally it's something that you don't currently know much about. Sure, it would be easy to continue training in something that you're already good at. But growth comes from stepping outside of your comfort zone. Get to steppin'.
2. Find New (Informal) Mentors
The idea of finding a mentor can seem daunting, overly formal and scary. It's also a really big ask of someone to be your personal guru, and honestly not many high-achievers have that kind of time. But what if there were another way?
Tim Ferris talks about finding your "just-in-time" person, the person who can mentor you given where you are at this current moment in your life and career. Ask yourself what you need to get better at right now, and reach out to a few people you know to ask them "who do you know who might be good at this?" and ask for an intro. Feels a little easier than finding someone to agree to be your formal "mentor", right?
You can learn something powerful from almost everyone you interact with, if you make the effort to lean in. Spend time around people you want to be more like. Plain and simple.
3. Volunteering Is A Shortcut
Let me start by naming how much I hate networking. It feels gross and inauthentic to rub elbows with the express purpose of advancing your career. It can feel transactional and icky. So unless you're of the variety who loves networking (and to be honest, they're probably not reading this right now), it's going to require a bit of a reframe from the traditional advice.
It's time to play the long game (intentionally). Right now in or around your community there are dozens of workshops or keynotes happening involving leaders in your field. Most of these events could use an extra hand. So do a quick search on Eventbrite or Google and make a list. Contact the event organizer and offer to volunteer at any of these events with interesting speakers and make yourself more useful than every other volunteer.
Be very professional and predict the needs of VIPs before they even know them and address them with a smile. You'll get noticed because the bar can be very low with volunteers. This provides you with a perfect opportunity to be in a room with movers and shakers who are often willing and able to share knowledge, especially if you've made an excellent impression.
4. Focus On the Uncrowded Areas
Humans tend to be herd animals. We see a line and we stand in it, even if we don't know what it's for. But I've never been a herd animal. And so I always love finding out what's going on in the uncrowded spaces.
Next time you're at a professional conference, you'll probably notice that there are huge lines to talk with speakers or other VIPs. But what about moderators or event organizers? They're usually pretty wide open. So move away from the crowd and find the knowledgeable and unbusy and have a (genuine) conversation. Be curious. And then ask them if there's anyone else there with whom you might get along and see if they'll do a quick intro. These organizers and moderators are generally pretty knowledgeable about who's who and what they are experts in. Once you get the intro, you're open to having another genuine conversation with another expert in the field. And repeat maybe 3-5 times.
Remember, you're not looking for who you can ask for something. You're trying to make a genuine connection built on curiosity and a desire to learn more about others' journeys in their field. People are wary of those trying to take advantage of them, so seriously...be genuine.
5. Be easy to work with (while preserving your well-being)
This last rule should be a no-brainer, but unfortunately it is not. I've said this a few times, but approaching your work with a sense of curiosity will get you far. It will also make you much easier to work with because you will always be interested in getting better. Things like showing up on time, being a supporter and problem-solver, and keeping it positive will all go a long way toward advancing yourself in the eyes of the folks who matter.
Doing all of this AND preserving your well-being should be the key. Because showing up as your best self requires self-care. You can only have career longevity if you take great care of yourself. So rather than saying "yes" to every request, perhaps your answer should be "yes, if" to requests that are harder. Yes, I can do this, if there are several other guiderails put in place. That's a small shift, but one that pays off large dividends.
Ryan Skimmons, MS is a leading career and business coach for professionals looking to achieve their Dream Career, an author, training facilitator and keynote speaker. Connect with him @BRtrainsyourbrain