How To Find A Career You Love — 5 Steps To Identifying Your Passions & Your Dream Job

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The perfect job, it’s the cornerstone of the American Dream. The kind of thing that you would do for free but are more than happy to get paid for.

Regardless of if you’re someone who is just graduating or someone looking for a career change, you — like many others — are left wondering how to find a job you're truly passionate about.

It’s certainly possible to find your dream job, but — like all things in life — figuring out how to find a career you love is more complicated than that.

Very few people can simply graduate from high school or college and walk into the door of the company of their dreams. Few people can even identify a passion to pursue professionally when they are first preparing to enter the workforce or looking to change careers.

Most people won't find the literal perfect job for them, but what's important is that you can find a career that is both sustainable and satisfying.

So how do you start? How do find something that you love and can turn into a career?

The following steps will help you identify what you're passionate about and find a career you'll be fulfilled by:

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1. Reflect on past experiences.

When considering what kind of career to pursue, there is a myriad of factors to consider. A lot of people get hung up on external factors and fail to reflect on their own past experiences to identify what they might truly love to do.

On the importance of looking to past life experiences when searching for a new career, ACC Success and Leadership Coach Christine Hourd writes that “To discover your passion that can be developed into a successful career, look to your favorite childhood memories. This was a time when you were free to explore, and didn’t yet have the influence of others to choose a career that they want you to pursue. Within that experience you’ll find the essence, or ‘why’, that will turn work into play.”

2. Don’t ever stop being a student.

Just as it’s important to reflect on previous life experiences when seeking out your passions, it’s critical to always look for ways to improve your skillset and get exposure to new experiences.

You may find what you love the subject of your classes at school or through working at a summer job. It’s critical to develop usable skillsets that you can take with you between jobs before.

Relationship and Communication Coach Marilyn Sutherland says to “Learn from every job. Understand the skills you need to develop to be successful and grow your competency in those skills. Many skills are transferable.”

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3. Ask other people in your life.

People are the greatest resources that we have. Speaking to a peer doubles the number of life experiences available to you and speaking to someone who has already had a full career can offer even more.

Everyone lives unique lives but that doesn’t mean that others’ experiences are to be undervalued. Loved ones can often provide insights that you have become blind to and that input can help guide you in the right direction.

4. Seek out professional advice.

As important as it is to speak to other people in your life when looking for a career that you can be passionate about, sometimes you need a fresh pair of eyes on your situation.

Professional career coaches have worked with many others in similar situations and, as Career Development and Life Coach Lisa Petsinis writes, “Finding work that fits can be overwhelming, and working with a mentor or coach can help you sift through the information in an objective way, and encourage you -- especially when everyone else in your life has an opinion.”

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5. Try internships and entry-level positions.

As most career professionals will tell you, they started out with entry-level positions and internships in their fields. It can be a daunting task to take on new work, especially when the work doesn’t pay much — or even anything at all. It is no less important for developing skills and experience and to see if the field might be right for you.

It’s important to take these early professional experiences as learning opportunities too, as Counselor and Relationship Therapist Lisa Rabinowitz put it, “I looked for internships in my field. I interviewed therapists about the pros and cons of their jobs.”

Above all, when looking for a fulfilling and rewarding career it’s important to remember that you don’t have to love it.

The work environment, hours, commute, and compensation are all important factors to consider when looking for a new job. Ultimately striking an appropriate and sustainable balance between all of these factors is the goal.

Even if the job you find isn't exactly what you’d describe as your dream job, as long as you enjoy aspects of it and it meets your needs to the point where you can support yourself and you are satisfied then that is what matters.

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Dan O'Reilly is a writer who covers news, politics and social justice. Follow him on Twitter.