If you’re ready to start a new career or are planning to go back to the drawing board after years in another profession, you might need some inspiration. Where do you start when it comes to finding your ideal job? And what does an ideal job even look like?

Well, it’s time to set your worries aside. Although there’s no single way to find your dream job, these simple (and fun!) exercises are a great way to brainstorm and find ideas you’ve maybe never thought of before. Grab a coffee, dive in, and get ready to find your best job match!

1. Allow yourself to think like a child

Think about what you wanted to do as a child. What was your dream career? Is it something you'd still be interested in pursuing? If you thought of multiple career tracks you wanted to do when you were little, I'd recommend writing them down and ranking them in order of interest. For example, when I was younger, I wanted to be a nurse and a zoologist, among other things. They aren’t paths I’d like now that I understand what they entail, but they do have some common threads around caring and healing, which is interesting to note.

Don't think about what it takes to get there for now. You can think about those details if you decide it’s a path you’re serious about.

2. Survey your interests 

It sounds silly, but when you're thinking about how to find your dream job, are you sure you’re considering all of your interests, or are you simplifying them into what you know are current job-ready skills? If your answer to this is the latter, get out a pen and some paper and think about everything that interests you, even the most minute things.

It doesn't matter if you're interested in classic films, medical procedures, skincare, fashion, or gardening! Write them all down. Can you make a job out of any of them? 

3. Be honest about what a sustainable job is for you

Here's the caveat to going with your interests: you might only enjoy them as a hobby. For example, I love crafting. Say I decided I loved scrapbooking and wanted to see if I could somehow make a scrapbooking business. When I sit down and think about it, that’s a hobby I enjoy sometimes. However, it would never be a sustainable business endeavor because I would get sick of it and ruin my love for it.

I also love talking to people about their problems, but I get too tired and care too much to do it professionally. I recognize I would burn out fast, and it wouldn’t be worthwhile to follow that path.

So take some time to examine your interests in this way. Which interests should remain outside the work world, and which could you do 24/7 without getting sick of it?

4. Examine your strengths and weaknesses

You know what your skills are! Embrace them. Task yourself with exploring your career strengths and weaknesses. Try new things. Take an inventory of what you’re good at and what could use improvement. Also, think of skills you haven’t used at work yet. Write these down in a list and circle the skills you think are the most fun for you to utilize. 

5. Analyze your past jobs

Everyone has had a job they’ve disliked, or at least, things they’ve disliked about it. When you’re wondering how to find your dream job among all the noise, think of what you’ve already learned about yourself at work. Remember that one project you dreaded? Maybe you disliked talking to customers or didn’t feel like a part of the team. Do you like team-based workplaces or doing things on your own? Take this into account as you’re considering a job change.

It’s helpful to reflect on this and write them down in “Like” and “Dislike” columns.

6. Think about your regrets and how you can change them

Maybe you went the safe route or listened to your parent’s input when you chose your college major. Perhaps you didn’t go to college, took over the family business, or became a general manager or boss. You don’t have to stay stagnant! Think about your current career regrets. Do you wish you would’ve gone to veterinary school or become a chef? 

Even if the process to get there is a long road, you can find jobs that don’t require the same level of commitment if you don’t want to go back to school or enroll in a trade program. For instance, you might try working in a vet’s office, becoming a vet tech, or working with animals in some other capacity rather than enrolling in a years-long degree program.

7. Survey your friends and family

Sometimes, it's hard to look at yourself objectively. Your friends and family can help you determine your strengths —  believe it or not. They might have a good idea of what job you would thrive in. Make a short survey to get some ideas. Include questions about your strengths, weaknesses, and what words describe you. Where do they see you in five years? Your questions can be as creative as you want.

8. Write a letter to your inner critic

Everyone has an inner critic, the voice in your head that can hold you back if you let it. If you feel you haven't reached your full potential because you've been listening to the negative voice in your head for too long, it’s time to put your critic in its place. This exercise is a fun one to release some stress and see which doubts are plaguing you. Write a letter to your inner critic (because you know them well!) and tell them you’re letting go of the negativity and self-doubt. You don’t have to think a lot before writing. Just sit down and get your thoughts on the page. 

When you’ve finished, read it, and then do with it what you will. You can burn, shred or crumple it. Toss it into the bin! Whatever gives you a release. As a note, this exercise might be one you need to repeat. When you feel your inner critic rearing its ugly head, remind yourself why you’re awesome at what you do and that you’ll continue to grow into a fulfilling career.

9. Create a career map: remember, the line doesn’t have to be (and probably won’t be) straight

If you have an inkling of what field you’d like to work in, try some scenarios in your head. How are you going to get there? Where will you be next year? Create your best case scenario on a map, with your end goal as a sort of Oz before you (except you’re not going to find some fraud behind a curtain!). Then, imagine your most outlandish path to achieving this job. What does that look like? Dream up as many paths as you want and sketch out these maps to keep you inspired.

10. Create a vision board: what does it say about you?

How do you envision your life? Cut out some photos from magazines or newspapers. Collect little odds and ends and make a vision board or scrapbook. Does this collection showcase your desires? If it does, use it as daily inspiration to refer back to. You can always add more items (or goals) to it later.

11. Take your personality into account

If you’re still stumped, knowing your personality can help your career choices. Try Truity’s Type Finder for Career Planning Test, the Career Personality Profiler, or the Holland Code Career Test. These tests can help you understand what your career needs might be and give you a good starting point for exploration.

Enjoy the process

You may need time to find and succeed in your dream job, but taking the first step is the most exciting part! Don’t forget to go easy on yourself and accept some setbacks. Most importantly, remember to enjoy the journey of discovery. If nothing else, you’ll head into 2023 knowing a whole lot more about yourself, and that can only help your career decisions in the long run. 

Cianna Garrison
Cianna Garrison holds a B.A. in English from Arizona State University and works as a freelance writer. She fell in love with psychology and personality type theory back in 2011. Since then, she has enjoyed continually learning about the 16 personality types. As an INFJ, she lives for the creative arts, and even when she isn’t working, she’s probably still writing.