Five mistakes keeping you from your dream job

By Jade Tjia

More and more we are seeking fulfilling work, not just a job that pays the bills. BCom alumna Jade Tjia coaches business leaders in how to have meaningful lives. Here she reveals the five things not to do when looking for your ideal career...

We spend so much of our daily lives at work, so it’s no surprise that many of us are looking for more than just a pay check. More than ever we aspire to do work that we love, and we want our career to reflect who we are and align with our values.

Having spent over a decade climbing the ladder in the corporate world, I started my coaching business last year to help people find a career which gives their lives meaning, not just a healthy bank balance. In my experience, if you’re looking for a meaningful and fulfilling career, here are five common mistakes to avoid:

1. Starting with job ads

Many people start their job search by looking at SEEK and other job sites or the university Careers Online portal. Although this can be a great way to open your eyes to the world of work, you’re limiting your possibilities if that’s all you do.

While it is necessary to see what jobs are available, before you start looking at job ads the first step towards your dream job is self-reflection.

Without deeply knowing yourself – your values, strengths and interests – you are more likely to end up in a job or career that is unfulfilling. Jade Tjia

More and more people are seeking work that gives their lives meaning.

Plus, your lack of clarity may come across as uncertain or un-confident in interviews, so you’ll sell yourself short.

So take time to reflect on who you are and what you want to be known for. Write down a list of your values and prioritise them. Embrace your quirks and interests with pride – they are what make you unique. Think about what university subjects you’ve taken, jobs you’ve held and significant life experiences you’ve had, using this list to identify what makes work meaningful for you.

Research shows that finding a way to actively use your talents and strengths in your career is an amazing accelerator for professional success – you’re more likely to be engaged, perform better and experience faster growth and development. Plus you’re likely to be happier. If you’re not sure what your strengths are, the StrengthsFinder online assessment is a great way to help you identify and articulate your top five strengths.

2. Focusing only on the obvious career paths

During graduate recruitment season, it can sometimes feel like a position in a graduate program is your only ticket to success. But it’s estimated that only about 50 per cent of graduates find work through advertised positions , and 50 per cent through the ‘hidden’ job market (e.g. through your network or approaching employers directly).

Focus on the essence or substance of what you want to do, rather than the job title. Understand why you want a particular job so you can explore alternative options. You can use your skills and strengths in ways you may not have expected.

I’ve seen doctors become management consultants, and lawyers become entrepreneurs!

Jade Tjia
You may be surprised at the incredible variety of jobs that exist beyond the obvious categories like accountant, actuary or marketer. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people for a coffee chat or informational interview to answer questions remaining after desktop research about a potential career path.

3. Trying to find the ‘perfect job’

Especially when you’re starting out in your career, it’s easy to be afraid of making a ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ decision. It may help relieve some stress if you change your perspective, realising that your career is a sequence of steps, not the fixed result of a one-off decision.

Knowing your motivations, talents, strengths and interests enables you to shape and tailor your job to some extent (‘job crafting’). This can be a powerful way to increase your engagement and resilience, and to thrive in almost any job.

Furthermore, these days, people change jobs on average every three years (and even more frequently for those under 35). It is no longer necessarily assumed that you will steadily climb to the top of a clear ‘career ladder’ – instead, you may be navigating a career web or lattice.

Your career will likely span multiple decades, so you'll have plenty of opportunity to review, change your direction and try different industries and roles.

4. Staying stuck

If you don’t love your current job but aren’t sure what you can or want to do instead, you could end up frustrated and feeling like you’re stuck in a rut.

In these times, self-reflection (see point one) can be a helpful way to re-focus and gain some perspective. You can also speak to a trusted friend, mentor or career coach to identify what stories or beliefs are holding you back.

To gain clarity and become unstuck, you need to get out of your head and take action in the real world. Give yourself permission to follow your curiosity and explore without any expectation or pressure.

It might not be easy, especially if you're feeling despairing or burnt out, but changing your routine or trying something new could offer the burst of inspiration or momentum you need.

So take a class or learn a new skill, even if it's just for fun or a potential hobby. Reach out to your network (or use LinkedIn) for an introduction to someone who’s willing to chat to you about a role or industry you’re interested in. Go to a networking meeting, an industry event or conference to learn more about career options you’re considering.

Don’t worry, at this stage you’re not committing to any big moves, you’re simply taking small steps to gather more information and start to move forward.

5. Giving up too quickly

It can take time and effort to land your dream job or create a meaningful and rewarding career. It also takes courage and confidence and the belief that more is possible for you.

You may feel overwhelmed before you even start or be tempted to give up partway and settle for a life of mediocrity. But as Steve Jobs said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

So keep a positive mindset, surround yourself with people who inspire you and lift you up, and keep building your amazing career, one step at a time.

Jade Tjia completed a Bachelor of Law, Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Information Systems (2005) at the University of Melbourne. Today she runs her coaching business www.jadetjia.com