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How Do You Know If A Dream Job Is Feasible Or Just A Pipe Dream?

How Do You Know If A Dream Job Is Feasible Or Just A Pipe Dream?

In an earlier post, I talked about 7 ways to customize your search to go after your dream job. An obvious benefit of a customized search is that the employer sees that you are serious and genuinely interested. It takes effort and planning to customize a search, and you can’t do it for every employer. You will likely get the employer’s attention with a customized search, but once you do, you still have to convince that employer to hire you.

But if it’s too difficult and time-consuming to customize your job search efforts towards every potential employer, how do you know exactly which employers you should approach in a customized way? How do you know your effort will pay off or if it’s just too much of a stretch? When is a dream job feasible or just a pipe dream?

You can look at who your dream employer has hired in the past for the dream job that you want. You can easily look at profiles via LinkedIn or visit the company’s Team page to see if they detail their staff’s backgrounds. How competitive are you with the skills, experiences and backgrounds of other people they’ve hired?

You can look at the job requirements and the work environment in comparison to your strengths and preferences. Can you do the job? Will you thrive in that culture, with that management, and with that team? Sometimes you might be attracted to the prestige of a position or its perceived glamour, but upon closer inspection, the day-to-day is not as interesting.

Finally, you can start customizing your search and see how far you get before getting stuck or giving up. If you get stuck, it might be a sign that this employer is too much of a stretch and you need to shore up your skills or experience and revisit at a later date – months or years later, depending on how wide the qualifications gap is. If you find yourself giving up, then you might not really be as interested in this employer as you thought, and you’ve just saved yourself a potential short-term stint somewhere.

A real-time example: In the earlier post on "7 ways to customize your search to go after your dream job," I talked about my own dream job as a panelist on NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” I specifically picked “Wait Wait…” because it’s a stretch (popular show, I have no connections). But is it feasible or just a pipe dream?

Who have they hired? Their panels consist of comics and journalists. Now that I’ve been published and I’ve performed stand-up, I am in the ballpark. I am not as established as the people they’ve hired, but with my Forbes and other media clips and with my stand-up reel, I am at least competitive.

What are the requirements? The format of the show is largely improvised and focuses on timely topics. I’ve studied improvisational theatre for several years, and my career-focused expertise is very timely given the economy. Once the job market improves, my timing advantage diminishes, so this would be a good project to go after now.

Can I customize my approach? The multiple segments of the show give me a lot to work with. I can infuse the “games” they play into correspondence I send (for example, they do a limerick game, so I might do some correspondence by limerick). While I don’t know the people directly connected to the show, I know people in media and can work connections there. I also know the show has an online presence, including host Peter Sagal active on Twitter, so there is opportunity to tap social media to customize an approach.

In other words, while I still would need to get the producers (the hiring managers in this example) to see and like my stuff (that’s where the hard work and persistence comes in), there is enough potential here to suggest it’s not just a pipe dream but worth the customized effort.


Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career and business coach with SixFigureStart® and the author of Jump Ship: 10 Steps To Starting A New Career (Forbes Media, 2015). She also writes a weekly advice column on Forbes (where this post originally appeared).

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.


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