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The First Step to Finding Your Dream Job

The First Step to Finding Your Dream Job

By Liz Ryan, BusinessWeek

Left Brain Vs. Right Brain

On this list, you want to dig into what makes a work environment appealing for you, including items like: How mature an industry do I want to work in? Typically, the more mature (heavy equipment manufacturing, for instance) the more conservative the corporate culture will be. How flat vs. how tiered an organization do I desire? If there are 14 levels of management between me and the CEO, my experience at work will be drastically different from how it will be if there are two. How “left-brain” vs. “right-brain” an organization do I want? Although neurology types don’t use those left-brain/right-brain models as they once did to understand brain function, they’re still useful for us in understanding our strengths and preferences. Left-brain areas are math, music, programming, and flowcharting.

If you’re that person, organizations dominated by that type of thinking are perfect for you—research institutions and engineering firms are two examples. Right-brain-focused people veer toward the humanities, language, and the arts. An advertising agency or a freewheeling startup might be a better fit. What looks like a dream job on paper will quickly turn to ashes if the organizational culture doesn’t celebrate what you love to do and do well.

Identify Your Dream Team

More questions to answer: What kind of manager do I want? A coach who’ll mentor me as we go, a hands-off manager who’ll let me put my own stamp on the job, or a combination? It’s just as difficult to work with too much managerial guidance as with too little, so the length of your ’leash is important.

What kinds of people do I prefer to work around? Some of us look for an environment where everyone knows his or her role and sticks to it. Some like constant change and role-shifting. Some of us need, above all, to work with smart and intellectually curious people who zip through the New York Times Sunday crossword over a half-cup of coffee, while others need a friendly, supportive team and couldn’t care less about intellectual heft. What does your ideal team look like?

What Are You Wishing For?

A dream job could be one that takes you from here to retirement, or one that gives you a burst of learning and accomplishment and prepares you for the next thing. Some dream-job seekers are burnt-out on the frenetic pace and demands of the global business world and want to retreat to a quieter, slower corner of the marketplace. Others would be bored to tears if they weren’t embroiled in a crisis at least once a day. Which type are you?

Do you seek a dream job that will let you create your masterwork—in code or in graphic design or even in energy bars? Or are you looking for a dream job that will allow you to teach younger people, or one that will allow you to experience cross-cultural knowledge-sharing with colleagues around the world? Is your fondest wish a job that will win you awards or allow you to create a personal brand? Or is it one that will let you be on the 5:57 train home five days a week?

Finally, how important is salary? Would other forms of compensation, from time-off to business travel to your favorite location to tuition reimbursement, affect the equation? How do you define “well compensated” at this stage of your career, and how important is that to you?

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