Day job? – or – Dream Job?: A career mapping strategy to create positive change

By Dwight Bain, Certified Life Coach and Nationally Certified Counselor

Most people don’t realize that we actually spend more hours of our life working than any other single activity. That’s why it’s more important than ever to know where you fit in your career, because if you are drifting and feel lost in your career, you literally are drifting and letting life slip through your fingers. I believe in a process where you can map out your ‘DAY JOB’ (responsibly working to meet your obligations), on the way to your ‘DREAM JOB’ (doing what you were born to do).

Day jobs pay the bills, and dream jobs fulfill the deep desires of the heart to live out your purpose. And since most of us won’t start in a ‘dream’ job, it’s important to know how to strategically move forward with career direction to leverage your ‘day jobs’ into living out our destiny, by working at activities that are so meaningful and fulfilling that it almost doesn’t seem like work. Is this possible? Yes it is. You see, I believe God designed you with a greater purpose than you may be experiencing right now. Guiding you forward in living out that purpose is one of the passions of my heart because I love to see people move from career stress to experience career satisfaction.

The loss of satisfaction in work isn’t news; in fact the majority of people going to work today aren’t happy about it. It’s sort of like the bumper sticker I saw once that said, “I pretend to work and they pretend to pay me.” A recent survey reported that almost 8 out of ten US workers go to jobs every day that they don’t like or don’t feel well equipped to do. I suspect that one area of frustration fuels dissatisfaction in the other.

Moving past this frustration is important for your health too. Research published by the Gallup Management Journal found that almost 80% of workers felt stress on the job, and nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress. 26% of workers said they were 'often or very often burned out or stressed by their work'. Could this massive work-related stress stem from being in the wrong job? I believe it is a leading factor in why so many people are stressed or burned out. (And this stress eventually affects both physical and mental health).

When you don’t know where you fit at work then you are set-up for tremendous stress and disappointment which ripple into every other area of life. Conversely, if you know where you fit, you life just got better and it will show in the joy on your face when it’s time to get up and go to a job that you love. When you know where you fit on your career path, you enjoy life more and worry less. So how can you tell if you are in the wrong job or the right one? One way is to take the checklist below to review the key career areas to see if you have more job fulfillment or just a lot of job frustration as you begin your search for answers.

Career Roadblocks-

___Weak or wimpy managers ___Little or no chance of career advancement

___Low or no company benefits ___Continual job stress
___Continually forced overtime ___Boring work

___Feeling burned out ___Continually feeling overwhelmed by work

___Too long of a daily commute ___Career is out of balance with rest of life
___Not trusted by leadership ___Others are passing you by

___Not empowered or equipped ___Forced to do meaningless tasks
___Low pay, low benefits ___Constant complaining about money

___Given too much responsibility ___Absent leaders who don’t lead
___Mean or abusive managers ___Hostile work environment- bad bosses
___Low or no employee morale ___Lone wolf syndrome vs. team approach

___No validation of progress ___No job stability or security

There is great power in having a road map to understand how to reach your ‘dream job’. Think about how valuable it would be to have a detailed chart that maps out the combination of your unique life experiences with your education and skill set. Once you know your personal strengths, interests, motivations in combination with your personal career journey then you are literally set up to win at work; while experiencing positive change and growth on your way to a new level of career success. This information is valuable for students and seasoned professionals since it protects the limited resources of time and money in how to focus on the job to achieve fulfillment in life.

Here’s your first Career Coaching Goal to move from a ‘day job’ to a ‘dream job’

Find your “Fit” by mapping out and blending the key elements listed in this coaching resource onto a legal pad as you put together the pieces that can become a successful career for a lifetime. Each category in this coaching exercise will help shape your thinking as you do the final assignment to discover your ‘core’ career focus during the final coaching exercise featured in this article, the “Career Kaleidoscope”. When completed, simply review the results with a family member, pastor, co-worker, trusted friend or life-coach. Once you have the results in front of you, coupled with some honest feedback, it will help to insure that you are on track in developing a personalized career GPS or “Global Positioning System” of your greatest skills to move forward in your strength zone. These results will become your career map of a strategic path of greater success in living out your destiny in a ‘dream job’, designed for you by a Creator God who desires your best!

Finally, don’t get discouraged if you can’t answer every question in every section. Think through each stage of your career journey and honestly share from your life experiences in the categories listed. Your life has meaning, and your career path will reflect major themes or patterns, which are the clues to building the life you were designed to live.

► Directions

Customize the categories below by listing out information from your own career journey. Place in facts, names, dates or a brief description of events as you give the details that describe your strengths learned through educational or life experiences. There are no wrong answers, and some categories will be longer than others, so add or adjust space as necessary to give an accurate description of your career development.

The more detail you give, the more clearly you can uncover and discover your career strengths and where you can focus to achieve maximum results. This is the story of your journey, and it is an important one. Be honest with your successes, failures, wins and losses. If you won an award- bring it up, or if you were fired for poor performance, comment on what you learned from it. Most business people doing this exercise have strengths they don’t give themselves credit for, so just by listing out and then thinking through these topics should open your eyes to better see where you fit in your career. Answer these questions with an open mind to discover a new view of yourself and where you best fit in the world of work.

Find your “Fit” by mapping out and blending the following key elements onto a legal pad or the career Kalediscope exercise attached. Then sit down with a trusted mentor or coach to review the results as you develop a personalized “GPS” tracking system of positioning your skills and strengths onto a strategic career map leading to success.

“Be direct with change and you will take charge of your life”. - Dwight Bain

† Personality (e.g. introvert/extrovert, people person/loner, loud/quiet, sanguine, melancholic, choleric, phlegmatic or D.I.S.C., Meyers-Briggs, 5 Love Languages or other scores from personality profiles you may have taken)

† Energy level in personal & professional life (high, moderate, low)

† Organizational skills in personal & professional life (perfectionist, slob, motivated, disciplined, detailed, efficient, focused, timely, etc.)

†Career Stage (e.g. just starting, starting over, leader, novice, expert, etc.)

† Age, gender & birth order in family (or placement through adoption)

† Family background (e.g. traditional nuclear family, middle class, urban, suburbs, Army “brat”, single-parent, large/small family, raised by grand-parents, blended family, and so on.)

† Cultural background (Anglo, Asian, Black, Hispanic, first generation American, as well as the region of United States you grew up in.)

† Education & school background (loved school, barely passed, sports, extra-curricular activities or leadership, GED, military, public/private, went away to a state-university or stayed home for community college, etc.)

† Current roles & relationships (include both personal and professional roles like; student, employee, share-holder, CEO, vice-president, sales manager, as well as the relationship factors of single, married, divorced, husband, wife, mother, father, senior adult caregiver, dating, loner, committed or etc.)

† Mentors & role models (include the family members, teachers, pastors, authors or leaders who shaped your thinking with their influence and indicate how much time and energy they spent with you personally or how much you were influenced through their writing or speaking. In either case, try to rank who was the most influential in your life at different stages of your life, especially before age 30.)

† Individual life experiences (travel, meeting a well-known leader or celebrity, internships, moving out on your own, rebuilding after a crisis event- like the death of a friend or a DUI, winning an award for a sport or hobby, charity work- like Habitat for Humanity or the United Way, golfing with a sports star, being featured on TV, etc.)

† Group life experiences (being on a winning team, trips with family or friends, being affected by disasters like Hurricane Andrew or the terrorist attacks of 9/11, or helping accident victims after a wreck, being in the Navy reserve during wartime, driving cross-country to a concert, etc.)

† Stressful or Traumatic Experiences (any crisis events you may have experienced or lived through, such as a major accident, living through a natural disaster like a hurricane or tornado, as well as any man-made disasters like the terrorist attacks of 9/11. This might include the break-up of a family through a highly contested divorce, a business failure, personal bankruptcy or a health crisis like battling against cancer. Note- these life altering events could have happened to you, or perhaps to someone else who experienced the trauma and you were their primary support through the crisis event.)

† Work Experiences (your first job, your worst job, your favorite job, being fired or having to fire a friend at work, going through a down-sizing or lay-off, being bought out by a competitor and being restructured with new owners, businesses you started or sold, etc.)

† Physical Values & Beliefs (your commitment to exercise, diet, sleep, fitness and use of healthy substances-while avoiding unhealthy ones, and the respect you have for others who have strengths or weaknesses in this area.)

† Spiritual Values & Beliefs (your commitment to personal character development and integrity through disciplined meditation, worship and religious involvement, as well as the respect you have for others who have strengths or weaknesses in this area.)

† Emotional Values & Beliefs (your commitment to develop personal maturity and self-control in managing the feelings of stress, worry, anger, fear, sadness, depression or anxiety, while displaying consistency with personal peace, kindness for others, impulse control and mental harmony as well as the respect you have for others who have strengths or weaknesses in this area.)

† Financial Values & Beliefs (your commitment to wise use of finances- both now and in the future, including budgeting to prevent impulse spending, buying or renting, cost analysis prior to major purchases, charitable giving, saving for future emergencies or investments, preventing debt, or managing current debt service and responsibility to taxes, insurances, retirement, and future expenses. Include a description of the respect you have for others who have strengths or weaknesses in this area)

† Skills & training (e.g. languages spoken, typing speed & accuracy, workshops or specialized training you have received, self-improvement groups you have participated in- like Toastmasters or Dale Carnegie, lessons taken, usage of special equipment or tools, computer programs or skills mastered, specialty products you have knowledge of, etc.)

† Certifications, licenses or earned degrees (e.g. CPA, MD, PhD, JD, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, lifeguard, CPR, certified product specialist, RN, or Reverend. Include any career training programs that you started but may have not completed and those you may have previously held at any level, including local, state, national or international. It is helpful to also note any professional goals that you may have that require future certifications or license requirements.

† Knowledge & information sources (types of books you seek out, favorite authors, primary media sources- like Internet, television, radio, newspaper or magazines. Comment on your choice of fiction/non-fiction or reality/happy ending themes, and why you choose your favorite entertainment, news, sit-coms, documentaries, how-to it to learn, relax, laugh, experience with others or escape daily life? As you list out this information be sure to indicate how much time or money you invest into your favorite information sources- for instance, “I read two books a month from the library, but spend $140 a month on cable television and high-speed Internet.)

† Talent, Natural Ability & Gifting (Honestly point out your strengths if you know them, since false humility gets in the way of this important exercise. Are you a ‘natural’ at leading others, does everyone find it easy to talk to you, or it is easy for you to stand up to give a speech? Do you love to do research, organize, or discover the hidden source of problems in people or organizations? Think about how you appear to others and describe any areas that you may have been praised for in your life; like natural physical size or strength, high intelligence or creativity, musical or athletic ability, an attractive or fit body, a great smile, expressive eyes, pretty hair, perfect teeth or a soothing or broadcast quality voice. Be sure to comment on the areas that come so easy to you, but seem to always draw admiration from others, such as; the ability to match colors in clothes, people or furnishings. Having the artistic ability to create or reproduce images with video, film, or photography or with the use of drawing, painting, sculpting or designing. Repairing things or skillfully working with your hands on any type of material, machine or equipment. Assess your ability to put anyone at ease, work with children or the elderly, wake up feeling friendly or positive in your mood, automatically reaching out to others in need, being a great team player, eager to learn new things, always active and eager to move forward, being quick at solving puzzles, games or people problems or being called the “fix-it” person. You have these qualities- but you do have to carefully look to really see them because what comes natural to you isn’t really noticed by you. Since our society doesn’t teach us to pay much attention to natural gifting, you may find this exercise the hardest of all, so ask a trusted friend if you get stuck.)

Now that you have completed the Career Map… it’s time to move forward into the major themes of your career journey in guiding you forward toward your ‘dream job.’

Career Kaleidoscope Exercise:

Spend less than a minute per category and go with your first response as you consider your life and career in the following areas to discover your career ‘fit’

Design or natural talent and ability, (people always say you are good at this)

Work that is highly Interesting to you, (never boring, you can’t wait to do it)

Important or valuable work to you, (issues or causes you deeply believe in)

Areas you are highly skilled or experienced in, (been there- done that well)

Areas you are educated or credentialed in, (degrees, licenses, certifications)

Your current career development plan, (audio learning, DVD’s, night school)

Marketplace and industry options available, (location, costs, age/stage, gender)

Groups or industries already looking for people with your background to improve the strength and depth of their team, (esp. networking organizations)

Next: What logical career conclusions fit into the Kaleidoscope “core” today?

Finally: What steps can you take today to make a positive career change? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Putting the pieces together is how you narrow down from something you might like to do, or that sounds interesting; to really focus on the exact skills that you were born with. You were put on this planet to make a positive difference. I hope and pray that you will take this information and move forward in strength as you use the stability of your ‘day job’ on your way to experience your ‘dream job.’ Oh, when you achieve that new level of career success, make sure to send me an email to tell of your adventure because I love to share career success stories with others to encourage them on their journey to living a better life by God’s grace.

► Suggested resource:

Visit and check out the “Career Direct” career assessment profile. It is a highly detailed resource to help students and working professionals find their exact career with dozens of pages of resources personalized just to you and your specific personality and career strength. (Note: students tend to benefit from the educational version, which includes school choices as you map out your career for lasting success.)

Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint.

"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2010), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit or call 407-647-7005"

About the author- Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change.

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