New grads: Find your dream job and stay off the family sofa

Hallie Crawford

by Hallie Crawford
Certified Career Coach
October 2010

Congratulations! You’ve graduated from college and joined the working world as a young professional. Earning your degree is an investment in yourself and your future, and now is the perfect time to think about that future. The decisions you make today are critical to your career direction.

This can be such an exciting time, full of hope and enthusiasm. However, the first few years of work can be a struggle. New graduates leave college with a sense of opportunity—excited about being independent, and looking forward to starting their career. Unfortunately things don’t always turn out that way. Some grads work for a few years and it’s not what they expected. They look back and wonder: “What happened? I’m not enjoying my work like I thought I would.”

If this sounds familiar, the good news is you’re not alone. Graduating from college is not always as easy as: graduate … get a job in the field you majored in … live happily ever after. Feeling lost or disappointed is common, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

You can have a job you truly enjoy. That doesn’t mean you won’t have to pay your dues, nor does it mean that your job will land in your lap, but you can find fulfillment in your work. It’s possible, and it’s worth taking the time to figure out your career direction so that you not only enjoy what you do, but you don’t wind up back on the family sofa.

Here are some tips.

Step One: Dream First and Dream Big
You need to dream BIG in order to identify your ideal career. Don’t play small. If you start small, you’ll get small. Goals begin with a dream you shape later to fit your situation. Spend 30 minutes this week with a friend brainstorming career ideas. What would you love to do? If money were no object and you were ensured success, what career path would you choose? Write down anything that comes to mind. Don’t get practical yet. If you allow yourself to dream first and dream big, you may stumble across a career idea you never considered or even knew about.

Step Two: Create a Career Contrast List
The next step is to clarify what you want in a job by identifying what you don’t want. As a career coach, I've discovered that when I ask people what they want in an ideal job, they can't tell me. But if I ask them what they don’t like in their current job, they can give me a laundry list. Set aside 30 minutes next week to develop your Career Contrast List. On the left side of the page list things you don’t like about your work; on the right side list things you want instead. Rather than focus on what you don’t like about your work, clarify and focus on what you do want.

Step Three: Clarify your transferable skills and experience
Regardless of your industry, skills or experience, everyone has transferable skills—skills that can translate across industries to help you identify other jobs where you can use your talents. Ask someone to review your resume with you and help you identify your transferable skills. Then, with them, brainstorm possible career ideas based on these skills.

Take these three steps in the next three weeks. Once you’ve completed them, you will be on your way toward clarifying your career direction and finding a job that is a better fit for you. Be realistic and be patient. It takes time and effort to figure this out. But, I promise you, a lifetime of career fulfillment is WELL worth it.

Hallie Crawford is a certified career coach and founder of Create Your Career Path with She specializes in working with young professionals to identify their ideal careers and is regularly featured in the media as a career expert including the Wall Street Journal, Fox Business News and You can learn more about her on her website