13 Steps Toward Your Dream Job

If you get started now, taking your career to the next level doesn’t have to be as daunting as you may imagine. Whether you have just started a new job or are looking for something new, here are thirteen achievable steps towards your next promotion or big career move. And while you may be happily settled at your current job, it’s likely that potential employers or recruiters are looking at you right now. So be prepared; you never know when opportunity is going to strike!

“Everything you do or say is public relations.”


To do today:

1.       Give your resume a makeover – It’s time to remove most of your college accolades and show recent, substantial work experience. Using action verbs to reinforce your successes, keep it to one page and make every word count. Tailor your resume and cover letter for each job you apply for to match the company’s mission. Above all, PROOFREAD before you PDF! Recruiters will scan over your resume and make a decision in just six seconds; you don’t want a misspelled word to detract from your hard work. More good advice here.

2.       LinkedIn– If you aren’t on LinkedIn yet, sign up for an account. It’s my favorite one stop shop for professional advice, industry news, jobs, employers, and competition. It’s the place to see and be seen – professionally, that is. Spend time updating your profile, find companies to follow, and connect with people. A new feature allows you to see who has recently viewed your profile! Check out this neat function to transform your LinkedIn profile into a resume.

3.       E-mail upgrade Even if you have infinite access to your account, it’s time to ditch your college e-mail address and upgrade to something more permanent. Posting your “.edu” address on your resume could be misleading to recruiters who could easily mistake you for a college student even if you already graduated.

4.       Calling cards – If your company doesn’t provide you with business cards, consider making your own calling cards to hand out at networking events or to new acquaintances. You’ll be happy to have some on hand the next time you’re asked for a business card! Pick up some personalized stationery, too. As Laura Carson Miller wrote for SL, a handwritten note is invaluable and unforgettable in today’s age of quick, electronic correspondence.

{Chatham & Caron}

{Image via}

 {Rifle Paper Co.}

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5.       Professional headshots – I was recently asked for a professional headshot and was disappointed that I didn’t have one ready to go. A cropped sorority picture isn’t going to cut it anymore (no pun intended). Look for a professional photographer in your area who can capture the look you’re going for. Check out the SL team page for some excellent examples!

6.       Hide yo’ pics – Yesterday, I was horrified to discover that multiple photo albums I uploaded in high school were still accessible to the “public” on my Facebook page. Meaning that anyone who came across my Facebook profile, friend or not, was able to see these not-so-nostalgic pictures from many years ago. I quickly hid these pictures and several others to clean up my external image, especially in case a future employer looks. Use the “View As…” feature to see what your timeline looks like to the public and clean up any pictures or posts that don’t represent you well.

7.       Learn a skill to stand out Lots of people are hunting for jobs today, so distinguish yourself from other job seekers by identifying a unique skill or hobby to give you a leg up. Experience with any coding language like HTML and CSS is an immediate plus for almost any employer. Arianna Huffington agrees: “Learning to code is useful no matter what your career ambitions are.” See my SL article about online education for more ways to pick up a new skill or deepen your understanding of a current topic.

8.   Find a mentor To help you define and stick to your goals, seek out a seasoned professional in your industry to advise you as you grow in your career. A mentor or sponsor can share their personal experience and insight to help you overcome professional challenges. The work-life balance is a decidedly difficult equation to strike, so a female mentor can be particularly helpful cheerleader who understands the issues you face. Or as Quartz puts it, “ a power broker who will endorse you in closed door meetings and support you in stormy moments.” A mentor should be someone you want to emulate, both personally and professionally. If you have trouble finding a mentor where you work, try a local mentor meet-up group on Meetup. Also check out economist and author Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor.

{Image via}

{Image via}

9.   Join a professional organization Involvement with a professional organization in your career field can be a boon to your career. Employers love to see involvement, and the networking opportunities are invaluable. Better yet, seek a leadership role in that organization, which adds leadership experience to your resume if your entry level job doesn’t give you those opportunities otherwise.

10.   Volunteer It may not seem to directly correlate to career advancement, but volunteering a portion of your free time shows employers that you have a servant-leadership mindset, which breeds success and humility, a powerful combination. It goes without saying, the personal benefits – empathy, respect, resourcefulness, compassion – matter the most.

{Check your local Ronald McDonald House for opportunities!}

{Check your local Ronald McDonald House for opportunities!}

Ready to move on?

1.       Do your research –What skills and qualifications does your dream job require? Do you have those skills, and if not, what can you do to attain them? Head back to LinkedIn and peruse job search results of positions that interest you. Identify key skills that your field requires and work on adding them to your repertoire of talents.

2.       Suit & Tie – When it’s time to interview, head to Ann Taylor or Banana Republic and consider purchasing a well-fitting, modern suit. I highly recommend AT’s suits like the Tropical Wool Jacket with matching skirt or pants. You want to portray your most professional image while keeping in line with your industry’s expectations, so choose an appropriate outfit for the situation. If you’re going with a skirt, keep the length a few inches above the knee and pants should not be skin tight. Use this 20% off coupon from AT!

{“Students of Ann Taylor” campaign in college}

{“Students of Ann Taylor” campaign in college}

3.   Show me the money It shouldn’t come as a shock to you that women get paid less than men. One reason is that women are more timid than men and are less likely to ask for a raise. Find out how much you’re worth and how much other people in similar positions are making. Before engaging your boss, discuss your tactics with a trusted confidant. Confidently yet appropriately, ask your boss for a reasonable raise that is consistent with your level of experience, commitment, and work production. I advise asking above what you think your boss will accept and compromising in the middle if they don’t meet your initial request. It’s possible that they will accept your offer (worked for me!), thus raising your salary and your financial leverage when you apply for jobs in the future. Tips for negotiating your salary here and here.


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  • Reply September 20, 2013

    Ali Burtt

    I’d add save, save, save all you can. It’s great if every step you take is a step up, but if you decide to change directions or go out on your own, there may be a period of time when you’re making less than you’re used to. Having a nice cushion mans you can be flexible when that amazing opportunity comes knocking!

  • Reply September 20, 2013

    Tess Szymanski

    Great advice! As someone who is trying start at an entry level position in an industry that is difficult to break into I really have to take these things into consideration. LinkedIn (as you said) is such a great tool, and from personal experience I have already had meetings with 3 people simply by reaching out to them through the website and their profiles.