Only sometimes do “dream jobs” live up to the fantasy. For example, after extensive effort, a new client had landed her dream job as a marketing person for a museum only to find that in the end, marketing was marketing and her boss happened to be difficult. She’s come to me because she’s contemplating a career change.

These five steps have helped my clients check out a"dream" job:

1. Picture it. Imagine yourself in your dream job, in a typical day. What would you likely be doing, hour by hour? Do you think you’ll be happier than in your current work? If you think you might…

2. Check it out on the Net. My client might have googled terms like, “museum marketing" or even "museum realities.” She might have consulted to see what employees at various museums say about their employer. If the job still seems dreamy…

3. Get info interviews. Try to get one or more informational interviews with people in a similar job, ideally at your target organization(s). It may be easier to get one using your connections—personal, LinkedIn, or alumni. But sometimes, even a thoughtful cold-contact letter with a follow-up phone call can do the trick. Ask the person not only about the job but what, if anything, you need to do to become a viable candidate: Take a course? Improve your public speaking skills? If the job or career still calls to you…

4. Apply. When you’re ready, apply for on-target jobs. During the interview process, vet the organization and your prospective boss. They’re interviewing you but you’re also interviewing them. Get a sense of how well you'd like the boss. How does the office culture feel? How do you feel about the job description? The workload expectations? How about other factors like the location, commute, and compensation?

5. Visit the workplace. If you’re offered the job, consider asking to visit the workplace “to discuss details.” Not only are you likely to fare better in negotiating your employment's terms, you get another chance to visit the workplace, for example, to see if the employees seem busy but content? Hang out in the break room. There too, catch the vibes and perhaps ask, “I’ve just been offered a job here. Might I ask what it’s like to work here?” Or “What should I know about working here that wouldn’t appear in the employee handbook?” Of course, employees may not be fully forthcoming but even from the tone of the response, you often can gain a bit better sense of whether this really is likely to be your dream job, or at least one worth leaving your current position for.

Of course, there’s no way to guarantee that your dream job won't be a nightmare but that five-step process should help you more wisely predict.

Marty Nemko's bio is in Wikipedia

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