Whether you're 18 and ready to carve out a path for yourself or a recent college graduate eager to join the workforce, it's scary when you realize that all of those conversations about what you want to do when you grow up have been leading to this very moment. For many of us, paying back student loan debt, affording a place to live, and generally trying to make the whole adult thing work for us means getting a job as quickly as possible, even if it's not exactly where you see yourself long-term. However, when you've worked for some time, paid your dues, and are ready to start figuring out what your true passion is, it's not always easy to make the switch from the job you'll do for a paycheck to the career you'll want to do forever. So how do you take the first step onto the career path?
Educate yourself: While higher education is a great first step toward many career paths, there are at least as many jobs that don't require a degree or might actually see one as a hindrance. When researching the field you want to be in, first see what type of education you'll need — it might be a college degree, but it could just as easily be a certificate program or vocational training.
Do an inventory of your skills: Are you always predicting the latest trends? Do you have a flair for fashion? Are you a born salesperson? Before you decide what career path you'd like to take, make a list of the innate skills you have and the ones you've learned on the job; you might just have the skill set your dream employer is looking for.
Work your connections: The phrase "it's not what you know, it's who you know" is more true than ever when it comes to business. If you happen to have a friend, customer, or social media follower who works in the field you're interested in working in, don't be afraid to hit them up for career advice — if you play your cards right, you might even land an interview.
Know what you're worth: There's no denying that it's difficult to go from a job that barely pays you enough to scrape by on to a full-time career, but that doesn't mean you should undervalue yourself just because you were making peanuts in the past. Talk with your friends, look at sites like Glassdoor, and make a list of the skills you've learned working your previous jobs — knowing things like industry standard pay and what your future boss might be looking for can mean money in the bank for you.
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Learn to sell your services: If you have the skills you need to land your dream job but are too nervous to do a bit of humble-bragging, you probably won't even get your foot in the door. Do practice interviews with your friends, check out some advice from career-oriented sites, like The 5 O'Clock Club, and make sure you know what your bankable skills are before you head out the door. It might feel a bit foreign at first to talk yourself up to a potential employer, but a little bit of confidence can go a long way.
Even if it feels like you've been at your dead-end job forever, there's still light at the end of the tunnel. Brush up on your skills, practice your confidence, and work your connections and that dream gig will be yours before you know it.