1. Attend industry events. Interviewing for a job is an opportunity for the company to determine if you're a good candidate, but also for you to determine if the company is a good fit. However, there's no reason to wait for an invitation to put on your best suit. Take action by attending talks, industry events, happy hours, and more in the field you're interested in. Then, pay attention.
Do you enjoy speaking with the event's attendees? What's the tone of the event? How are people dressed? What is everyone talking about? Remember, you could be spending your 9-to-5 with these people. If you don't like the people, chances are you won't like the job. Use this shortcut strategy to immediately determine whether or not you would enjoy a certain career or company culture.
2. Try something new. It's difficult to guess what you'll be simultaneously good at and enjoy doing. Instead of making lists and searching for the overlap, go out, try something new and see how you feel. You can take the guesswork out of the process by consulting, volunteering, taking on a side job, or job-hopping from your current position into something new in the areas you're interested in.
While it's legit to worry that your varied and perhaps short-term experience may look bad on a resume, you should know that it's completely normal; the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that young employees in their 20s and 30s change jobs every 18 months. Besides, you can impress some human resources people if you stay in a job you hate, or you can take real action toward finding something you love.
3. Take a break. The unrelenting pressure to find purpose in your life can be difficult. So give your mind a break. Go for a jog. Stop working and watch a movie. Take a nap. Have a picnic in the park. While these may seem like small indulgences, research has shown the moment you let go of pressure is the moment you'll be rewarded.
This incubation time is absolutely essential to creative problem solving and escaping your mental traffic jam. When you allow yourself time to enjoy rather than figure out life, you'll discover that ideas flow easier. For optimal results, turn off your iPhone and commit to an entire work-free day of laid-back activities.
Each of these steps will give you immediate clarity around discovering your dream job. With that feedback, you can make better decisions toward the path of career fulfillment. Not to mention, each of these activities pays dividends in other ways as well; you'll end up with a stronger network, additional skills, and a more fulfilling life.
Rebecca Thorman's goal is to help you find meaningful work, enjoy the heck out of it, and earn more money. Her blog Kontrary offers career, business, and life advice that works. She writes from Washington, D.C.