Whatever "cool career" might mean for you, you've probably felt the desire for fulfilling work that you also enjoy, at least most of the time. Of course, dreaming about a career and knowing a career is in reach are very different things. How do people find these jobs? And more importantly, how do they get them? And more importantly still, how do they recognize them in the first place?
Whether you’re just starting out or looking to switch to a more exciting career, there are several things you can do to answer those questions and put a more fulfilling job within your reach.
Before you start looking for that unique job, you'll need to know what your life and career goals are. What kind of life do you want to have within the next 5 years? The next 10 years? Which of your interests could make a difference in the world? If someone were to force you to define your perfect career, what would it look like?
Once you have a picture of the future, even if it's a bit foggy, you can start thinking about the steps that could get you there. If thinking about steps seems too daunting, pretend you're designing a path for someone else who's like you. Your compass should have two needles: what's practical, and what gets you excited. They both need to point in the same direction. Use your excitement needle — your "Yes!" needle — to challenge your practical "No!" needle when it's too cautious, and vice versa.
Once you’ve identified your goals, you’ll need to assess your current skills and interests. This will also help to point you in the right direction. Aptitude assessments can get you started, along with online research. And if it's at all possible, you should seriously consider working with a career coach.
Just to get an idea of what occupations are out there, take a look at the Occupation Outlook Handbook from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. This can help you to zero in on what careers you naturally gravitate towards. It can also help you to discover what kinds of skills and education you'd need in order to have any of those careers. From there, you can extend your research into related areas that match up with your goals, your skills, and your interests.
One of the most powerful ways to explore the possibilities and build your confidence at the same time is to find people who are doing things that are similar to what you want to do, and asking them what it's like. Most people are happy to share why they love what they do and provide helpful advice. If your exploration ever turns into an actual job search, you'll have a strong head start on your informational interviews and a network of allies who'll want to help.
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, there are a few other things that you'll want to consider.
Could the career you’re looking at turn put to be a practical choice? We all know about those fascinating jobs that are infamously difficult to get into. But ask yourself what it is that excites you about those jobs. Dig a little deeper, and you may find that what you really care about is actually attainable in a different package. Don't rely on how the media portrays unique and interesting jobs — talk to the people who do them, or the people who work with those people. Find out what goes on around them. Your practical path may be there.
While you might really enjoy rock climbing or restoring furniture, you may find that this kind of activity works better as a hobby than as a career. Doing something just for fun is a great way to be a fully rounded person. But work should be for making an impact on the world, one that reflects your values. This holds most of all for unique, exciting jobs.
You’ll also want to be sure that whatever unique career you're looking at aligns with where you see yourself going in the future. This will ensure that you’ll find something well suited for you and your career path. It will also help you to feel fulfilled when you get up to go to work every morning.
Once you’ve found the career path that truly excites you, you’ll need to find out what kinds of qualifications you'll need to meet to get a job in that field. If you already have the right skill set and education, go for it! If not, you'll most likely need to enroll in some kind of training or educational degree program.
It may take some time to get there, but as long as you’re working toward goals that excite you and make a difference, your job will qualify as "cool."