Financial Literacy

The 80/20 Guide to Making Your Dream Job a Reality

Imagine landing your dream job with all the unnecessary doubt, indecision, and effort removed from the process. 

Imagine making it happen in just one-fifth of the time it might normally take.

Nope, we’re not suggesting a miracle cognition drug, cybernetic brain implants, or an aggressive juice cleanse. Instead, we want to draw your attention to a simple idea known as the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 Rule. This odd quirk of human experience posits that roughly 80% of a given activity’s meaningful consequences come from just 20% of the causes. 

So, imagine sitting in a movie theater (remember when that was a thing?). The 80/20 Rule suggests that around four-fifths of your enjoyment will come from just one-fifth of the movie — all those climactic scenes most of the story builds up to. The rule applies to bad stuff too. Think of all those annoying candy wrapper crinklers chowing down on Junior Mints during those same memorable scenes. Again, this rule would tell us that around 80% of that annoying noise was caused by just 20% of the movie-watchers.  

It’s a generalization of course, but it sounds about right doesn’t it? 

We don’t live in a neat universe where results always happen in a straight line. More often than not, just a few critical factors make all the difference, whether for good or bad. If you geek out on efficiency theory you can grab a coffee along with your cookie of choice and learn all about the 80/20 rule here and how it applies to all manner of corners of industry and productivity science.

In Ramit’s video, ‘The 80/20 Guide to Finding a Job You Love,’ he’ll grab on to this concept and zero in on you, your career, and one pointily practical question… 

Can the 80/20 rule help you land your dream job?

Or let’s put it another way. Can we just get rid of the 80% of largely unimportant stuff, and focus right in on those few critical turning points that can land you a richer working life? 

We’re convinced the answer is yes … if you’re willing to ditch unhelpful mindsets that lurk in the 80% unproductive zone. Let’s look at a few examples of how just a few changes can make a huge difference as you look for your dream job. 

1. Ignore broad and vague career advice: Get specific

We’ve all had that person in our lives who offers pointless encouragement because they’re trying to help. 

“You can do it!” Gee, thanks. How?

“Get well soon!” Great idea! My plan was to get well slowly.

These people mean well, but platitudes like this come from those who want to help but have no clue how. Unfortunately, conventional career guidance is littered with the same vague solutions. These fuzzy directions mean next to nothing and get you next to nowhere. 

You know the deal: 

Find your passion! Cool. But what does that process actually look like?

Renegotiate your salary! Genius plan. How?

These are time-wasters that’ll consign your approach to the unproductive 80% of the 80/20 equation. 

Watch for these broad statements, and recognize them for what they are: a well-meaning impulse. What they’re decidedly not is a blueprint. You can waste a lot of time flailing about, trying to interpret, and act on these career advice equivalents of a “get well soon” card or an awkwardly executed fist bump. 

Here’s the important part though. Don’t just reject broad and unhelpful advice when it comes from someone else. That’s the easy part. The tricky part is to systematically reject a cookie-cutter mindset. 

So, how do you approach career-hunting focusing on the critical 20%?

Commit to defining exactly what you want

Conventional career-hunting advice is to send your resume to every job opportunity you see — and that might actually make sense if you’d be happy taking any job. But that’s not your goal. Your goal is to get up in the morning eager to clock-in and do your thing.

To find your dream job you’ll need to get specific: 

  • What job do you want? Name it. Have the courage to exclude the ones you don’t.
  • What size company? Where is it located? Be grittily granular.

… And here’s the really important one … 

Everything in your resume and pitch should be hyper-focused on the answers you give to these questions. If you can do that, two things happen. First, you save time by no longer applying for dodgy jobs you don’t want anyway. Second, you make yourself look like a better employment prospect to the companies that actually count.

Get started in 15 minutes or less

Here are a couple of things you can do right now to get specific:

  1. Grab a sheet of paper and split it into 2 columns. In the first column list everything you know about what your dream job looks like. In column 2, bullet out the key characteristics of the kinds of jobs you don’t want. Stick this paper somewhere prominent as a daily reminder. 
  2. Grab a red pen (OK purple will do if red ink is scary). Go through every line of your current resume and scratch out generic, hedging, or vague statements. If it isn’t about the job you actually want, ditch it. 

Congratulations. You just shifted your energy to that critical 20%. 

2. Discard self-sabotage: Believe you’re right for the role

This might sound a bit “Dr. Phil” at first glance, but hear us out. We’re not suggesting something quite so asinine and patronizing as the idea that great self-esteem and chutzpah is all you need to land you a dream job. That’s dumb. Also, see point 1.

What we are saying though is that many job-seekers accidentally absorb a defeatist mindset. In fact, it happens to the best of us. Here’s the kind of self-sabotaging thoughts we’re talking about:

“I’m not qualified. Before I can even think about a new job I need to go back to school.”

“I’m lucky to have any job in this economy.”

“I should wait until COVID-19 and murder hornets go away before any big life changes.”

Don’t get us wrong. These thoughts aren’t stupid.

Skilling up is good! And of course, macroeconomics and other unpredictable variables are all real things that affect how your dream job search will play out. But none of these considerations (along with the myriad other excuses out there) need stop you from taking meaningful steps in the right direction … right now.

These ideas all have one thing in common. They push you to reflect on all the reasons why now isn’t a good time; why you’re not ready yet; why the world is just too scary a place to do something bold and daring like pursuing your dream.

Believe change is possible

OK, OK, we’ll throw the obvious mind shift out there first. 

You do need to believe in yourself to make good stuff happen. There. Satisfied, Dr. Phil? It’s on a billion fridge magnets for good reason. Whatever you need to do to get inspired that you can and should pursue a career that’d make you happy and enriched, go out and get that thing, stick a magnet on it, and slap it on your fridge. 

Life’s too short. 

But don’t just get inspired; get aspirational. 

Time constraints, economic downturns, and yes, even venom-spitting murder hornets will always be out there. Either you aspire to find a job you love despite these and a plethora of equally sucky things, or you resign yourself to a permanent state of waiting. 

At least door one goes somewhere. Door two leads to the eternal thought-muzak of life’s waiting room. That serendipitous 20% zone can only happen when you abandon a resignation mindset.

Get started in 15 minutes or less

So you want to stop polluting your brain and your approach with self-defeating ideas? Got any spare paper lying around? Grab it!

  1. Jot down every excuse or statement of resignation the self-defeatist side of your psyche (we all have one!) can muster. 
  2. Now write a response to each of these naysaying urges. Where you feel an obstacle is real, write down how you can overcome it. Start making tangible plans.  

3. Reject passivity: Pursue crucial situations and people

This all circles around to the absolute importance of kicking passivity to the curb. 

Think back to the 80/20 Rule for a moment: The idea that most of the biggest changes that’ll happen in your life boil down to a relatively slim sliver of critical crux points. 

If you buy into this particular quirk of the universe, being awake for those moments suddenly becomes vitally important, right? 

Yet the vast majority of people that are searching for their dream job hand the responsibility for delivering those all-or-nothing flash-points to someone else. Career-hunting passivity is everywhere, and takes many forms, like:

  • Trusting a job search algorithm to guide your job search.
  • Sending out a resume and desperately hoping the HR team gets back to you one day.
  • Relying on a recruiter to convince your dream company to give you a shot.

Laziness of this ilk squanders not one, but two of your most valuable resources. 

One: Obviously, you’re wasting your time. We probably don’t need to offer too much exposition here on why metaphorically cramming filet mignon into a Mcdonald’s meat-grinder is unlikely to produce optimal results.

But you can’t overlook the negative knock-on effects on your motivation. You’re spinning headlong into a negative spiral here — where a perfect storm of rejection emails, lack of actionable data, and no real clue about what to do differently next time robs you of any desire to continue.

Why do this to yourself?

Passivity breeds failure, which in turn leads to the slow and abysmal process of … well … just giving up. The “80-percenter-zone” is a gray realm of mental laziness — of endlessly doing the same thing while expecting suddenly different results to miraculously manifest from miasmic mundanity. No.

So, what does “different” look like?

Zig when they zag

An active and engaged process of finding your dream job isn’t just about being smart — although, no big surprises here — smart people are generally better at finding useful shortcuts. It’s also about using your creativity and your passion to zig when other folks zag. 

What do we mean by that?

  • Testing your approach: So you threw your metaphorical filet mignon into the algorithmic meat grinder and you got a dry and tasteless meat patty and an unconvincing dill pickle for your pains. If you’re switched on, you’ll chalk that up as a failed experiment and learn from it. Testing your approaches and efficiently learning from mistakes will help you avoid wasting a “rare” opportunity. 
  • Looking beyond the low hanging fruit: The best jobs aren’t advertised. They’re made and won behind the scenes, far beyond your reach if you’re confining your hunt to generic online search tools. Like Poirot (or Angela Lansbury if you’re seeking employment in the Cabot Cove metropolitan area), dig deeper. Keen detective work may be in order. 

Get started in 15 minutes or less

Recognize you have a bit of a passive streak as a job hunter? Good news: no red pens are required for this one.

  1. Can you find employees and HR managers of places you’d love to work on LinkedIn? The best time to begin assembling information about how your dream employer operates is right now yep, before an interview is even a glimmer on the horizon. 
  2. Think of three companies where you’d love to work and follow them on social media. Do some online detective work to learn their lingo and build a clear picture of who they’re recruiting for and why. Make Angela proud. 

“Why should we hire you?”

That’s exactly the question we intend to help you answer when you find yourself sitting in the interview hot seat for your shot at the career you’ve always wanted. 

At this moment, when that crucial question hits, the next few words out of your mouth will need to show (not tell) your interviewer why you’re ideal for their company. These words will need to prove (not plead) your case. These words have to be steeped in the company’s language and be rich with strategy, foresight, and seasoned introspection. 

Imagine feeling calm, the perfect answer spilling out of your mouth as you seal the deal on a career path you were made for. 

We can help you shine in that pivotal, all-or-nothing moment.   





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