The average person spends one-third of their life at work. So it’s disheartening that, according to a 2017 Gallup poll, most are unhappy in their jobs. If you’re just starting your career and want to avoid being a statistic, or you’re one of those people just checking a box, it may be time to shake things up.

If you're ready to make your next career move, here's how to land your dream job in nine simple steps.

How to Land Your Dream Job

1. Make a Plan


Just like all smart CEOs, to achieve your career ambitions, articulate your goals and lay out a plan to get there. Start with your vision, or where you want to be in five to 10 years. Then, identify the organizations you admire and the specific roles that will help you get there. Like a savvy CEO, identify achievable roles and some that are a stretch—then get to work.

2. Hone Your Skills


Part of your planning process should be an honest assessment of your skills compared to those required for the roles you’re pursuing. Where there’s a glaring hole, look for online courses that can help you round out your experience. If it’s business fundamentals you’re lacking, HBS Online may have the course you need.

3. Tailor Your Resume


One common mistake job seekers make is taking a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing themselves for a job. Don’t just dust off your standard old resume. Take a close look at the requirements for the dream job and make sure your resume highlights those qualities essential for the role you’re going after.

4. Cast Your Net(work)


Building and making use of your network may be the most critical step to help land you the job of your dreams. Many career experts say less than two percent of online applicants get an interview, so rather than relying on applications, make LinkedIn your friend. Be sure you are connected with everyone you know and everyone they know on LinkedIn. The larger the universe of people you can call on to put your resume on the right desk, the better.

Related: 6 Networking Tips for Online Learners

5. Ask for Help


Once you have your shortlist of dream employers, turn to your network and ask for introductions. Most people are willing to spare a few minutes for a friend or a friend of a friend. Even if there’s no immediate job, you can get some free advice and introductions to people they know.

If your network falls short, LinkedIn Premium can help you get to the right people. The $60 per month subscription will buy you access to a much larger network. Then you can directly message HR reps or people within the department you hope to join. Even message the CEO. 

6. Prepare and Practice for Your Interviews


Once you secure an interview, either by phone or in person, do your homework about the organization. Spend time on their website to learn about the business and its leaders. Do a Google search and look for news articles and check Glassdoor to see what employees are saying.

Equally important is researching the individuals with whom you'll meet. Learn as much as possible about the interviewers and compile a list of questions to ask. Interviews are not just about the employer asking questions. In fact, according to research conducted by HBS Professor Alison Wood Brooks, “Asking a lot of questions unlocks learning and improves interpersonal bonding.”

Just like sports or the school play, the more you practice, the better you’ll perform. Once you’re equipped with questions, go into the interview with key points you think will get you the job, then drive those points home. Ask a friend to role-play and pose difficult questions to make sure you’re ready to think on your feet.

7. Dress for Success


In this era of casual dress codes, what to wear to an interview can be perplexing. Ask the person who schedules the interview about the company dress code. If it’s casual, a suit is likely overkill. In most settings, a dress or skirt and conservative blouse will work for women, and chinos and a button-down—maybe even a dress coat—will work for men. There’s still something to be said for dressing for success, and you want your appearance to convey that you’re serious about the opportunity.

8. Prime Your References


Almost as important as your interview performance is the quality of your references. Prospective employers need third-party validation that you have the appropriate skills and right temperament to succeed in the role they need to fill. 

Be prepared with three references—whether former employers, colleagues, professors, or mentors—who can speak to your skills, character, and work ethic. Ask permission before you give out contact information and tell your references the key points you want them to make.

9) Mind Your Manners


Your parents likely always told you to say please and thank you. Never is it more important than after an interview.

The question is: Will an email suffice? That depends on time. A hand-written note is a great way to stand out, but if the prospective employer is moving quickly to fill the role, you need to act fast and send email thank yous within 24 hours of your meeting. It’s not just a polite overture, but a valuable opportunity to remind them of the key qualities you’ll bring to the job and emphasize points they may have missed in your interview.

Thanking your references is just as important. Often, it’s your references who help you seal the deal. Be sure to tell them how much you appreciate their time and effort. Your gratitude will go a long way toward ensuring they will be there for you the next time you need a reference.

It may seem like a distant fantasy, but with grit, determination, and dogged networking, most people can land their dream job in one year.

Are you interested in furthering your career? Explore our online courses to see what skills you can gain to prepare for your next step.

Michele Reynolds

About the Author

Michele Reynolds handles brand marketing and PR for Harvard Business School Online. Prior to HBS Online, she led communications for TripAdvisor and Gazelle and has been widely quoted in national media outlets, including CBS News, Reuters, and The New York Times. Michele earned her bachelor’s degree from St. Bonaventure University. Outside work, she spends time with her teenage daughter, plays tennis, and visits her enormous extended family.