How a letter to yourself can crystalise your dream job
Here’s a story I wrote for Open Colleges that applies to everyone unsure of where their career is heading.
(Pic credit: Luis Llerena, StockSnap)
Write your way to your goals
I’ve always been pretty driven and I knew I wanted to be a journalist but after that my goals were a bit hazy.
In my early 30s I did a goal setting course and it was a game changer. It seriously shaped my career. Ever since I learned this exercise I’ve been banging on about it to my friends, young journalists I mentor, even people I meet at dinner parties. And it’s so easy! All you have to do is write a letter to yourself on the perfect workday of your life.
Easy right? Actually it’s bloody hard and takes a lot of time. But it really helps so let me walk you through it.
You write a letter to yourself describing the best day in your entire career. Absolutely nothing can go wrong on that day, it is your work pinnacle. You have to describe it from the moment you wake up, to the moment you go to sleep. You have to provide as much detail as possible so it almost becomes a movie script in your mind.
For example my letter, which I wrote 10 years ago, is still very relevant to me today. It starts like this…
“I wake up in soft 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets feeling rested and recharged. I leap out of bed excited about the day and throw on my exercise gear. Greet my husband with a morning kiss, grab the lead for my puppy and take the lift from the penthouse down to the ground. I smell the crisp air and head off for a run along Bondi Beach with my dog.”
Now none of that even sounds like work. But stick with me. It will make sense in a minute.
My letter continues…
“I am the host and Executive Producer of a TV chat show for women aptly named, The Shelly Show. I have a planning meeting with my production team and we have a spirited and inspiring debate over topics that will help women by educating and entertaining them. I then head to hair and make up to prepare for the recording of the show feeling focused and positive.”
I finished the letter by describing flying to Melbourne in a private jet (come on it IS my perfect day so I’m allowed to dream big) to attend the Logies, explaining what winning the Gold Logie felt like and who I would thank in my speech.
Yep. Ten years on that would still be my perfect workday. Do I feel like a wanker for dreaming that big? Yep. I found it really hard to write it because as Aussies we are taught to not blow our own trumpets. We invented “Tall Poppy Syndrome”. So writing a letter about how awesome you and your life is feels kind of icky.
But here’s how it works. Once you’ve finished the letter (mine took me over a month to write) it has now revealed your goals.
You can break it down to five year, one year, six month, monthly, weekly and even daily goals.
You can work out what you can you do TODAY to work towards your perfect workday?
So using my letter as an example let’s break down my goals.
The first seemingly mundane bit about my morning routine actually reveals a lot. It tells me where I want to live, that I want to have a healthy lifestyle, that I’d like to be married and own a pet dog. It also shows I want to sleep well, which only happens when I’m not overworked and stressed. You are not just your job so it’s important to be holistic.
The second excerpt reveals my true dream of hosting my own TV show. Now being a TV host seemed so far off I had to break it down into achievable goals.
Back then I was working as a newsreader on Triple J. I’d go to work in jeans and pigtails. I had never said out loud that I wanted to be on TV. So once I had worked out my true goal, I knew I wouldn’t get there by staying in radio. I also realised I had to be brave enough to let people know my goals.
So from my letter I came up with these goals.
My one-year goal: Get an on-camera job in television.
My monthly goal: Each month I’d approach a different TV Executive Producer to see if there were any work opportunities and send out my show reel.
My weekly goal: Tell at least one person a week that my dream was to work in TV.
My daily goal: Dress and present myself as “TV camera ready”. Turning up to my radio job with my hair blow-dried and make up done meant I was dressing for the job I wanted not the one I had.
Did it work?
Six weeks after writing my perfect workday and identifying my goals I was offered a job as a reporter on ABC TV. It turns out ABC was developing a new TV series and someone in the newsroom mentioned to the producer that I had said I wanted to move into TV so I was asked to screen test.
If I was still the girl with pigtails who hadn’t verbalised her goals would that have happened? No chance.
Now did all of my goals come true from that letter I wrote ten years ago? No. But it certainly helped me steer my career in the right direction. I have been a guest co-host on TV shows, I’m on Channel Nine three times a week, I’ve hosted online shows and I’ve started my own video production company, ShellShocked Media.
I haven’t reached my perfect workday yet but I’m certainly heading in the right direction.
Ten years ago online journalism was in it’s infancy. So you need to adapt your best day and move with the times. It makes me realise I’m due for a new perfect day letter. It will only require a few tweaks not a complete rewrite.
So give this exercise a go and dream big. It might help you in the same way it helped me.
Meanwhile I’m off to buy some Egyptian cotton sheets.