People who want to lift heavy weights usually start with light ones. After that they gradually increase how much they lift. When their muscles strengthen enough, heavy weights that were impossible to lift at first are then raised with ease.

Similarly, those who want to improve other capabilities often start by learning how to better perform simple tasks. When doing these tasks is mastered, the improvers move on to enhancing their performance of more difficult activities. Eventually, these learners can accomplish much more in less time with fewer errors.

Preparing for a desired job or career can be much like these improvement processes. Learning and experience combine to increase performance until good results occur almost every time.

Despite realizing that they lack current competence for doing their dream jobs, some people nevertheless begin preparing for opportunities when none are in sight. Buoyed by confidence that they can eventually acquire such a job and do well in it, they leave no stone unturned to build competence. Sometimes this optimistic approach works well, but at other times it doesn’t.

In contrast, being willing to do whatever it takes to prepare for a job opportunity that’s been offered always pays off. In fact, this approach can even open doors that someone has assumed were closed.

Think back to when you were twelve. What job did you dream of doing when you grew up?

Have you had a chance to do this for a living? If so, great!

If not, your day may still be coming. Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Harlan Sanders was past retirement age when he began franchising his fried chicken recipe to restaurants, years before he built the first take-out KFC store.

If gaining your dream job is still ahead of you, what should you be doing now?

Let me propose a few ideas to help you work up to the job you’ve always wanted:

1. Always do your best at whatever you do now.

2. Continually improve your effectiveness.

3. Be open and friendly to all you meet.

4. Try opportunities that come your way, no matter what initial doubts you have about succeeding.

5. Impress everyone with your dedication to excellence and self-improvement.

How can these five practices help you gain a dream job? The attitude they represent will cause you to stand out in a world where most people are seeking to either do the minimum, or don’t care much about what kind of results they accomplish. By doing well in these practices, others will notice you, and you’ll find opportunities being offered that you didn’t expect.

This advice may sound like nothing more than wishful thinking to you. To help you appreciate the advice’s practicality, let me share the experiences of my colleague, Mr. Dan Dolejs, who is responsible for accounting, admissions, and records at Rushmore University, to explain how such practices can help.

When Dan was twelve, the idea of working for a university first appealed to him. At the time, he didn’t take this possibility very seriously, humbly doubting at the time that he could ever impress anyone at a university.

Instead, coaching softball absorbed him. This interest came naturally. After all, his father was a New Zealand legend for coaching the national women’s teams to win four medals in four world championship tournaments. He helped promote the sport and taught advanced strategies and tactics for pulling off upsets against superior teams. If you had asked him what was coming in his future career, he might have answered that he, too, would someday coach the New Zealand women’s national team.

Mr. Dolejs’ actual jobs since then involved a variety of work well removed from universities and softball, each of which he found interesting and rewarding. All that changed about twelve years ago when he met a visiting American family at church.

This family’s husband and father was Dr. Michael (Mike) Cox, who just happened to be the founder of Rushmore University. Dan was astonished to find that he actually knew someone who had his own university. He was even more surprised when Mike showed him an advertisement for employees. Even though he was interested in the jobs, Dan felt that he wasn’t qualified to do the work and said nothing to Mike about being interested.

A year and a half later, Mike called from Vancouver, to ask whether Dan was online yet. Since computers and online services were still quite expensive then, he answered “no.” Mike directed Dan to pick a computer from Mike’s New Zealand office, to take it home, and to start using it. Mike promised Dan some work to do when he returned to New Zealand in a few months.

Mike asked Dan initially to help with correspondence by mimicking messages that Mike had sent. Mike soon added record-keeping, accounting, financial processing, and other important administrative tasks to Dan’s assignments. Although Dan felt that he was in over his head, he was eager to learn, and Mike was willing to teach him. They spent endless hours together and on the telephone going over what needed to be done. Gradually, Dan became effective in doing these tasks. The meetings and phone calls became infrequent until they were more often social chats than business discussions.

After that, Dan added responsibilities for admissions. Today, he smoothly runs the entire university’s administration. We are all blessed to have him doing so.

Having obtained his own dream job so unexpectedly and having assisted so many students to gain the educations they needed to live their dreams, I was quite interested in learning about his advice for how people should prepare for the kind of job that they want.

For people who aren’t yet working at their dream jobs, Dan shared these observations:

“Use education to find your passion and then engage in work you enjoy.”

“To learn, first choose subjects that interest you so that you can find your passion, then play by the rules, and be sure to persevere to the end.”

In terms of working up to such a job, Dan offers these practical observations about what it’s like to go back to school and earn a mid-career degree:

“At the start of a program, a student’s faculty advisor, the editor, and I have to hold a student’s hands. By the end of the program, these students have found their passions; they like what they have learned, and they feel great joy in what they have accomplished. They are excited about applying what they have learned to all the new opportunities that they can now grasp.”

To get a better sense of how special Dan is, let me offer a final quote from him:

“I marvel that Mike had the patience to teach me how to do a job which, as advertised, I simply was not qualified to do. I also marvel that a ‘B’ student has the opportunity to work with faculty members that any university would be pleased to have. It is humbling to be in such elite company.”

Now, who wouldn’t want to give someone with such a wonderful attitude toward life every possible opportunity?
I’m sure that you better appreciate the importance of working on your attitude as a key that can open unexpected doors of opportunity, including the ones that you’ve always sought.

What are you waiting for?

Author's Bio: 

Donald W. Mitchell is a professor at Rushmore University who often teaches people who want to improve their business effectiveness in order to accomplish career breakthroughs through earning advanced degrees. For more information about ways to engage in fruitful lifelong learning at Rushmore University to increase your effectiveness, I invite you to visit