How to Write a Career List

career-listHave you ever tried to run through a forest on a cloudy night? It’s nothing but pitch black and painful bruising. I have a scar above my left eye to prove it. All right, you caught me. I’m making that part up.

Did you imagine yourself running straight into a tree? That’s the first thing I imagined myself doing.

We often run through our career forest without lighting our own way.

A career list will help you run through a forest lit by Yankee stadium lights. It’s so bright that you can see every bug, stick and tree. By making your actions clear through measurable goals, you have a 99.99% chance of improving your life.

Chris Guillibreau of The Art of Non-Conformity wrote a post called “How to Write a Life List.” I wondered how this idea might be applied to work happiness.

What is a Career List?

Most of us set goals such as “be happy” or “earn more money,” but we leave out what matters most when trying to accomplish these goals – “the how.”

A career list helps you break down “the how” of a career.

When you break down your career into actionable chunks it makes any goal possible.

First you need to know what type of work makes you happy. This is tricky because most of the time we don’t really know what will make us happy. Check out Dan Gilbert’ss talk at TED. He explains that most of the time we are wrong about what will bring us joy. It’s why many of us don’t use our college degrees at our jobs.

What you need to do is keep taking action so you understand what type of work excites you. The more you try certain tasks, jobs and ideas, the better grasp you will have at building a career that will make you happy.

What Goes on Your Career List?

Your career list should be varied and you need to think big. I don’t want my career to be good. I want it to be great. So great that it scares me just thinking about my ideas.

My list looks like this…

Title: Improve my ability to deal with stressful projects.

Then comes the how:

  • When I feel stressed, first I need to focus on my breath and slow my thoughts down.
  • Next, I need to write down one part of the project I will focus on.
  • I will start taking slow action and build up steam.

Then comes the actionable list:

  • Make full time income from Work Happy Now.
    • Publish a series of eShorts
      • Create an affiliate program
      • Market my eShorts to other bloggers
    • Build Tele-seminars to help people from home
      • Find program to handle call load
      • Use existing material and build it into a course
    • Contact companies for my work happiness workshops and presentations
      • Cold Calls
      • Buy ads on Google as a test
      • Guest post to bring more awareness to my blog
      • Speak for free at local business meetings
  • Hire an employee to help with administrative work and treat them like gold.
    • First I need to make really good money then I can hire someone
  • Help companies improve their happiness all over the world.
    • Market my blog to the public
      • Find interviews with reporters, TV, online and radio
  • Write a best selling book.
    • Once I get the blog running smoothly, I will work on getting a book deal. Until then it must wait.
  • Make enough money to retire in 30 years, then keep working only when I feel like it.
    • Save money
    • Invest in low risk stocks
    • Increase Work Happy Now sales at 10% a year

This is just a basic model of what I’m trying to accomplish. I guarantee that it will change in less than a year, but at least I have a plan.

You need to know what will make you happy in your career and work toward it. That means taking small steps every day to get to that career of your dreams.

Actionable Steps

You probably know someone who wants to be an artist, writer, musician, painter. They talk about how cool it would be, but they don’t think about how to make it a reality. They dream a good dream, talk the good talk and that’s it.

Creating a career list will help you to make that dream career a reality. Let’s say you want a job that fits more with your strengths. This job may be in PR. You must create an action plan for each thing on your list if you really want to accomplish this goal.

It should look something like this:

PR career

  • Follow PR blogs
  • Borrow PR books from the library
  • Contact PR companies and ask them what they are looking for.
  • Improve writing skills
    • Practice writing Press Releases
    • Copy other people’s Press Releases
    • Take a night class
  • Go to a conference that is just for copywriting and/or public relations
  • Contact reporters to see what they are looking for when reading a press release

That’s just off the top of my head. You can see I’ve done a fair amount of research on PR. A good press release can reverberate through journalist’s circles.

When you continue to strengthen your talents then you will succeed. You can’t go into the gym and expect to be able to lift a lot of weight right away. If you really want a career in PR, then keep adding to your resume so it tells the story of where you are heading.

Why Write a Career List?

A career list makes you think about what you want to accomplish and how you will do it. It makes your dream career seem possible.

How does a person make a career list that doesn’t seem so daunting?

I asked a friend what she wanted to do with her career. She responded, “There are just too many things.”

She likes so many things, but she can’t narrow it down to just one. She is only 23 and almost anything seems possible.

Whether we are 23, 43, or 63, career choices can seem daunting. We need to create a list that will motivate us, not make us want to crawl underneath the covers.

I have a goal to make Work Happy Now a business by Fall 2009 and a full time gig by 2010. This goal seems crazy. A full-time blogger! It’s weird to think of it that way. I think of full time blogging as some far off dream, but in reality it’s not.

I’ve built up my subscriber base, talked/presented to companies about work happiness, connected with Uber-Bloggers, and written a ton of good articles. Each project has brought me closer to my dream.

I made this happen by taking on One Next Thing at a time. I focused on one thing, did it well and then started my next project. I am guilty of being ADD enhanced, but I’ve learned to keep coming back to the projects that will give me the most bang for my buck.

That’s exactly what I’ve done with this blog. I’ve developed myself into a work happiness expert because I love the concepts. That love and enthusiasm is felt by the people who read this blog and hire me to speak to their organization.

Making Your Career List Come Alive

You should make a Career List too. Take an hour or two to listen to what you want/need and start jotting down everything that comes to mind. When you are done, pick the most important ones and start to break them down into actionable chunks.

Once you have your list in little chunks, you can tackle any career goal.

You have a chance to change the world with small ripples. Start creating those small ripples right now, so that in two years you have more leverage, and in five years you have even more. Once you have leverage, you can pick and choose the work that makes you the happiest.

Will it be easy?


But that’s what a career list is all about: imagining a dream career (that means thinking so grand that it may scare you) and making it a reality.

If you are looking to take your career to the next level then check out the 10 Week eCourse we created to bring more clarity to your working life.


Creativity is all about looking at a problem from fresh angles until it clicks, and then running with it until your are out of breath. When I feel stuck, I visit Lateral Action to help me get my creative valve back open.

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Image courtesy of Swiv