I need more from work – How many jobs does it take to make a career? How do I take the next steps to figure out what I’m missing out on?

Feeling stuck in your job? Elaine Varelas guides on how to approach making changes.

Q: I have a job, but I want a career. Since graduating college years ago, I have had a string of jobs that haven’t added up to a career with the money a real career brings. I’ve read all the “look for a job” blogs and I have picked up a few books like “What Color is Your Parachute”, but I need more than that, I guess.  I have been told to check at my college for a career consultant, but they don’t work with alumni. I need help – a career consultant, or a step-by-step guide. How did all these other people make it happen?

A: You are not alone in your unhappiness with workGetting a job is one part of finding rewarding work, but taking the steps to turn work into a career that you love takes introspection, talking to lots of people, getting out of your comfort zone, and risking and getting lots of rejection.  And if you keep at it, you can successfully take the first steps toward getting the career you want and set the stage for the longer term.
You have received good advice so far.  Try to work with a career consultant.  I do advise people to check with their college or university.  If they don’t work with alumni, call the development office and let them know that you’d be happy to donate once they start supporting alumni.  Ask the people in the career services office if they recommend people in private practice who charge reasonable rates and work with people on career planning AND job search.  What you have described is exactly the two different parts to what managing your career is all about.  You need a plan and then a job that matches that plan. 
Career planning starts with questions and then finding answers.  There are some great career books, and Parachute is an icon.  I have other favorites depending on where you are in career planning or job search.  If you need job search expert advice (or want to help someone who might) buy “Don’t Wear Flip-Flops to your Interview” by Dr. Paul Powers.  Every job search needs a balance of great real life proven advice. If you are an early career Professional (or perhaps want to help someone who is) get “The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right” by Goren Ng.
And hot off the press is the newly published interactive step-by-step guide, Finding a Job That Loves You Back: The three conversations that will take you from wherever you are to wherever you discover you want to go co-authored by my colleague Tad Mayer, a certified career consultant and a partner at Essex Partners.  The years of experience and people’s real-life situations that will support your process are all described by Mayer, and his coauthors, Carly Inkpen and Justin Wright.  They have created a framework to create relief, hope, direction, and most importantly, results.
Mayer’s purposeful approach advice is direct and provides many options to take you through each step.  “I’ve worked with lots of clients who have run previous job searches by just applying to roles that “look interesting”. And others who have gotten advanced degrees with no idea of the career prospects. If you are not clear on your purpose, you either spend hours applying online to lots of jobs with no results or end up in a role that is often dissatisfying. Taking the time to brainstorm with people who have various experiences, learn from people in roles or fields that they think might be interesting glean advice from people who have made strategic choices in their careers can be invaluable in making informed decisions. “
All of these books agree on one main point. Connections. People generally do want to help people succeed. But be prepared to deal with rejection and learn resilience.  Because you have to keep going to succeed. Ask people about their accomplishments. They will enjoy telling the story and you may be able to learn from what they did and follow their lead.  Take any opportunity to connect and ask questions to explore potential paths and opportunities.  It isn’t easy but it will be valuable and finding a job you love will lead to that career path you want.