Your dream career isn’t going to fall out of the sky and smack you on the head. You have to plan for it.

If you are completely lost and unsure how to plan your dream career, there are a few things you can do right now to identify the steps it will take to reach your goals. Once you’ve identified the steps, reaching your goals is simply a matter of completing each step!

To figure out the steps to the best career for you, try these ideas:

Research Companies in Your Chosen Industry

When you’re envisioning your dream career, picture the physical place where you’ll work when you’ve achieved your goals. Is it a corporation? A small business? A college? A hospital? An airport?

Now, from that vision, research companies that will allow you to work in your perfect location. You can Google to find companies, or surf on LinkedIN. Do your research to find out as much as you can about companies that offer your ideal work environment. You want to know about their company culture, what kind of projects they do, the different job roles within the company, and who their employees are.

Once you know who the employees are, you can follow them on LinkedIN, or at least look at the kind of skill set they have. Pay attention to their previous work experience and the degrees they hold. Make a list of common skills, education, and previous work experience you see among the workers.

After you’ve made a good list of common skills and education among employees at your target companies, start looking through their open job advertisements. Is there anything listed that you could do now to start networking within the company while you improve your skills for your dream job? If not, pay attention to the wording in the job advertisements. Are there even more skills and experience the company wants?

If you can find three companies where you’d love to work and research them thoroughly, you will see patterns in the skills, education, and work experience between their employees and their job advertisement. You will begin to form a clear picture of the skills and experience you need to gain.

Network and Ask for Advice

With a clear vision of the companies where you want to work and what skills you’ll need to get there, the next step you should take to planning the steps to your career goal is to start networking with the people who do the job you want to do. Send emails to people in the role you want and ask them if they mind talking to you over coffee or Skype. Start making connections so that you understand your dream job better. These connections can help you find internships and recommend you internal positions within their companies.

You should also consider finding a career coach. A good career coach can help you set goals, make plans, and clearly see your next steps toward your dreams.

Strengthen Your Skill Set

If you’ve researched companies in your chosen industry and networked with people doing the job that you want to do, you should have a very clear list of skills and education you need to land your dream job. Now it’s time to start gaining the skills you need.

Outside of traditional college education, companies like Training Connection offer computing courses for those wanting to boost their IT skills. You can also find workshops and certifications for almost every industry. Don’t count on your college education alone to get you a job—in most cases you will need skills outside of your degree to find your dream job.

Intern, Extern, or Volunteer

To break into your chosen industry, you will need work experience of some sort. One of things you can do if you can’t find a job is to take an internship. Believe it or not, a lot of internships are paid, and those that aren’t offer a wealth of experience and networking opportunities.

If you’re out of college or don’t feel comfortable taking an internship, look for opportunities to extern or volunteer. Contact HR departments at the companies where you want to work and ask if they’re open to volunteers. Explain that you’re trying to gain experience in the industry and you’d love to work for them. Very few places will turn down free work, so it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Plan Your Next Move

Everything on this list so far should help you clearly see the steps to at least entering the industry for your dream job. You should have actionable steps to start today to start down your career path. Your next move should be to either research companies, network with people in your industry, gain skills, or gain experience. Make a list of the steps to your dream job and start checking things off the list!

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