Four Principles to Guide Your Career, with Ben Forstag

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Few people’s careers play out exactly as planned. Changes of interest, new opportunities, and life in-general all interfere with the perfect, linear career maps we made with out high school guidance counselor.

But even if you don’t know exactly where your career is going, you can still control its direction. The key is being clear about what’s important to you as a person and a professional. You don’t need a detailed career map–just some guiding principles.

On this bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job, Ben Forstag, Mac’s List managing director, shares the fundamental concepts that have animated his career. Ben reads  his contribution to our new book, Land Your Dream Job in Portland (and Beyond).



Mac Prichard:   

This is Find You Dream Job. The podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, your host and publisher of Mac’s List.

On today’s bonus episode, we’re sharing exclusive content from our new book, Land Your Dream Job in Portland and Beyond. Land Your Dream Job in Portland and Beyond compiles job search tips and career management tools into one simple easy to read guide. It’s the definitive tool kit for anyone looking for meaningful work. The book also includes special contributions from an array of job search experts and today you’ll hear from one of them.

Here’s Ben Forstag, Managing Director of Mac’s List reading his contribution, Four Principles to Guide Your Career.

Ben Forstag: 

Four Principles to Guide Your Career. Careers develop continuously over forty or fifty years of our working lives. They’re subject to both internal forces, like family dynamics and changes of interest and external ones like the economy and the local job market. Accordingly, I’ve always been dubious about mapping out an entire career in advance. The linear progressions of model career development, law school, clerkship, federal prosecutor, night circuit, supreme court, rarely play out so cleanly in real life. I’ve certainly worked to navigate my career’s direction. However, rather than targeting a predetermined destination, I focus on the journey itself. My career plan is less a road map, than it is a set of four practical guidelines. Here they are.

  1. Do what you’re good at. We’ve all heard the dictum do what you love. This is great advice if you have strong passions and a clear vision for how to monetize them, but sometimes, the things we love most don’t translate into a job that pays the bills. At least, not right away. In these situations, I urge people to focus first on their skills rather than their passions. Do what you do well. Skills can transfer to different jobs, industries and interest. Focusing on professional strengths gives your career flexibility while also eliminating potential avenues to work in the field of your choice. Ultimately, passion and skill are two sides of the same coin. There’s a reason you’re good at some things and not others. Your skill set is a reflection of the interest and enjoyment you derive from doing those activities. In this sense, doing what you’re good is actually a way to do what you love.
  2. Keep learning. Taken by itself, the do what you’re good at rule could lead to a monotonous and boring career. That’s why it’s important to stay curious and explore new interests and skills. Read books and blogs, take classes, network outside of your field. Do anything that exposes you to new ideas. You may discover professional interests that you never imagined. Throughout my own career, I’ve tried to say, ‘yes’ to learning opportunities whenever they appear. As a result, I’ve gained new passions for statistics, data analytics and coding. A surprising development for someone who went out of his way to avoid math classes in college.
  3. Stay balanced. It’s good to be passionate about your job, but it’s also important to have passions outside of the office. One of the best things you can do for your career is to have a healthy work/life balance which provides an escape valve from the stresses of work. It can also insulate you from the inevitable down periods of your professional life.
  4. Live your own dream. This is the final rule, but perhaps the most important. You have to evaluate your career according to your own criteria, not anyone else’s. Measuring yourself against other people’s success is like trying to live their dream rather than your own. Try to focus on what you want in life to do. Without worrying about what others may think. Remember, professional contentment is neither objective nor relative. The only question is whether your job and career path bring you happiness.

Mac Prichard: 

If you’re looking for expert advice and insider tips like what you just heard, check out Land Your Dream Job in Portland and Beyond. You’ll find everything you need to get a great job whether your in Portland, Oregon, Portland, Maine, or anywhere in between.

The 2016 edition includes new content and for the first time ever, it’s available in paperback, as well as in an array of e-reading devices including Kindle, Nook and iBooks. For more information on Land Your Dream Job in Portland and Beyond, visit