Everyone has their bucket list: Travel the world for a year. Go skydiving. And swim with dolphins in Hawaii. But here’s why you should have a career bucket list.
Most of the time I don’t go for the mental tricks that get humans motivated. Because at the end of the day they’re often short-term fixes that don’t produce long-term results.
(How’s your New Year’s resolution going? Yeah I thought so.)
But I am high on bucket lists. There are countless stories where individuals have used their bucket list to become the best version of themselves.
And this got me thinking that everyone could also use a career bucket list to accomplish more than they previously imagined or thought possible. That’s the inspiration for this article.
It makes sense why bucket lists work because holding tight to a vision with a purpose behind it is important. It not only motivates you but reminds you of why you’re doing what you’ve set out to accomplish so you can persevere.
That’s the intention of this career bucket list: To inspire you to think big and take risks while you still can in your career.
After all, there will come a day when there’s no longer the chance to try some of this activities. Best aim for them now while you can.
The Career Bucket List
1) I want to get my first adult job out of college.
Quality bucket lists start small and build their way up. You need to crawl before you walk in your career and the first step is getting that official, adult job out of college.
Take this job search serious since studies show your first position and salary can often influence the rest of your career.
If you’re not confident in your job hunt ability, my bestselling book The Golden Resume walks you through how to write a persuasive resume to win interviews and the insight you need to succeed during interviews.
2) I want to increase my salary by $1,000+ through brilliant negotiation.
Both during the hiring stage and while on the job, you as an employee have more power than you think to increase your salary. Don’t think so? Get this: I personally increased my first-job-out-of-school salary by $10,000 from the initial offer.
You can do the same to get similar results and you should. Use the tactics in this article and the employer will have no choice but to sweeten your salary offer. Just thank me later when this works out for you.
3) I want to receive a big promotion.
Guy, girl, or animal, at the end of the day everyone wants to feel respected. That’s why receiving a significant promotion at your company within a few years is no small feat.
If you put in the work and don’t do anything terrible stupid to jeopardize yourself (like accidentally doing a live stream drinking with your friends on the company’s Instagram account instead of your own—I know someone who did this), you can knock this item off your bucket list.
Then go celebrate because you’ve earned the right to!
4) I want to quit a good job for a great one.
Sometimes the people who just absolutely hate their time at work are better off than the people who feel mediocre about coming into the office.
Because for these people it’s crystal clear they should resign to find something better. But the people who kind of enjoy their job that are trapped in a mirage to stay for a few decades too long when they’d be happier doing different work.
If you’re not all the way there on the job happiness scale, then you should experiment going outside your comfort zone to quit and find more satisfying work (reminder: no job is perfect).
The phrases YOLO—you only live once—and FOMO—fear of missing out—should apply to your career just as much as a weekend activity.
5) I want to work in my favorite city.
Work and location go hand in hand. Often how much you enjoy yourself is dictated by the place where you work, who lives there, and how much fun you have on weekday nights and weekends in this city.
A country lover is going to have a hard time getting fresh air and seeing stars in New York City. While an ocean fanatic is going to feel like they’ve lost a part of themselves if they are stuck in Nebraska. Or it’s tough to enjoy life if all of your friends and family live somewhere else.
Pairing your work with your favorite city has to be a priority. Maybe you do even one better and your bucket list item becomes “I want to work my dream job in my favorite city.”
6) I want to be fulfilled in my job’s work.
Two people go to work. One dreads going. Has such a horrible time there that they would pay anything to make the clock tick faster. And is depressed at night because they know they have to go back to that place of hell tomorrow.
Another individual wakes up happy. They think about all the cool things they get to do at work and then feel fulfilled while doing them. And when they get home, they’re relaxed because their job satisfies their desires.
Go find a job that fulfills your interests, curiosities, and values.
7) I want to land my dream job.
Your dream job doesn’t have to stay in your dreams. There are dream jobs out there with your name on it, so why not pursue them with everything you’ve got inside you?
Call, email, and meet in person all of your possible connections who could get you closer to getting offered that dream position. Know exactly what the interviewer is looking for and be that. Practice your interview skills every week.
You can get your dream job with the right amount of focus and energy (sometimes patience is needed too).
8) I want to have a boss who truly appreciates me and compliments my work.
Horrible bosses can turn you from a positive person to a negative person real quick. It doesn’t help that they usually wield the power of your employment, salary, promotion, and reference letter if you leave.
On the flip side, an amazing boss who appreciates your effort can completely change your work outlook and career trajectory. And they also can put in a good word to help you go the places you desire at that company or at another company.
Before you retire, you need to find a boss who appreciates your hard work. It’s sometimes rare to find but oh boy is it a blessing.
9) I want to lead a new project, team, or division to a successful outcome.
Advancing in your career gives way to new opportunities and responsibilities, such as leading a team.
Achieving individual success is cool, but former athletes know that there’s nothing quite like the feeling of winning a team sport.
In this case, it’s business and you’re leading the team to victory. It’s your job to set the tone, culture, and direction of this team to a successful outcome. Challenging? Yes. Rewarding? Incredibly so.
Now that’s deserving of your bucket list.
10) I want to take a mini-retirement to travel for 12 months.
The baby boomers and all of the generations before them did retirement wrong.
For 40 or 50 years they would only take a week or two vacation every year until they retired. Then they’re 65 years old or older with too much free time on their hands and it’s harder to travel at their age. (Not to mention all of the people who miss retirement because they pass away early. This is grim but true.)
A better way is to take a few mini-retirements throughout your career, if that’s your thing, because then you guarantee you see all of the places and do all of the things you’ve wanted to as you live. These mini-retirements are best when you’re transitioning between careers.
11) I want to make $100,000 in one calendar year.
I always say this but admit it or not, your money matters. It affects your day-to-day decisions and long-term decisions. Want to take that trip around the world? Want to quit your job? Want to surprise your mom by flying home for Thanksgiving? You need money.
However, I truly believe that money represents how valuable you are to your company, industry, and society as a whole. It’s supply and demand. Aiming to make $100,000 means you need to be skilled in your field.
For these two reasons, desiring to make $100,000 (or more) in one calendar year isn’t vain or selfish. It’s admirable.
12) I want to speak at a conference in front of my peers.
I get it, for some of you this could be your biggest nightmare and the opposite of a bucket list item. Public speaking is more feared than death, they say.
However, for the people who love attention and all eyes on them, there may be no bucket list item greater than speaking in front of a thousand people.
It’s an honor to be invited to speak. And then going on stage is truly a rush! You’ll feel like a rock star.
So if you have something important to say and love inspiring others, this is a must add to your career bucket list.
13) I want to start my own business.
Ever have the urge to take the jump and see if your business can fly? This is a common bucket list item and it makes sense why.
Business owners have the following advantages:
- Work when and how often they want to
- Unlimited income with no ceiling to how much they can earn
- Don’t have to take orders from anyone or deal with crazy bosses
- Location-independence to travel as they please
- Have something to pass down to their children
And there are too many to count other perks—along with a bunch of struggles but for many people it’s worth it. If you have the desire, you have to cross this off your bucket list someday.
14) I want to hire employees to work for me.
It’s night and day between a freelancer and a true business owner with multiple employees reporting to them on a daily basis.
Anyone can become a freelancer. But having employees work for you means your business is both successful and sustainable enough to last while also having a forward-thinking mindset of expansion. That’s something to be extremely proud of accomplishing.
I’ve always dreamed of being CEO of a huge conglomerate so this bucket list item peaks my interest maybe the most. Does it interest you?
15) I want to join the board of a local organization I believe in.
Part of what defines a successful career is how an individual used their talents and resources to benefit others.
What better way to do this than to serve on the board of a local nonprofit, charity, or church where you’re committed to their mission?
But board invitations don’t go to everyone. That’s why this a solid bucket list item as you advance in your career and build a name for yourself.
Use your network and connections to cross off this bucket list item. Only then can you serve in this leadership role you desire.
16) I want to become an expert in my field and write a book.
Good luck trying to wing a book. That’d be a nightmare writing it and for your readers to consume.
Authoring a book requires expert knowledge to know what to include in the book and how to communicate in a way that’s best for your audience. As Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
It’s a great bucket list item. You’ll receive added credibility to accomplish other items on this list, passive income from book royalties, and a legacy holder to look back on.
I’ve written 3 books and each one was an incredible struggle that ended in ultimate joy. Master a field and then join me with the author title.
17) I want to mentor a promising startup company.
You can’t hold onto what you’ve learned in business forever. Sooner or later you’re going to die, or you can pass on what you’ve learned to a help guide a startup company to the promise land.
This way your legacy tree grows if you’re the difference-maker for a startup company that has the innovation and drive, but they need your vision to make the right strategic moves.
Besides personally rewarding, it can be extremely profitable to be an early advisor or mentor to a startup and receive some ownership for your work. And when they succeed, or blow up with an IPO, you’re mega-rich for it.
But if mentoring isn’t your thing, you may want to teach at a college or high school.
18) I want to teach students and inspire a younger generation.
The student becomes the teacher could describe you if you desire to become a professor and share what you’ve learned in your storied career.
The job has some nice perks like making a true difference in some individuals’ lives, mentoring students to a successful career path, and being on the other side of the grading assignments ordeal.
Right now I don’t think I’d want to be a teacher. But who knows, things could change in a few decades you know? What about you?
19) I want to retire early.
Imagine calling it quits in the corporate world at age 50, 40, or even 35 years old? People are doing it which shows this reality is 100% possible.
As this entrepreneur.com article explains, “There is a growing movement of young retirees who are smashing our conventional beliefs about what it really takes to retire early. They’re not born rich, they’re not lottery winners and they’re not Silicon Valley insiders.”
Read that linked article to learn how they did it and how you can too. Retiring early on your own terms would be unbelievable!
20) I want to retire financially free and a winner.
What’s retiring a winner mean? For different people the idea will be different.
But for me, this concept means retiring on your own terms, having financial freedom to not worry about money in your golden years, and looking back on your work life thinking, “I had one hell of a career. I can’t believe how much I accomplished. Wow, what a ride.”
Not all retirements are the same. Some people can’t afford to retire. Or they retire with enormous regret that they didn’t make the most out of their time when they had the opportunity to work. Make sure you retire on top!
You Control Your Career
It’s unbelievable how much you control your career and destiny. Be smart with a sound strategy and work your butt off, then you’ll get whatever you want eventually.
I firmly believe that.
And that’s the perspective you need to have after reading this career bucket list post. Nothing is stopping you from doing what you desire in your career except your mindset.
When you get out of your own way, amazing things happen. You’ll be more successful and happier.
Of course, if something on this list doesn’t interest you (like teaching a college class) then don’t waste time pursuing it. But on the other hard, just to confuse you, you might enjoy being your own boss more than you could ever know before doing it.
The point is it’s your career. You hold the cards and get to decide when and where you play them.
Take risks. Go outside your comfort zone. Experiment left and right. Do all you can to create a successful career that you can be proud on when you look back at it in retirement.
Not pursuing your individual bucket list is soul crushing when it catches up to you. Don’t give your career a life sentence of mediocrity.
Live big! You owe it to yourself and the people around you, you know?