I asked a recent college graduate, "What is your dream job?"
"Too early to tell," came the reply. "What's yours?"
I smiled. "I'm doing it!" I answered, and then realized I was building presentation kits at the moment. I laughed. "I love being a business consultant. I love my entire job - even stuffing envelopes and writing presentations!"
"How did you get your dream job?" she asked. She was serious, and earnest, and almost looked like she might take notes on my answer.
"I treated every job I do as if it was my dream job. I figured if I apply the enthusiasm, thoroughness, and positive attitude I would have for my dream job to everything I do, I'd find more things I'm good at, and do more of them well. Then it was always clear what direction I wanted my career to take. That's how I discovered consulting was my dream job, and that I'm really good at it. People constantly ask for and follow my advice!"
I learned it from a friend. He explained that he tried to never say "no" to a new experience, and even in a job he hated, do it so well he was proud of his work. He looked at each part of his work from a labor and management perspective, educating himself on how the actions fit together into the whole. Within 5 years of adopting this attitude, he had his dream job.
I tried to do the same. I work hard, keep it positive, and learn as much as I can as quickly as I can. What I quickly realized is that when I was focused on my work, and not on my wants, I did a fantastic job, and received terrific reviews. Could it really be that simple? Yes!
It doesn't matter what job you have now. What matters is how well you're doing it. You can build skills, colleagues, and terrific references from the mail room to the board room. Flipping burgers teaches you about labor, management, and inventory control, among many other skills. Learning about management practices is often easiest by being managed yourself. Learning what skills you love and excel in is best achieved by doing. Every job educates you better about what you do and don't want to do next. And creating rave reviews for yourself will always make you an in-demand employee.
Don't expect to jump from entry level to executive level in one step. Move to positions that will teach you more about how to do your dream job beautifully, and look at each position as a specific, important step in the path to your dream job. Apply one or two steps beyond your current position, and be yourself in your cover letters and interviews. Value your own work. You'll be surprised how quickly you get to your dream job.