To get to your dream job, try working backwards. That's right, you can reverse engineer your career, even if you aren't an engineer. Here’s how.

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Want to get promoted faster? Try working backwards to reverse engineer your career. And guess what? You can do this even if you aren’t an engineer. Here’s how.

First, define your career aspiration. What job do want to have in, say, five or 10 years? Maybe you’d like to be a director of operations. Or IT manager. Or project manager. Think about your future and write down the job you want.

Next, conduct research to find job postings for your dream job. You might be able to find a job description at the company where you work, but you’ll also want to conduct research on the Internet. Look for job descriptions in several different industries, so you’ll be able to see a wide variety of requirements associated with that job.

Once you have this information, the next step is to analyze it. Look at the job requirements:

  • What knowledge and skills will you need?
  • What experience is necessary (and how many years)?
  • What’s the minimum level of education required? Are any certifications required?

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After that, figure out the gaps, the areas where you don’t meet the minimum requirements. For example, maybe the job requires a master’s degree in business administration. If you don’t have an MBA, then that’s a gap.

Or, maybe your dream job requires a minimum of eight years of people management, leading progressively larger groups. If you’ve never managed others, then that’s a gap. Analyze each job requirement to see how you measure up and write down all the gaps.

Once you have your list of gaps, the next step is to create your game plan on how you’ll overcome each gap. If you don’t meet the minimum education requirement, you could go back to school in the evenings. If you need people management experience, look for projects you could lead or other jobs you could do to gain those skills.

Finally, find someone who is successful in the job you want and ask him or her to sit down with you to review your game plan. Walk them through where you are today, the job you want, your gap analysis and your game plan to overcome your gaps. Then, ask for advice and feedback.

Reverse engineering your career isn’t difficult, but you’ll need to be honest about your gaps, as overcoming them is the key to speeding up how fast you’re promoted from one job to the next.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at