Ask yourself what you want to do for a living, at what level, in which city, etc. Of course, asking the questions doesn't mean you can simply dream your way into being an astronauts or rock star. On the other hand, I don't disparage dreaming as a career tool. If the dream is the precursor to making the plan, then we're on the right track. After all, people do work as astronauts and rock stars; are we sure you can't be one of them?
In truth, I don't see people “dreaming beyond their pay grade” very often. When job seekers talk about goals, they're frequently mundane: Save money, work with collaborative co-workers, build expertise in something. With this criteria in hand, the task is to put a name to this work so it can be searched for. After all, even on the job boards, you can hardly conduct a search for “collaborative work I can be good at.”
This sometimes arduous step of moving from one's desired criteria to an actual job title might be one reason job seekers so often default to an externally-driven process. It can seem simpler to window-shop the ads and then just hope the offer you receive meets at least some of your criteria.
Again, if the window shopping worked more often, I could keep quiet.
But since it doesn't seem to be working, I'm in favor of seeking the job you want, instead of chasing the jobs you don't want.
If you want to try this yourself, here are some steps to get started.
1. Build your wish list: What do you want in your next job? List everything that pops into your head, even though you probably can't have it all.
2. Use your top two or three criteria to define your next job. For example, suppose you want $50,000, a short commute and work that is very social in nature. In this case I would start with the commute and ask: How short? Then I would advise listing every company, large and small within that domain. Next, we would compare that list against your skill set to see what you could do for each employer that fits your other two criteria.
3. Reach out to potential employers. Yes, just like that. These are exploratory conversations, because you don't know yet what you are offering or asking them for. And yes, I agree – this is a tricky conversation to initiate. But what do you have to lose?
This “inside-out” job search process won't appeal to everyone, especially since there is no real road map to guide you. But if you're not making headway otherwise, why not dream a little?