Why dream jobs often aren’t

Why dream jobs often aren’t

I once dreamed of being an over-the-road truck driver. The thrill of driving a giant rig, the ability to see the country, the control over something the size of a tank all sounded pretty cool.

Of course, I was eight then.

Today, I’m glad I didn’t pursue that passion, as I don’t like driving long distances.

This is all by way of saying that dream jobs usually aren’t. By the time we get them, we may have changed in fundamental ways – and the work that we’re doing or the employer we’re working for may not actually matter as much to us as the environment, balance, flexibility, or management style. There are plenty of jobs I’d love to do, but with the wrong boss, they’d all be non-starters.

The reality of a “dream job” can be disappointing. It rarely matches up to the idea in our head that we’ve developed, and we can feel disillusioned and unfulfilled as a result.

Many of the jobs that you may be passionate about don’t pay well; it’s hard to make ends meet as a teacher when you’re struggling to pay the rent.

It can also be highly competitive to land one of those jobs in the first place. Full-time federal roles as a National Park Service ranger or developer jobs with Google are few and far between, and there are plenty of other people who are seeking the same type of gig. That can be exhausting or demoralizing.

A dream job can be all-consuming; it’s easy to fall into this trap when you’re passionate about something. But that can also leave little time for the other important things in life.

And in the end, you may discover that it’s not your dream any more. Perhaps it never was in the first place. We sometimes think we want something because it sounds good or because we’re influenced by the opinions of others – but it’s not what you want.

Our dream jobs may also change throughout life. When I attended The College of Wooster 20-odd years ago, I wanted to be a journalist. I loved the work, the camaraderie, and the drive. But after 10 years, and after surviving two rounds of layoffs, I wanted something with more stability. My dream job shifted from a specific career to doing more writing; today, I’m in marketing, and it suits me just fine.

What should you do if you find that your dream career isn’t what you envisioned? Be honest with yourself and don’t keep trying to cram a round peg into an octagonal hole. It’s OK to readjust your expectations and change your direction. Keep searching for what makes you happy and fulfilled.

Career Stories columnist Dan Shortridge is a nationally certified resume writer, marketing consultant, and author. Contact him and submit questions for future columns at resultsresumes.org.

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