The idea of a dream job was first conceived by Confucius, the Chinese politician and philosopher, millennia ago.
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”, he said. This quote has proven itself to have stood the test of time, and here we are in 2020 still wanting to find our dream jobs.
And there’s no harm in aiming for the job of your dreams. But it’s also a good idea to interrogate the idea of a dream job in the first place and understand exactly what you can do to step closer to a great role for yourself.
The practicalities of a job
During the course of our career, we’ll spend way more time at work than we will with our loved ones, travelling, pursuing hobbies etc. Therefore, wanting a dream job is a perfectly understandable desire.
Of course, our jobs are not just there to help us keep busy for a set number of hours every day. The vast majority of us are working because we have bills to pay, and we need to earn the money to do so.
That doesn’t mean that our idea of a dream job is a silly one. But it does mean that we need to be practical in how we approach our work.
Aligning passion with practicalities
Can you remember your childhood dream career? Were you dogmatic about becoming an astronaut or a firewoman or an artist?
These early dreams capture the zeal and passion many of us feel in our younger years when we envision how we’ll spend the rest of our lives. There is a lot of value in these dreams, and they can reveal interesting clues about our interests and capabilities.
Equally, part of the maturing process is spending time identifying your personal values and goals. And your maturing process should be just that - a process.
No one knows it all. Not ever.
Whether you have just graduated and are searching for your first role, or you’ve been employed for decades, there’s still much to learn about yourself. Cultivating a growth mindset as you go through life is a gift that will pay many dividends.
Often, the people who find their dream jobs do so because they’ve taken the time to understand their own values and goals and mapped that against their deeply held passions. That doesn’t necessarily mean that someone lands up as an astronaut, but it could mean that they find their dream job working in an innovative science-driven organisation (for example).
Hard work is (always) part of the deal
Confucius was definitely onto something, but his succinct quote doesn’t address the hard work needed to find success.
Most of us expect to work hard once we’re in a job. Just to be clear, when we use the term “working hard”, we’re meaning meeting deadlines, being a good team player, adhering to company policy etc.
But few of us take a step back to consider the hard work that we need to put into finding our dream job in the first place.
It’s tempting to think that our passion will lead us to our dream job. Or that we’ll one day just be lucky and our dream job opportunity will land in our laps.
These assumptions can be damaging when they don’t come up with the goods. That damage can result in a loss of motivation and direction. And, even worse, stagnation in your dream job search.
We’ve already spoken about understanding what your value and your goals are, and using this information to identify what your dream job is.
The way to do this is through self-awareness. And cultivating self-awareness as your #1 superpower is ongoing work in itself. But it’s work that’ll open the doors to the opportunities you’re looking for.
Maura O'Hea, Managing Director of Next Recruitment, says, “Few people internalise that you can choose and create your career. Imagine the growth opportunities and richness of experience you’ll enjoy if you build a career that makes the best of your strengths, stretches you with enjoyable challenges and supports you as you learn and discover.”
We think that’s a pretty close description of a dream job.
Taking a conscious decision to build self-awareness, and continuously flexing your self-awareness muscle, will also teach you another valuable lesson.
And that’s the lesson that the path to success is never linear. It’s highly likely that the path to your dream job will be filled with detours in the guise of not-so-dream-jobs. Learn what you can from all of them.
Every job has some downsides
Yes, even dream jobs!
Part of knowing what your values and goals are is knowing what you’re willing to compromise on.
The truth is that every job comes with some parts that won’t be your favourite thing to do. Maybe you’re a marketer who loves strategising how to build new inbound lead funnels, but you’re not crazy about writing the content that goes with it. Or you might be a data scientist who loves simplifying big data models for your colleagues in other teams, but you’d prefer to do without the multiple status meetings you’re pulled into.
Understanding that every role you take will come with some parts you don’t love will help you get closer to identifying exactly what you’re looking for in a dream job.
And you’ll be clearer too on the tradeoffs you’re willing to make.
The inverse is also true. Just about every job has an upside.
If you’re in a toxic job, then do everything you can to quit as quickly as possible. No job is worth the cost of losing your mental and physical health.
But not-your-dream-jobs aren’t necessarily toxic, and they all have the power to deliver valuable benefits.
Among other things, every job that you take provides you with another chance to grow your network. Having the opportunity to showcase your skills and attitudes to as wide a range of people as possible a pathway that could bring you closer to the job of your dreams.
You have to make it easy for your dream job to find you
One of the myths you need to detach from when it comes to finding your dream job is that is all you need.
Passion will drive you nowhere if you don’t create a smart strategy to help you get to where you want to go.
Author Jeff Goins describes a strategy as a way of “building a bridge”, in The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant To Do.
The advice in the book pulls no punches as it shares some hard truths around what it really takes to find our dream jobs. Its practical advice includes not rushing things, but taking time to really understand our true natures and what work would give the most meaning to our lives.
Further advice also includes working out how to market yourself. This may be volunteering for organisations, creating and updating a blog that shares content on the industry you aspire to work in, or getting yourself on the speaking circuit.
Your dream job will evolve as you do
The dream job you have in mind when you’re 27 will most likely be completely different when you’re 37. The truth is that your dream job evolves as you do. No dream job ever remains a fixed destination.
But by separating the myths from the realities of what it takes to land the job of your dreams, and cultivating a strong degree of self-awareness, you’ll be able to evaluate every opportunity that crosses your path for the value that it brings.
And it’s through that approach that your dream job could be within your reach.