The Myth of the Dream Job

Updated: Feb 14, 2012 10:19
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Some of you are broke because you are waiting for your dream job to come along. Or, you may be broke BECAUSE you are in your dream job, and the money doesn’t matter. Congratulations, you’ve achieved something that so many of us pine for daily. I know this is going to make me sound cynical and pessimistic, but I’ve given up the idea of the “dream job”.

Think for a minute about what you would consider your dream job. Maybe it’s being President. Maybe it’s owning your own business. Being a famous actor. Perhaps it is to make a living by creating art. Some could be fantasies, others are more in grasp, if only you try a little harder or keep looking.

Since I’ve been sixteen, I’ve had at least 15 different jobs. Some were part-time to supplement me, some were out of necessity to live, and others were professional careers. In retrospect, I’ve actually been hired to what others would consider their “dream jobs.” Right out of college, I wanted to work for a political non-profit and I was hired by one of the most respected, high-profile non-profits. Later on, I got a degree in education and I currently work in a position which others in my field often tell me they are envious of; I originally accepted the job based on the name and what I perceived the position to do. ( I don’t teach, but I do work in an office environment. It’s a pretty casual office environment, luckily.) Sure, the end result of what the whole organization is trying to accomplish is something I also want to achieve, but the day-to-day office politics and bureaucracy often leaves me checking job listings whenever I can. I am sure you can already surmise that the education field is not a lucrative career, so salary is nothing to be envious of. What I have learned: an office job is not for me.

I see a lot of this among my friends in the Bay Area, who work at Google, Pixar, Dreamworks, Facebook and all the other Silicon Valley giants. You know what? They don’t leave work skipping down the street and whistling every night. Sure, the free meals and slides that take you from floor to floor may be fun, but they are also stressed by the long work hours, co-workers, and expectations to perform. Meanwhile, someone on the outside may see their positions as “dream jobs.” I also have friends that have worked for congress or high powered law firms who make more money than I will ever see in my lifetime, yet their work pressures have prevented them from enjoying it.

I am not writing this to tell you to give up on your dreams. My advice would be to be more realistic about what your needs and wants are. Don’t let a big fancy company name or how the job is depicted in the media make you reach for something that doesn’t exist. Think about what you want and don’t give up everything for an opportunity for prestige. Being Broke-Asses, the promise of a great salary of course is a draw, but if don’t ultimately need to take it, don’t let that be the only reason.

For instance, if you asked me what my dream job was several years ago, I may have said to write for a major entertainment publication like Entertainment Weekly or New York Magazine. You know what? I have no idea what it’s like to work at those places. Maybe the editors stifle creativity? Maybe they don’t treat their writers well? Is everyone required to put in 14 hour days? There’s not a lot of ways to actually know unless I knew someone who worked there already.Those things would make me miserable.

A more realistic dream job, for me, would be to work for an awesome website that gives me lots of freedom in what I want to write about and the flexibility to write remotely. Oh? What’s that you say? I already do that? If only I could do this for a full-time job, that would be a “dream job” for me. However, something I DO value in my next full-time job is one that gives me the flexibility to pursue my passion for writing. So maybe my dream job is one that allows me to have time to spend my leisure time writing with no pressures or restrictions.

My purpose here is for you not to give up on your dreams or tell you it’s never going to happen. If anything, I would urge those of you, especially to those starting out, to really consider the day-to-day functions of a job and what you value for your life. Maybe what you consider to be the ultimate job may be something different than what it is.

My hope for everyone, and for myself, is indeed to find my dream job. But I will know what it is after I get it, when I’ve put in the effort to get there and it will be on the path I have set myself on. And not because it’s for a well-known company or you have a false perception of the power and prestige it brings.

For me, giving up the idea of a “dream job” has been a great thing. It makes me grounded in reality and forces me to focus on my current situation. It has made me appreciative of the things I have now, and not where I think I should be. It’s no longer an all-or-nothing situation.



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Robin Hardwick - Cost-Conscious Connoisseur

Robin Hardwick - Cost-Conscious Connoisseur

Robin was raised in the shopping malls of suburban Long Island, New York. As a teenager, her life goals were to become a writer and marry Bret Michaels. After attending college at the University of Delaware (yes, in the state of Delaware) and earning a graduate degree educationl at NYU, she's achieved only one of those goals. Along with writing, Robin enjoys performing improv comedy, internet memes, cross-stitch, and showing off her alarmingly extensive knowledge of obscure pop culture trivia. Currently, Robin resides in Oakland, CA and is writing a book about the 1980s teen book series, Sweet Valley High.