The Myth of the Dream Job
If you’re plagued by that nagging certainty that your job, the company, or the group of people you work with isn’t where you’re supposed to be, and you know there has to be something better out there in the form of a career that’s a perfect match for your skills, personality, and financial goals, I may be able to help you refine your search.
Episode 26 - The Myth of the Dream Job
Still looking for that Dream Job? I’ve been looking for forty years – maybe I can save you some time.
Hey, welcome back. This is Roger Reid with another episode of Success Point 360.
Caught in the “dream-job” trap? If you’ve fallen prey to that constant feeling—that nagging certainty—that there’s something better out there in the form of a career that’s a perfect match for your skills, personality, and financial goals, I may be able to help you refine your search.
First, let’s talk about the most common symptoms of someone who is locked in that continuing search for a better career – one that will provide the level of income they want and will provide them with a sense of fulfillment:
- You don’t feel like you’re where you’re supposed to be. Part of you – maybe a big part—is constantly reminding you, that, you’re wasting your time. The job, the place, the company, or group of people you work with, it’s just not right, and it isn’t where you belong. You’re meant for something better, something that’s makes you excited when you think about getting up in the morning. You want to work toward professional and personal goals that you’ve set for yourself, and when accomplished will make a difference in your life.
- You don’t enjoy the work you’re doing, or derive any sense of satisfaction from it. Same rocks, same hammer, and nothing ever changes. Taking a long look at your future makes you feel depressed and discouraged.
- You’re constantly fantasizing about a better career, one that gives you complete freedom to explore your passions, express your creativity, and will grant you the flexibility to set your own hours and work schedule.
I want to pause for a second and tell you there’s one more symptom, and it’s the most significant.
If you were given the financial support you need to find that perfect career – whether it’s working for someone else, or starting your own business, (even with this financial support), you have no idea what company to apply to, or what kind of business to start. Yes, you might have some general interests, but is it enough to put together a business plan? And when you try to describe exactly what it is you would be doing as your chosen work, you can’t put it into words. Even with the luxury of no longer needing to maintain an income, you don’t know what your first step would be in making a transition to work that is more appropriate for your intelligence, personality, and interests.
And that’s a problem. . . .
Because if you can’t describe your ideal work situation—in very specific terms—how will you recognize it when it shows up?
Said another way, it’s impossible to go after a goal if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
So why do we do it? Why do we continue to imagine that our dream job exists, even when we can’t specifically describe it?
Here are the three most common reasons—all of which I’ve personally experienced:
- It keeps us placated with our current situation. We tell ourselves we’re in a holding pattern. We’re absolutely sure there’s something better out there, and until we find it, we’ll wait in a state of comfortable frustration. It’s a mind game, rationalizing the idea that it’s okay to stay in an unsatisfying or unrewarding job, because someday, we’ll find the perfect career—and then, we can begin to live our real life.So for now, we continue to go with the flow, refusing to invest more of ourselves in our current job because this phase of our life doesn’t count.
- It prevents us from reaching the conclusion that our current situation could be as good as it gets. Unfortunately, this becomes clear only with hindsight, and by then, it’s often too late to take full advantage of the opportunities that we allowed to slip through our fingers. Appreciating our current situation as a fortunate outcome of circumstances, timing, and even luck, is the hallmark of someone who is appreciative of the career—and the life accomplishments—they’ve achieved up to that point.No, this doesn’t mean settling for less—instead, it’s realizing your situation could change tomorrow—for the worse. The idea is to value and appreciate how far you’ve already come and how much you’ve accomplished as you continue to work toward a better and more rewarding future.
- Your career goals are based on fantasy. You want the recognition of a rock star, the income of a Saudi oil sheik, and the independence to call your own shots.Where do such notions come from? Put the bulls-eye squarely on the entertainment media.These glamorous hour-long fabrications represent the ideal career as one in which you fly to some exotic work location by private jet, solve a problem that saves thousands of lives, and collect a cool million as compensation.
If you’ve ever entertained the idea of actually doing some variation of this contrived fiction, I have some bad news for you: It’s an imaginary scenario. It doesn’t have a real-life counterpart. Very few, if any, of the media’s version of a dream job translates directly into reality—or more accurately, the fantasized professions created by the media are seldom based on a job description that exists in reality.
When our vision of the perfect job originates from fantasized situations and characteristics, we’re setting ourselves up for inevitable disappointment. It’s much easier to find satisfaction with our work when we stop comparing ourselves to people who are pretending to be someone they’re not.
To discuss this in real terms, we need to keep in mind that the perfect job is a moving target.
What you consider to be the perfect career today can easily become the ho-hum job of tomorrow. As we age, our ambitions, goals, and priorities also mature. We gain additional skill, experience, and knowledge—not only about our industry and work, but also about ourselves.
That first, or second, or even third job we originally thought would be the end-all, be-all career choice, after a while, often becomes boring and predictable. Yes, at first, it was exciting. Acquiring that dream career brought prestige, identity, and that sense of “having it made.”
But after a year, or two,? The challenge is different, sometimes it’s gone completely. What used to be interesting and motivating now provides the same level of mental stimulation as moving a sand pile.
Whether it’s the repetitive nature of the work, the ancillary responsibilities, and or dealing with the bureaucracy of organizational politics, it eventually takes its toll.
Here’s an example:
A client of mine, we’ll call him John, had always wanted to be an electrical engineer. He built radios in high school and at sixteen, obtained an amateur radio license. He saw his future clearly –working as a lead engineer on high-tech design projects for the aerospace industry.
Let’s fast-forward fifteen years. John had become a respected and successful engineer at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He worked on complex robotic technology and his contributions were often mentioned in trade journals. He built his reputation as one of the best in his field, and he often received offers from competitive aero-space companies.
In short, his future was secure. He’d earned the respect of his peers, as well as the privilege to set his own work schedule. He was only a few months away from his annual review, and he fully expected to receive another promotion to project manager and a large boost in pay.
By all accounts, John should have been happy. He was successful, working in his chosen industry, and was recognized as one of the best in his field.
But John wasn’t happy. In fact, he was haunted by the possibility of making a mistake. He’d become obsessed–almost paranoid—knowing his work must be correct. Because lives were at stake. If he made a mistake, or didn’t catch one made by others, people could die. And he was tired of living with that constant pressure.
There was something else contributing to John’s dissatisfaction with his career. Because of his rapid rise within the industry, he’d reached a point in his career where much of his duties has to do with directing and supervising others – And at first, he thought it was something he would grow to enjoy. But in reality, it had become constant albatross of anxiety-ridden responsibility.
And now, John dreamed of doing something different. He told me he often thought back to his early dreams of being an engineer, and he wondered how he could have been so naive.
But for John to make a change now, to ask for a demotion to a team member, essentially giving up his last decade of seniority he’d worked so hard to achieve, seemed like a mistake. How could he have come so far, and been so successful at a career he no longer enjoyed.
But in conversations over the next few weeks, we were able to identify the specific work functions that he enjoyed, the things he would still want to continue doing if he were given the opportunity to custom design a career that fit not only his temperament but his technical skills, as well. The result? It took nearly two years to make the transition. But John now owns a small research and design firm in California. His main customer? His former employer.
It’s called a career path for a reason: It starts upon entry into the profession and continues to evolve—often into unknown and unexplored territory. It’s a fluid, evolving journey, that often ends up in a very different place than we could have ever imagined.
The bottom line is simple: If you’ve outgrown your job, you’ve got two options: either take action to change the undesirable circumstances surrounding your work—or change your job.
I know that’s easy to say than it is to implement. So let me give you a few ideas on how to begin:
Start by making a list of the tasks and related job functions you don’t like about your current position. Then determine how much of your time is dedicated to these tasks. If it’s twenty percent or less, you’ve got a situation that can be managed or changed. If it’s fifty percent or more, you’re in the wrong job.
Let’s look at the positive side first. If eighty percent of your job activities are enjoyable, acceptable, or at least tolerable, determine if the unacceptable twenty percent can be delegated or outsourced. This may require talking with your manager about your need to increase your personal effectiveness, and what this would mean to the company in terms of added productivity. Just make sure that your reason for making changes will benefit your employer as much or more than it benefits you. If you’re self-employed, the process is much easier – it’s a decision based on budgets and affordability. If you can hire someone to take over those undesirable work functions—and not create an economic burden or hardship on your business, it’s simply a matter of finding and hiring the right person.
Let’s look at the other side of the situation: What if your list of disagreeable activities takes up fifty percent (or more) of your schedule? It’s time to face reality: You need different work.
Continuing to live with an unacceptable work situation is a waste of your time and potential. Instead of letting the years pass, continuing to live in a state of quiet desperation, put together a plan of transition. Base your goal on a realistic career description—as it currently exists, or what it could become under your stewardship.
Even if your new position turns out to be less than ideal, it usually puts you closer to where you want to be. Most important, you’ll gain the advantages of momentum: Taking that first step makes it easier to take the next one. We seldom arrive at our ultimate career destination in a single leap, but the most successful employees and entrepreneurs often credit their success to taking an initial action that began the transition to a better, more rewarding career.
And this process of rediscovering your evolving interests and determining new directions you want to explore is ongoing. It doesn’t –or shouldn’t – stop until you do. “Riding out the years” is not an option for those who want to be truly successful. Improving, learning, and becoming more effective are the hallmarks of those who are consistently recognized as being on the cutting edge of their industry.
And a word of warning for those of you who are employees: I urge you to Keep your “life-plan” confidential. It doesn’t matter if you’re planning to start a side business, or leave your employer to launch your own business, or use the company you work for as a stepping stone to take you where you want to go, in any of these situations, you must keep it to yourself. No matter how tempting it may be to reveal your plan to others, or how much you want to brag about your career strategy and independent mindset, it’s far most useful—and powerful—to keep it confidential. Otherwise, every move you make will be suspect, leaving others to wonder if your actions are influenced by ulterior motives—namely, putting your interests first and the company’s second. While that’s exactly the case, announcing it to the world will not serve your best interests.
I’ll leave you with this: The best medicine for “restless career syndrome” is perspective. And while you’re in the process of putting your transition plan together, make an effort to appreciate your current job for what it is –a source of income, a place from which to launch your next project or venture.
We’re great at comparing ourselves to others who have achieved more wealth, recognition, and status. But what about those who are struggling to rise above the poverty level? There are plenty of people who would be thrilled to have the career that we’re currently only tolerating.
Career success means different things to different people. So comparing ourselves to others whose last business start-up made them wealthy and financially independent is only going to breed frustration and dissatisfaction. And at the same time, it prevents us from seeing the real advantages we currently enjoy, as well as how fortunate we really are.
I’ll be right back to give you an update on my new book, Better Mondays.
I have a new book out…. It’s titled, Better Mondays: The New Rules for Creating Financial Success and Personal Freedom (While Working For the Man) is now available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback. If you prefer the audio version, it’s available in January.
Normally, this is where I would give you a sales pitch, telling you about the benefits of the suggestions and advice that’s included in the book, all of which is designed to help you achieve a better blueprint for career success.
But there’s a caveat here. In fact, it’s almost a prerequisite to getting the most out of this book.
It’s an inescapable truth of achieving career success, and it’s true regardless of how you decide to bring your skills and talent to the marketplace. Call it a secret, a mantra, or a mindset, here it is:
It’s your life first
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a died in the wool corporate employee that has her sights set on a vice-presidency as your career goal, or you’re a brand new hire right out of college, this secret to career success is a consistent mindset of the highest performing individuals.
If you’re a part of this group, you’ve realized that you’re in the game to play for yourself. You’re ready to make decisions from the standpoint of what serves you best – in both the short and long term. Your on-going relationship with your employer is based on what the company can do for you, and how much you can ultimately derive from working there.
If this makes sense to you, if you’re a part of this group of high-performing individuals, then I wrote this book for you, and I recommend you read it.
My advice and suggestions are based on my fourteen-year career in the corporate world as well as over thirty years as a business owner and entrepreneur. And I’ve designed the content to help you do three things: Accomplish your financial goals while meeting your company’s expectations. To use your current job as a stepping stone to create the career you really want. And ultimately, to find meaning, fulfillment, and a sense of satisfaction from your work.
If you’re struggling with a job that doesn’t bring you anything more than a paycheck, or you’re ready to use your employer as a launching pad to start your own business, you’ll find a way to change your life in Better Mondays.
I don’t pull any punches and I’ve included plenty of actual examples drawn from my experiences—both good and bad—while employed by a Fortune five hundred company.
You can find more information on my website www.successpoint360.com
Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you next time.
© 2020, Roger A. Reid, All Rights Reserved
Contact the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org