When you were younger was there something you really wanted to do? I didn’t have a dream career in mind from a very young age, but I my first job out of university was perhaps what many people would describe as just that. I was an editorial assistant, and living the life of a just-out-of-uni, just-moved-to-London twenty-something that many people aspire to.
However, I hated it. I loved my colleagues, I loved the atmosphere, but I didn’t enjoy the day-to-day. It was uninspiring and laborious, and I couldn’t see where that was going to end. If I did stick it out, what was I going to gain in the long run? What would climbing the career ladder and gaining promotions actually going to achieve?
I also realised how fortunate I was that, although I wasn’t paid as well as many of my friends, I was able to go home at the end of the day, relax and enjoy my weekends. Friends that left university with highly paid positions were married to them and had their own reasons to quit and seek out alternatives.
But where did this idea of a dream career even come from? I’ve actually been trying to Google this all morning, and have not come up with an answer. So please help me if you know!
It must be a fairly new phenomenon, that our identity is tied up in our choice of career, and perhaps came about when we were free to choose our own career path. What do you do is one of the first questions that any new person will ask you, and for some reason, this effects other people’s opinion of your character, your worth, your personality and your morals. At the same time, we believe that we should be getting more out of our career - fulfilment and meaning - than just a pay check at the end of the month.
What constitutes a dream career? Most people would say that a dream career might consist of high pay, company perks, specific industries and working for a well-known company. However, dream careers have plenty of negatives. Either you are highly paid and work for a well-known company but you work long hours with little time for yourself, or you work in a specific industry where you’ve had to scrimp and save to make ends meet, and let’s face it, really only privileged people have access to these careers. And whatever type of dream career you’re in you’ll face intense competition.
In 2018, a study found that the myth of the dream job closely aligned with the myth that human beings have “fixed” passions. In this way, people who believe in “fixed” passions think that once they find this passion (often a dream career they’ve wanted since they were a child) and when they do reach it they’ll be happy. And this happiness will continue, forever.
However, once you’ve found what you were looking for, the happiness does not last. Perhaps you want more, such as the ability to develop your talents and abilities, or perhaps there are some aspects of it you hate, such as the long commute or inability to get away. Regardless of how excited you were about it in the first place, eventually this dream career will not be a dream anymore.
For many people, there’s a conflict between having that dream career which offers you day-to-day excitement, purpose and fulfilment vs a career that can help you lead the life you want to outside the workplace, whether that’s through decent pay, flexible hours or work that you don’t need to take home at the end of the day.
And for many, who are struggling to put food on the table or afford the rent for their room, complaining about a dream career smacks in the face of privilege.
So how do we re-think our dream career? Work offers us a dual purpose of being able to lead the life we want to and spending our time doing something that’s important to us, and remembering this is the first step to re-thinking a dream career.
We want to be able to achieve in the office, but this has to be offset by being able to maintain friendships and relationships outside the world of work.
So how about considering a good enough career? That is one that helps you develop your talents in the workplace, grow your knowledge and focus your energy on something you enjoy most of the time, but also leaves you a little leg room in knowing that there are just some things that you’ll never be able to have or achieve. At the same time, it will leave you with a good-enough home life - one that you can dedicate time and effort to - which is a good compromise all round!