The concept of a dream job is motivating to many. It is the incentive behind the hard work and the driving force to go that extra mile. As a nation we are bombarded with stories of success, of those who have managed to get rich quick, and those who have fulfilled long term career dreams. Who wouldn’t want that? Working life, it seems, is a bed of roses and everyone knows exactly what job is going to fulfil their ambitions.
Except it isn’t. And they don’t.
So what does this mean for our clients? The concept of the ‘dream job’ can create different issues at different stages of one’s career journey. As advisers we need to be aware of exactly how this can help, and hinder, the choices they make or, perhaps, their ability to make choices at all.
For younger clients, the world of work can be a truly alien concept and it can be easy to forget this. Whilst some will have working role models in the form of friends and family, for others the only understanding they have of work will be what they’ve seen on various TV shows – often over-glamorised and usually portrayed as easily achievable. Is it any wonder so many young people feel that any career not leading easily to a six figure salary is worthless, after everything we hear about footballer’s wages and teen pop-star world domination?
The concern is that young people may be discounting some very appropriate career choices due to the fact they simply don’t understand what is an appropriate and liveable wage. Additionally, many young people just don’t realise the competitiveness and hard work that is involved in accessing many of these dream jobs. It all happens overnight, right, and by the time you’ve reached your mid-20s? And yet ambition is undeniably a positive thing. So how do we help balance the reality with the dream?
Working with experienced professionals who may be facing a career crisis and looking into options for change, the issues can be different. The concept of career is more fully formed and the realities of the world of work, more easily understood. Often that fuels the desire for something better. Yet I’ve seen how the concept of the dream job can produce a barrier to real progress. Everyone has one, apparently, and unless you’ve identified what it is, then you should stay put doing a job you don’t enjoy until it (the dream job) miraculously materialises. Yet the truth is that 1) many people don’t ever ‘find’ their dream job but that doesn’t mean they can’t be happy and successful doing something that they really enjoy and 2) many of these lucky people who profess to having an ideal career didn’t necessarily know it was going to turn out that way when they started on that particular path.
It can be incredibly liberating when a client accepts these two points and is able to start working with increased clarity to discover their best options. They are more able to focus on the fundamentals – their skills, their preferred working culture, industries and business areas that interest them, the values that are important to them at work… That leap of faith that is needed to take the plunge with a career change is perhaps more likely to take place when the dream job is put to one side.
It’s all food for thought. The dream job isn’t a false concept after all. Some people are fortunate enough (through hard work, luck or a bit of both) to end up doing just that. And even if it doesn’t work out it can be great for motivation and focus. But is shouldn’t be the ‘be all and end all’. Careers guidance can be complicated and made even more so by the expectations of our clients; the gap between what they believe they need versus the reality of what they really need. The ongoing battle to reconcile these will no doubt continue to feature heavily in the work that we do.