A few months ago, I sat down with a group of women at a networking event to say hello and catch up. There were five of us, one an entrepreneur in her 4th year of business; a student; a woman who had just started her career; and a woman who had just started a new job.
I had met the woman just starting her new position few months previously. A friend had referred her to me and we had lunch to talk about her options, her plans, the market and her expectations. She was looking to make a career change and wanted to see if her expectations and objectives were realistic. She was trying to reconcile her need to work with finding her “dream job”.
The first question, as I sat down was about how my job was going. I had recently accepted a last minute position as a maternity leave replacement after the original replacement had left for a full-time position.
I reported that I was really enjoying it. The industry was close enough to my past employment roles to allow me to use my developed skills, but different enough to provide a challenge in learning new products, systems, processes and economic models.
The people at my new job were friendly and helpful, the culture was a good fit and I enthusiastically voiced my satisfaction. As a Product Management position, it was a lower level than previous roles I’d held, but after 5 years of consulting, titles and hierarchy become less important.
The next question was, “would you consider staying on if asked?” To which, I replied an enthusiastic yes.
“But what about your dream job?” was the next question.
Any Job Can Be Your Dream Job
I paused and smiled, “I’ve learned that any job can be your dream job.”
The entrepreneur smiled at me, in perfect understanding, while I explained.
Every job has its good and bad.
There are good things about every job. Sometimes it’s the people, sometimes it’s the environment. It could be the industry, the products or just the times (business cycle). Sometimes it’s the money and benefits. It may be the scope or challenge; the learning experience. Maybe it’s the location or the offices.
Hopefully it is also about your belief in the product or service and the contribution you make.
Manage your expectations.
The characteristics of your dream job are based on your expectations. No matter how many questions you ask, how much checking you do, it will unfailing turn out that something does not correspond to your desire, understanding or needs.
Consider how complicated and dynamic an organization is. There are multiple relationships, different “customers”, and a wealth of influences both internal, external as well as short-term, long-term and far-reaching. Most jobs exist within something that is very akin to a living organism.
Organizations, also like organisms, undergo constant change and adaptation. The pressures exerted by the adjustments require personnel to change and adapt.
Nothing stays static.
Nothing remains the same. Your dream job at this time will certainly change and may not remain your dream job forever. New players enter, the environment changes, the organization changes.
Business that fail to change and adapt, lose ground.
You too will change, as you acquire knowledge and experience. This will make you a different person. Your current job will certainly change. You may be assigned added tasks or different responsibilities. You may have the opportunity to work for or with someone who will teach, mentor and challenge you. Your role may change; either becoming more specialized or it may expand.
Your current job could well develop into your dream job.
What is your Motivation?
It helps to clearly understand what motivates you. The element or elements that drive(s) you needs to be considered in priority to ensure you are happy and satisfied. It may be title, money, recognition, influence or many other considerations, but it is important to recognize, acknowledge and understand this in order to increase the possibility that your current, or next, job becomes your dream job.
I worked for two years at a not-for-profit organization. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career, but it was not, and probably never could be my dream job. While it had many positive aspects – I felt highly regarded, valued and appreciated. And while the work was very rewarding, the infrastructure, processes and professionalism, which I deem important to allow me to accomplish tasks, were lacking.
What is your tolerance for dissonance?
At what point of dissatisfaction or unhappiness with your situation does your coping mechanism fail? Let’s agree to define dissonance as a lack of agreement or consistency, say the disparity between the positive and negative elements of your position (as determined by you). At what point does the proportion of “bad” to “good” tip over to where you can no longer tolerate the situation?
You dream job is impacted by how tolerant you are to the relation between what makes it ideal versus what detracts from its “dream” status.
It takes some people very little to become miserable in their jobs. Some can tolerate much for a good salary and benefits. Others can put up with a lot if they enjoy the work; feel they are making a difference; have strong work relations; or, feel valued and appreciated.
Every job has its good and bad.
Any position you hold will have positive aspects and negative elements. There are tasks you enjoy and others that must be done, but are more of a chore. There are colleagues who are a pleasure to deal with and others who may present more of a challenge.
When the good beings to outweigh the bad, you have two choices: change jobs, or find your balance outside of work.
Work Life Balance
Most of us have no choice but to work. And the environment for job search has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. At the pace of life you can expect change to occur dramatically, so it is really important to develop tolerance and resilience.
When you’re choices are limited, and you need to stick it out, it helps if you can get satisfaction outside of work in your hobbies, volunteerism or family.
What I’ve learned about my “dream job”.
My dream job at 25 is very different from how I would define a dream job 10 years later, and ten years later than that. It is certainly very different from my ideal job at this point in my career.
Every job teaches you something.
It may be a skill, it may be a method, it may be specific knowledge or, the most valuable learning of all, it may teach you about yourself.
It may happen that you don’t realize you’ve had a dream job until something changes, or until you’ve moved on.
As I don’t believe in having regrets, I believe my next job will be my dream job. Again.