Dream A Little Dream: Why Dream Jobs Don’t Actually Exist
What’s your idea of a “Dream Job”? Yep. CAPITAL D. CAPITAL J. Dream. Job.
Is it a role in which where you’re leading a lot of people, making a lot of money, and making all the big decisions? Or is it something simpler? A scenario. Or, a setting. Something like say, being a barista on a quaint corner somewhere in the South of France. Making coffee for people day in and day out and having great chats in accents that sound fancy and worldly and a little bit stuck up.
Maybe your dream job is a bit more beachy. Bartending on a tropical island sounds pretty magical. Or maybe, like me, your dream job might be something crazy like touring the world with Elton John and playing tambourine night after night to three hours of rollicking rock n roll fan faves. (LET A GIRL DREAM, WILL YA!)
Sorry to burst bubbles so soon into this piece, but it’s time to hold on tight.
I’ll cut right to the chase: There are no dream jobs.
It sounds harsh, doesn’t it? The idea that the vision you have in your mind right now might never eventuate. Coming to terms with the fact that we, as humans, are ever-evolving and therefore your idea of what constitutes a Dream Job in this moment will invariably change by this time next year.
Because change is inevitable, as is uncertainty, as are our actual dreams, it just makes sense that the idea of a stock standard, inspiration board fitting, stationary dream isn’t something we should be living our lives in search of.
That said, I’m not all steel-of-heart.
In fact, I am a dreamer at heart.
I believe that, in place of Dream Jobs, there are dream colleagues, dream scenario’s, dream projects, dream days & dream moments for all of us.
Just like society tells us we need to chase the idea of finding a soulmate to love us & to complete us – so too are we told we must strive for a Dream Job. From the time were old enough to understand the concept of growing up & “becoming” something professional we’re asked “what do you want be when you grow up?”
It’s as if we are born complete, but then taught often that we’re incomplete. That we need titles, and money, and status, and an idea of one thing we should become that makes us complete.
So, from a young age, we’re we sold the illusion of a Dream Job. Yep, CAPITAL D. CAPITAL J. This job is one that gives us everything we could ever hope for and want. We are led to believe that once we achieve the dream inherent in getting the job, once we step into a crisp new title, that life will be OK.
Life will be easy. We’ll be respected. Loved. Looked up to. Lauded.
Ego, titles, respect, money, happiness at home, holidays…
You name it, the Dream Job is supposed to fulfil us.
To fill us right to the brim.
I had a Dream Job in mind once. Rather, I thought I did. I’d been building it up in my head for decades. It was a job that allowed me not only to work for a high prestige brand, but it also gave me a title, team, and a good amount of cold hard cash. All of this was what I thought I wanted. Especially when I learned that I’d get all of this whilst being able to do what I loved - storytelling & connecting with others.
I won’t lie, When I landed my “Dream Job” everything was hunky-dory. The first few days on the job we’re pretty dreamy. Everyone was nice. People smiled. Folks asked my opinion, and when I spoke they seemed to be listening.
But as with newness in all things, the sheen and the dream like-state soon cleared and reality settled in. What did reality look like? Well, it looked a lot like all of the other jobs I’d had before. Which is not to say I didn’t love the jobs I’d had before, in fact I had! I loved my colleagues, I loved the projects, I loved the learning. But, this wasn’t the other jobs – this was my Dream Job. This job was supposed to be somehow different. Magically different.
Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. Long hours were expected (for some reason a lot of businesses still equate efficiency and effectiveness with putting in more hours than other people). Presenteeism is a subject that I could write whole other blog post on, so I won’t dive deep into just how harmful a culture built around it truly is to everyone involved as well as the business itself. In fact, the longer I stayed on at my Dream Job, the more it seemed like the department I was working in had an unspoken competition going to see who could get to the office earliest and leave the latest.
There were no awards for longest hours served daily and we were constantly told that our mental health and finding “balance” was an utmost priority for the business. BUT, when it came time to pat people on the back or award people for their good work, most of the time those who were lauded were those who were in at the sparrow’s fart or who valiantly gave up all of their weekend to a spreadsheet.
At the time I had a small child and a family to go home to, so playing a game of killing-time for the sake of massaging someone else’s ego simply wasn’t the kind of sport I was compelled to engage in. I’ve always believed in doing my job well, passionately, efficiently, & effectively. There’s nothing less effective or efficient for businesses or employees than clock-watching simply for the sake of it. Fight me on this one if you must, but I can count on one hand the amount of times watching workday hours tick by was a great use of time, resource, or a bringer of positive engagement. (And by “count the amount of times” I mean zero. Zero times.)
Beyond the clock watching and a deepening culture of one-upmanship, there really was not a lot of thankfulness to go around. When other people did well and succeeded, collegues sniggered behind their backs instead of high-fiving them or doling our kudos. And, to be honest, at the level I was finally at there was a lot more politicking going on than I ever could’ve imagined – and I’d worked in some very politically charged organisations before this one.
My Dream Job included an aspect of the dream in which colleagues trusted each other and worked collaboratively towards collective goals. Over time, my Dream Job kinda broke my heart along with my trust in leadership.
One day, about three months into the job, I remember going home and asking my then husband if I made the wrong decision, or if I really was just a bit too optimistic to play the corporate game. I remember him saying that no I wasn’t too optimistic, and that I was probably going to do better than most people, but that maybe just maybe there was no such thing as a dream job.
His words hit me like a Loony Tunes Acme anvil. And, as with most things, he was right. From that moment on, as I unpacked the idea of a dream job (lowercase “d” and “j” from now on.) As I unpacked narratives that I’d unwittingly subscribed to since childhood, my days became lighter and more productive. I fell in love with the job at hand, not the job on paper. I relished in creating innovative ideas, and bringing new ways of working to life. Mostly though, I simply began enjoying the beautiful minds of my colleagues.
When I erased “dream job” from my mind and instead practiced being more present on the task at hand, I was able to find so much more passion and optimism with my colleagues with my team. Sometimes the work became dreamy, even though the job wasn’t.
We all grapple with the weight of expectations. What I’ve come to learn is that most of that weight can be lifted when we realise the expectations we hold aren’t always those which we have set. When we start to unpack the reasons why we want a certain job, or why we’re pursuing a certain salary band it’s easier to see that we’re oftentimes living up to the expectations set by people we’ve never met before. And living up to the expectations of strangers is no way to live, work, or dream.
As for me, many years on, my dream scenario is right here, right now. I’m living it. It’s in perfect, it’s messy, it’s uncertain, but it’s a beautiful adventure.
Sure most of us have them locked away in our minds as the goals driving us forward in our professional careers. In reality, dream jobs are nibbles around the edges of a tempting pie. But, they are not the entire disc covered in light-as-a-feather canned whipped cream. Simply working hard, celebrating successes, & learning from failures should be lauded & applauded. When we are present, dreams come true. We all dream different dreams every night when we sleep.
Dream jobs should be just as wildly changeable.
Tomorrow I think I’ll become a house painter for a day!