“When you love what you do, work is play and play is work.”
Arguably one of the most prevalent bits of popular wisdom circulating today, the myth of the dream job has captured our imagination. The romantic idea that you can do and be anything you set your mind to is often at odds with reality; just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you’d be any good at it.
This isn’t to belittle the sheer effort required to rise above your circumstances and seize your dreams. Rather, it has to be said that there’s something detrimental about the dream job myth that can hold you back at work and in life.
Is there any guarantee that securing your dream job will allow you to achieve happiness or even just security? In any case, going after your dreams takes a higher level of perseverance than most people care to expend. No matter how much it seems like someone’s success has happened overnight, 9 times out of 10, it’s something they’ve been working towards for years, sometimes even decades.
In that regard, deconstructing and taking apart these dream job myths is crucial for success at work and beyond.
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Most people would immediately think of a particular job title or position when asked what their dream job is. For some of us, the answer is clear as day; it’s been the same childhood dream since day one. For others, though, figuring out what your dream job is a tricky business. If you haven’t a clue which direction to take your career in or you’re not sure which career choices would best suit you, you’d feel stressed and incomplete.
The truth is, you don’t need to have a dream job in mind to get it. According to bestselling author Cal Newport, it’s better to do the following steps when planning your career:
Thanks to the cult of “dream-chasing” that emphasises the power of hard work in achieving your wildest dreams, so many of us tend to think that hard work is all it takes to land the dream job and excel at work.
Treating your career in this way, though, is short-changing yourself.
You’ll also put yourself at a disadvantage compared to co-workers who are adept at working smart, or in some cases, plainly manipulating the system in their favour without putting in nearly as much hard work as you do. It is an inevitable reality that in real life, hard work must come hand-in-hand with working smart and people skills.
If Oscar thank-you speeches are to be believed, we’d all think that the period of hustle and struggle leading up to landing the dream job is all we’ll have to worry about. Often, because you’ve put your dream job on such a high pedestal, you think that the bulk of your energy will be expended on the uphill struggle culminating in receiving an official offer.
Unfortunately, though, reality is far more complicated. The path to success is hardly ever a clear upward climb. Just as the tides ebb and flow, so does our career progression, as does life itself. A more accurate statement of things would probably be that landing your dream job is just the beginning of your struggles.
There’s no such thing as a perfect job; assuming that your dream job will be flawless and wholly lovable can set you up for some serious disappointment.
Part of the reason why we’re willing to put ourselves through the wringer to land the perfect job is that we think we’ll love everything about it. Carrying such burdensome expectations can be taxing on you if and when you discover that there are things about your dream job you didn’t think you’d dislike, or even hate, in some cases.
Perhaps the greatest myth associated with dream jobs is that they’re even something to be landed in the first place. Research has shown that most people who follow their passions and go after their dream jobs end up being less successful and unhappier than those who don’t.
On the other hand, those who don’t necessarily work dream jobs but engage in job crafting have been found to report higher levels of engagement and purpose at work.
The difference between the two lies is subtle yet significant. Treating job satisfaction as something to be landed or attained will make you see it primarily as an external factor. However, when you see it as something to be shaped and moulded, as job-crafters do, you feel and exercise a greater sense of personal responsibility and ownership over how you do your work. This, ultimately, is instrumental in effecting positive sentiments about meaningfulness and accomplishment at work.