Dream jobs are like perfect partners – that is, they don’t exist. You can wait all you like for Prince Charming to come along but, unless you’re a Disney princess with a passable singing voice, chances are you’ll have to settle for second best instead.
It’s not just that most of us never hit the big time we imagine for ourselves. Often, the jobs we end up caring most about aren’t the ones that were top priority to start, and vice versa. And even if you do finish up in your original dream role, understanding that it will take time and effort to get there is key to your chances of success.
It takes kissing a few frogs to find your William. Here’s why you should ditch the delusion before it’s too late.
1. You don’t have the experience.
You’re 22. You’ve got yourself a good degree from a decent university and you’re ready to start firing off applications. Do you spread your net as wide as possible and consider multiple career paths? Or do you concentrate on one ‘ideal’ position – that prestigious marketing internship, or that competitive financial grad scheme?
Unless your skillset is seriously narrow, limiting your options at this point is pretty stupid. Firstly, it reduces your chance of getting any position at all. Secondly, and more importantly, you’re making an extremely important decision – that of your future career – based on zero experience.
Writing for LinkedIn, Executive Recruiter Katy Bruce calls for graduates to recognise their own ignorance. “How can one possibly know what their ideal job is when they’ve never had a real job?” she says, “It’s impossible to know what you excel at sitting in a classroom of your peers or doing a summer internship.”
Yes, you might want to end up in banking. But holding out for that perfect entry position while your student loan stares you in the eye isn’t going to do you any favours.
College is nothing like the working world. Until you get into an office and experience an actual 40-hour week, any decisions you make re: your career are woefully ill-informed. We’re not saying your dreams are worthless – just that, at this point in life, you should take them with a heavy pinch of salt.
2. Everything comes at a price.
Let’s talk about that banking job you’ve pinned your hopes on. While banking is one of the few sectors where 25-year-olds can fly high, it’s also a notoriously stressful, antisocial industry involving 100+ hour weeks, zero-to-no social life and years of pushing numbers around spreadsheets. Sure, you might make money and look sharp. But are you willing to give up your youth to do it?
For every ‘dream’ job, no matter how idyllic, there is a price to be paid. Want to work from home? Be prepared to deal with the depression and desolation of the freelancer. Want to travel? Get ready to spend half your week on a plane and never see your loved ones. Want to be in showbiz? Don’t even get us started.
It’s easy to look at some high-flying exec and think you want their job. But everything comes at a price – cushy jobs included.
3. This is your first job, not your last.
As Scott Adams wrote for the Wall Street Journal back in 2013: “I’ve been involved in several dozen business ventures over the course of my life, and each one made me excited at the start… [But] success caused passion more than passion caused success.”
Adams was a budget analyst, ‘fake engineer’ and computer programmer before finally hitting the big time with his Dilbert cartoon. He certainly didn’t chase illustration straight out of college and it was in a totally unrelated area that he got his initial career breaks.
Adams’ experience is not unusual. These days, changes of career – even sidesteps into entire new industries – are entirely common. Your first job out of college isn’t your last; taking that management role at the local clothes shop doesn’t consign you to a lifetime of retail. Sometimes, a stop-gap job is just that: a stop-gap, an insignificant chapter in the saga that will become your working life.
4. Taking a job you hate will do you good.
At 22, fresh out of college, you have a lot to learn. Your student workload is not only far less than that of most jobs but also far more varied. Doing the same thing day in, day out absolutely sucks. It’s also a skill you have to develop if you’re going to be a working professional.
In order to succeed in the real world, you have to learn how to be bored. You have to know how to go into work every day, do the same repetitive tasks as the day before, go home, relax for a few hours, go to bed, get up and repeat the process all over again, five times a week, 52 times a year. And nothing teaches you how to be productively bored like a role you didn’t want in the first place.
Doing a job that makes you want to throw your monitor across the room teaches you more than how to smile while screaming inside. It also helps you realise what you do want to do. Took a position as a receptionist, only to discover you hated entertaining clients? Cross sales off your list. Did some copywriting, only to find your spelling and grammar weren’t up to scratch? Marketing may not be your bag. And so on.
5. The world owes you nothing.
If you believe the media, this one’s a toughie for Millennials in particular. While many of our grandparents grew up with the simple ambition of survival, Gen Y has been conditioned since birth – by Disney, by rom-coms, by Steve Jobs and his inspirational words of wisdom – to expect to both have their cake and eat it. But when there’s hardly enough cake to go around, asking for chocolate instead of lemon may be pushing your luck.
Brianna Jukes perhaps puts it best in one short, vicious article for the Odyssey Online. “The difference between my grandparents’ generation and mine,” she writes, “is that a lot of kids are now being raised with the belief that the world owes them something. The world owes you nothing.”
In the same way that you don’t deserve a massive pay check for sitting around eating pizza, you don’t deserve a dream job for simply going through the meat grinder of college.
The course of job satisfaction never did run smooth. Building a career takes time, dedication and a lot of work. It takes detours into the wrong industry, slips sideways in the right one and a large dollop of luck. I’m not saying abandon your dreams. Dreams are good – they give you aspirations, something to look forward to in forty years’ time. Just don’t expect to achieve them twelve months out of college, or for them to look quite the same once you get there.