Defining the dream job

Alan Ludmer

It’s out there.  Somewhere.  We’re absolutely sure.  Somewhere is our dream job.  We even know people who have them; we all know those people who enjoy their work.  Their faces light up when they talk about what they do.  They bring energy, creativity, and fun to the workplace.  Sound like you?  Sound like someone you know?

What is a dream job?  Obviously for each of us, it’s something different.  Example, a past client who  in her forties left a career in the ministry to be an entrepreneur and run a travel agency.  Why, her dream job was a chance to have control over her employment, to travel, and to grow something.  All of these reasons spoke to fulfilling deep needs in her life.            

For another client, the dream job is a bit in the future.  Now, he sells industrial equipment, but he yearns to run a recording and record studio.  He has, he says, absolutely no musical talent, beyond the ability to recognize and promote it in others.  His imagined life is one on the cutting edge of music and young musicians.  When will his dream come true?  It’s probably a few years off yet, but he’s making steady progress toward it.  And then there’s a young college student I know who is struggling with the decision of a major.  Should she do what is easier or stay with what she loves?  For that love, competition will be fierce and financial remuneration minimal.  It’s a difficult decision to make at age 19.  That dream seems far away and illusionary.

Dream jobs are as individual as the person who aspires to one.  But they do have some common characteristics.

1. A dream job must use an individual’s most favorite skills.  We can think about ourselves in several ways for making career decisions:  what we do well and what we prefer to do.  I know an individual who is an extremely talented and gifted military leader.  But he earns his income working on implementing cutting edge and highly technical learning programs in higher education.  His leadership skills still come into play as he manages his division, but he spends equal time on the start up activities that excite him.  In defining our dream job, we seek to identify and fulfill what we prefer to do, even if it isn’t what we do best. 

2.  Dream job must fulfill some of our important values.  Identifying and living our key values is not easy — particularly given the influences of culture and society.  But, take, for example, the successful corporate president who not only gives of his time and skills to the community but also encourages and supports his employees who do also. 

Generally, dream job involve some risk.  One person I know left the place of her birth in her 50’s to take a medical position on Indian reservation 5 states away — sight unseen!  Fifteen years later, at retirement, she returned home to seek a new dream. 

Finally, a dream job must make a difference to others in some way; in other words, it must contribute to the greater good.  One client had a long and satisfying career running an important state agency during a time of great change.  He sought in his dream job — after retirement — the chance to return to an area he had left years ago — vocational rehabilitation. 

Are dream jobs perfect?  Nope.  They have their frustrations, problems, and down times like any position.  But what makes a dream job better is knowing that we are doing something that really matters to us.  When are we successful in reaching our dream jobs?  Our experience has been that when we think deeply about what matters to us, define that goal, and seek ways to get to it, our dreams become reality.  What are your dreams today?