The “Dream Job” – and why you don’t need it to be happy
I recently read an article which stated that millennials struggle to find satisfaction in our jobs, and in turn happiness in our lives, because of how we were raised. Now, I’m not one to buy into the stereotype that our perception of the world is irreversibly damaged because we grew up receiving participation medals and were taught that we were special flowers who could do anything we set our minds to. Go home, lame stereotypes and broad generalizations.
But this article did get me thinking. These days, there is so much focus on the idea of “the dream job”. The job that our hearts were born to do. That will drive us to do big and wonderful things. That will magically fix everything in our lives. The job that will finally bring us happiness. It seems that until we find this elusive ‘dream job’, there’s just no real reason to get out of bed every morning. What’s the point in standing behind a counter and serving customers if it’s not our bliss? What’s the point in sitting at a desk and banging out data entry if it doesn’t make our heart sing?
As a fellow millennial, I do believe that our generation has placed a bigger value on “the dream job” than any other generation before us. We all feel deserving of our dream job. Because in an effort to motivate us, there were adults in our lives (parents, teachers, coaches, after-school specials, you name it) telling us “You can do anything you want to do“. We graduated from high school with lofty ideas that we would put in our 3-6 years of tertiary study and BOOM – the world would be our oyster. Dream jobs errywhere. Ours for the pickin’.
Or maybe that’s just me.
Even now, even as the struggles of adulthood are present and obvious, and reality has slapped most of us in the face more than once in life, there are still headlines everywhere telling us that we were born for more than this. We shouldn’t be settling if we’re not passionate about what we do. All the “Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life!” “You can have it all!” mumbo-jumbo sold to us by stunningly beautiful women with creative empires and 30-year-old dudes in suits who by some stroke of luck launched their billion-dollar businesses fresh out of high school. And we believe it. And dissatisfaction with our current life begins to simmer as we picture the way better one that we should have right now.
Now, I’m not disputing the fact that the dream jobs are out there – we’ve all got at least one unicorn friend on Facebook working in their dream career. And I’m definitely not suggesting that we should give up on the idea of one day finding our dream job. Working toward a goal is awesome, and the feeling of achieving it is the best. But today I’m going to suggest something crazy:
We don’t need a ‘dream job’ in order to be happy
The thing is, we may not all find our dream jobs. Does this mean our lives on earth are a complete waste? That we can’t ever be happy until we someday retire and finally escape the dreaded grind? Honestly, I think the notion of ‘the dream job’ actually just puts unnecessary pressure on us and makes us dissatisfied with the job – and life – that we’ve already got.
I personally spent a decade of adulthood floundering to find the career path that made my heart sing. I started one degree, it wasn’t for me. So I started another degree, again, not for me. Then I went and picked up a couple of random certificate qualifications. None of it stuck, and for all those years I was constantly, desperately, trying to work out what I actually wanted to do with my life. Like my proper adult life wouldn’t even start until I had locked myself into this magical dream career that I just couldn’t find.
Meanwhile, for most of those years, I was working for my Church – first in reception, and later in finance. And despite the fact that I would tell anyone who would listen “I’m not a finance person”, I was really happy! I enjoyed the work, I was learning new things, the office was a nice place to be, and my colleagues were friendly and supportive.
And then I had a baby.
When Jackson was born in September 2015, I stopped working for almost a year. And taking that step away from employment made me realize that, when the time came, I would happily return to my finance job. I would have no problem with working there for the next ten years or more! No, I wasn’t a finance person (I still don’t think I am!). I didn’t have dreams of making it big in the finance world. But I loved my job. It ticked a bunch of boxes that I hadn’t even realized were actually important for me, such as amazing colleagues, great support, a flexible schedule and interesting challenges. Plus, I was (and am!) good at it, which is always a mood booster. Changing my perspective and choosing satisfaction, rather than wishing I could find and pursue my dream job, took all the pressure away. It simply made me thankful for what I had and it freed up my brain to focus better on the non-job-related things I had going on in my life. It turns out focusing on those things has been way sweeter than worrying about finding a dream career. It turns out, my life is defined by more than my job.
These days I struggle to answer the question, “So, what do you do?”
It’s complicated, because that question is geared more towards asking “What are you paid to do?” than “How do you live your life?” And these days, my finance job is no more a part of my identity than anything else I’ve got going on in my life. I’m a mother, a blogger, a freelance writer, a reader, a friend, a sister, a singer. What do I do? I sit side-by-side with my son at the piano and play while he bangs the keys. I sit at Cafe`s and write for hours at a time. I spend time cooking delicious meals, enjoying the process. I go to Church on Sundays with my little family. I read (devour!) blogs on food, fashion, parenting, lifestyle and blogging. I pick up toys and vacuum floors and wash dishes.
And yeah, I also work part-time at an office.
Our jobs are a piece of our picture, but they’re not the whole picture. We need to work toward building a good life as much as (if not more than!) we work toward finding a dream job. See, I believe we all deserve happiness, and I believe we deserve it now – not at some indeterminate point in the future when we finally achieve some all-important job. It’s a mind-set that we, as a society, need to change. For our sakes, and for the generations that come after us and see our example.
PS While we’re on the topic, last year I wrote this post on finding and focusing on the happiness in your life RIGHT NOW. Worth a read!