Is Your Dream Job a Fantasy? Take the Litmus Test

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dream job fantasy

Do you have a dream job? A job that you would take if you were offered it, no matter what?

Many people do. I have a friend who would do anything to work at Pixar. I know others who would love to work at a great tech company like Google, Apple, or Facebook. Or give their time to cool non profit like Charity:Water, or a well branded product-based company like Everlane, Warby Parker, or others.

Dream Job vs. Fantasy

One of the tricky parts of Dream Jobs is that they often function as a way to escape the tension of where we are. They are a fantasy we create to give ourselves hope that everything will be easy, simple, and meaningful some day.

“If only I could find a way into that company…” we tell ourselves, knowing that we’re not likely to get such a chance but needing something to put our hope in.

In doing so, your “Dream Job” becomes an escape from the more difficult work of discovering your own unique voice and making your own contribution to the world. The “Dream Job” is the hope that someone will come along and pick you, tell you that you’re special, and invite into something that is bigger than yourself.  It also happens to pay better than you could imagine, and is both fun and easy.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen. That’s not a dream job. That’s a fantasy.

This isn’t to say that some form of your dream job doesn’t exist. But we need to pay attention to how we think about dream jobs and how realistic our hopes and expectations are.

The Fantasy Job Litmus Test

Here are a few ways to reality-check your dream job.  I offer these not as a way to kill your dreams or keep you from dreaming, but as a way to separate out what’s an escapist fantasy and what can be a hopeful goal for your career and work.

  • Does it require getting picked? It’s unlikely that you will get chosen out of the blue. It’s harsh, but true. You have to pick yourself (read Seth Godin for more on this). Your dream job should be something you work for. Something that is earned, or (better yet) created by you and for you (unto the benefit of others). If your dream job involves being chosen out of the blue to be a part of something— I’m sorry to say it: it’s a fantasy job.
  • Is it easy? If you’re coasting, then you hiding. Real, substantive work requires that you show up. It’s hard and it’s scary, but you can do it and will find more purpose and more fulfillment through it.If your dream job is easy, it’s not worth chasing.
  • Does it have tension? Whether it’s the tension between meaning and money, tension between work responsibilities and the rest of life, tension between your efforts and the fruits of them that you’re able to see— there will always be tension. This is the easiest to be guilty of. If your vision of a dream job lacks all tension and difficulty, go back to point 2 above.
  • Do you have experience? Dream jobs are always a fantasy until proven otherwise. Though you may find your dream job outside of your field, it is a fantasy until you gain some experience in it. You can’t know for certain that you’ll love something until you’ve tried your hand at it. Even if you love the idea of the impact you’d have and the things you create, you don’t know if you’d love the process that it takes until you’ve tried it on.

The best Dream Jobs are an alignment of who you are with what you do.  It’s a role where you get to be a part of making meaningful things, and do it in a way that is an expression of your values.

If you don’t know what a true Dream Job looks like for you, check out the Calling Course.

If you have an idea of what your Dream Job is, I’ll be back next week with thoughts on how test your concept.

Dan Cumberland is on a mission to push you into the places meaning, life, & work intersect. He is the author of The Meaning Manifesto. Read more about him here, and connect with him on facebook and twitter.

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