Why Most Dream Jobs Disappoint (and What to Do About It)

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I have a friend who took her dream job a couple of years ago. She was thrilled. It was a job doing work that she dreamed of doing. The organization was doing the work that she felt called to. She would get to travel for a few weeks a few times a year to some really great locations. The role was a great fit for her.

It all felt too good to be true.

But it wasn’t. It was really that good!  For a while…

The Dream Fades

Today she’s been in that role at that organization for a couple of years, and a lot of things have changed.

Since she began, she’s started a family. Now those periodic work trips are more challenging and less exciting. Now she needs a little more flexibility in her schedule to accommodate for family needs.

In addition, for the past few years there’s been a growing tension between her and one of her managers. The more she stands up for herself, the more her boss makes things difficult in passive-aggressive ways.

What was a “dream job” a few years ago now consists of a bad boss and a demanding schedule that doesn’t seem very sustainable.

The organization is still doing the kind of work that she believed in and wants to be a part of, but this position isn’t a dream job right now.

What can we make of this? Was she wrong about the dream job? Should she have passed up the opportunity?

Why Dream Jobs Disappoint

Dream jobs are like this.  They change.

They change because we change.  And we’re always changing.

Problems arise when we begin to think that one job or opportunity is the end all position. It’s not. It can’t be.

Instead we have to embrace the ever-changing nature of life and work. What might be your dream job today, might not be in a few years.

Why? Because you won’t be the same person then as you are today.

You’ll grow, and your career needs to grow with you. No job is big enough for all of who you are. But over the course of a career, you can continually pursue opportunities that fit and make your work engaging and meaningful.

You’re not a stagnant being, so you can’t expect your dream jobs to be stagnant either.

Instead of thinking of a “dream job” as a set point, think of it as always a few moves down your career path.

You grow, and it grows with you.

The more experience, skills, and expertise you gain, the more you’ll have an awareness of the work that suits you best.

As for my friend, I’m not sure what she’s going to do next. She believes in her work. It’s in line with her life’s work. But it’s only a matter of time until she finds a new way to go about doing that work— her next dream job.

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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