The Best Way to Find Your Dream Job

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One of the most common struggles in the search for meaning and purpose is what amounts to a career bait-and-switch. This isn’t intentional, by any means. And it’s often self imposed.

Here’s how it typically goes:

  • While in high school, a young man decides that he wants to be a teacher.
  • He pursues that job whole-heartedly.
  • He gets a degree in teaching and is excited to someday have his own classroom.
  • As a soon to be graduating college senior, he does a semester of student teaching.
  • During his student teaching, he struggles. Though he loves kids, he doesn’t like having to control them. Though he loves educating, he loathes all the lesson planning that teaching requires.
  • He gets his education degree, and lands a job a teaching— because he just needs a job. And again he’s confronted with how much it’s not a good fit for him.

He’s now left at a place where he doesn’t know what to do with his life, and has invested a lot of time and money pursuing something that he doesn’t want to do with his life.

It wasn’t an intentional decision on his part, but somehow his perception of teaching and the reality of that role didn’t line up.

This happens all the time.

Before you go all in on your pursuit of your Dream Job, it’s important to test the waters. It’s easy to make assumptions about what it’s like to work in a given job. It’s easy to think that it will be a good fit when we actually don’t know what it will be like. We often idealize jobs and focus on certain aspects while ignoring other major roles and responsibilities.

Most of the time we don’t get to have our cake and eat it too, whatever that means. Even dream jobs have drudgery. It’s time to pop the fantasy dream job balloon and choose to do hard things. And do them over and over.

No one loves every minute of their job. Work takes work. And sometimes work is hard.

In order to solve this, it’s essential to gain an insider’s perspective on a Dream Job before you invest time and resources into pursuing it. You want to know that you’ll love it before you sacrifice to get it.

The Best Way To Find Your Dream Job

The best way to do so is to find ways to try it on. If your dream job is something you’ve never done before, find ways to pull back the curtain and see what it’s like to do that work on the inside:

  • Interview people in that role and/or company. These kinds of interviews have saved many people from pursuing something that wouldn’t have been a good fit.
  • Do an internship or externship. We often think of internships as being for students, but anyone could do an internship. My last internship ended not long before my 30th birthday, and was instrumental in helping me start The Meaning Movement and envision offerings like The Calling Course.
  • Follow someone for a day. Police officers do ride alongs. Find/create a way to follow along with someone who is doing the work. You’ll be surprised at how people will respond when you are interested in them and their work.
  • Create a version of the work for yourself. If you can’t get access in some other way, create a lab for yourself. If you want to teach, create a class for your friends and teach. If you want to do law, study laws and draft a bill. This does two things for you: 1) it gives you some experience to know what it’s like to do the work, and 2) if you want to pursue that field, you now have something to show for it. One of the best ways to get hired is by demonstrating that you can already do the work successfully.

All of these give you a small experience of the work and offer you insight into whether or not it’s a good fit for you.

Before you choose the road you’re going to take, spend some time understanding where that road leads. It could save you a lot of heartache.

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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