The myth of the dream job

Inspiration:  How To Turn Your Current Job Into Your Dream Job

I came across this Fast Company article over a month ago at a time when I was feeling swamped at my 9-to-5 and with my side projects, but the overall message stayed with me.

Reason being: this is the best attitude to have about one’s career.

Professional and career development writing can be incredibly rich and thought-provoking. In my reading of this type of work, I often encounter articles, listicles, videos, etc. about how to find your dream job.

But, a dream job is so very relative. It depends on geographic location (where are you living? What’s your commute like?), coworkers, supervisors, organizational leadership, market forecast, profitability, opportunity for growth… in addition to the day-to-day activities involved in the position. A dream job one day may not be a dream job in a month, a year, or several years down the road.

We need to shift away from looking to external factors to shape our careers. These things change–commutes, supervisors, coworkers, pay–but the way we make meaning of these dynamics is what we have actual control over.

How you individually approach work and actually do the work are the most important factors in your career.

(The obvious caveat: Not every job can be a dream job. Of course, the exception is the abusive work environment. Get out of there as soon as possible. Cut your losses and run. But, that’s another post.)

A seemingly great job due to relatively high pay and seemingly fun coworkers can actually be a bad situation with a certain attitude, and a ho-hum job–with middling pay and tolerable coworkers, for example–could be considered as something great with the right outlook.

My current job involves a long commute on public transportation of questionable reliability and situates me in a federal agency. There’s a lot to complain about there, but I also get to work with leaders who trust me to make my own decisions and to take projects and assignments and run with them, in a gloriously hands-off manner. That’s a pretty damn good situation to be in at this stage in my career. In two years? Maybe not–but it’s a great job for me right now.

Even the most ho-hum or challenging of jobs, there’s always some positive that you can take away. What do you value in life? What are your career goals? Where do you want to be, physically, professionally, personally? Who are you, and who do you want to be? What can this job that you have in this very moment do for you? What can you contribute? How can you help others? How can you help yourself?

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