What is a Dream Job?

We are always rolling the idea of a “dream job” around in our heads. Whether you’re sagging your head on a slow workday or sweating bullets during a hectic one, thoughts of your perfect job will cross your mind. What is a “dream job” anyway? It’s different for everyone, but it usually comes to us as an ever-changing counterpoint to our current job: If you’re bored by your current job, you dream of an active, fulfilling one. If you’re overloaded with work, you dream of a slower, simpler workday. If you have no autonomy at your current job, you dream of being an entrepreneur empowered with control over your own destiny.

But, despite all of these passing, changing thoughts, few of us have paused and allowed our dream job the consideration it deserves. Ask yourself: Have you given any real thought or definition to your dream job? Would you recognize it if you saw it? Would you be ready to pursue it if it appeared? If you struggle with any of the answers, perhaps you should stop, sit down, and give the matter your full attention.

Make it “Tailor Made” and “Built to Last”

First, be honest with yourself. Don’t just regurgitate some generic version of an ideal job to yourself. Those clichéd versions of dream jobs are certainly not for everyone: Would you be ready for the punishing daily workouts and strict diet of a pro athlete? Would you enjoy getting up at 3:30 am seven days a week as a news anchor? Would you really want to be a rock star if you have stage fright? Probably not. So, instead of grabbing a shrink-wrapped “dream job” off the shelf or cobbling disjointed fragments like “high pay” and “lots of travel” together, think it all the way through.

Second, Don’t let short-term events have too much of an influence on your version of “the perfect job.” The question is not “how could your week be better?,” it’s “how could your career be better.” If this week was stressful, it doesn’t mean that your “dream job” is being a yoga instructor. If you struggled with some unbearable clients and coworkers recently, it doesn’t mean that your ideal job is void of all interpersonal contact. You’ll need a long-term perspective to envision your true dream job.

Dreaming of Being The Boss?

Many quickly conclude that they want to be an executive of some sort. They see all of the perks of the executive level, but they never see the hardship or risk involved in such a position. While you may want some more autonomy at your job, an executive might want less at his. An executive will never admit it, but they may be envious of those in the company who have clear, distinct duties and a supervisor to make all of the difficult decisions.

I’m sure you want the big office and the expense account, but do you want the rest it as well?

Dreaming of Owning Your Own Business?

Many of us look around our current workplace and see a lot of room for improvement. We think: “This could be better. I would do things differently.” This naturally leads to visions of starting a similar business that runs flawlessly, complete with brilliant, happy employees, healthy profits and great prospects on the horizon. If you are going to take the plunge, it’s certainly a good vision to strive for. But, are you ready for the hurdles and headaches along the way? Starting a business can be seriously stressful. You have to put your whole livelihood (and your pride) on the line. If you fail as an employee, being fired is basically the worst-case scenario. But, if a business owner fails, they’re usually deep in debt, jobless, demoralized and reeling from the aftermath.

Starting your own business is a noble pursuit, but you have to pursue it wholeheartedly. Is it truly your “dream job”?

Dreaming of Doing Nothing?

At particularly stressful positions, the “dream job” becomes no job at all. If your workload is ballooning out of control and your duties barely fit into daylight hours, you might crave large amounts of downtime. This need for personal time can affect your idea of a “dream job” for obvious reasons; your ideal scenario is a blank schedule. The question is, is your dream job truly “nothing”?

A few days, or even a few weeks of “nothing” is almost always welcome. But, in larger doses it can be worse than your all-too-busy job. Gallup polls show that busy workers are generally more satisfied than bored ones. Boredom is also used as a punishment in prison. Are you sure you want a long, sustained period of “nothing to do”? Give it some real thought before you settle on “nothing” as your dream job.

Dream jobs don’t always miraculously appear, but you’ve got to be able to recognize yours if it does. Defining your dream job may yield a new understanding of your long-term plans and your career path. After all, it’s hard to know if you’re “going in the right direction” if you haven’t picked out a point on the horizon.

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