For most of us, our dream job is a mirage that hovers just out of reach on our career trajectory.
Surely, if we just worked harder – put a few more hours in, got promoted – we would reach that magical career sweet spot where going to work every morning is less of a chore and more of a thrill.
A recent survey by Officeworks found that 95 per cent of Australians are most happy when they are pursuing a personal passion, but nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of adults are sacrificing their personal interests to fulfil work commitments or to save for “more important” things.
Is all of this yearning for personal satisfaction a good thing? Perhaps we should expect less from our careers and be more realistic about the ways work can satisfy us.
Is it time we gave up on finding the dream job?
Give up the fantasy
Not according to Director of Nourish Coaching, Sally-Anne Blanshard, who argues there is nothing wrong with wanting to find your dream job – if that means unearthing something you are passionate about and can make money from.
Problems arise, according to Ms Blanshard, when people confuse “dream job” with “fantasy job” – the latter being a position that will earn them a lot of money, or imbue them with a corporate gravitas.
“I do have some clients who will put tickets on themselves and aim for a role that they do not have the skill set for,” she notes.
“They can be ego-driven and look at what is going to bring them status or money, but it’s my job to gently get them to see where their talents lie.
“This could be something that brings them a lot of money or it could be working with orang-utans in Borneo; it is different for everyone.”
Director of Marketing and Communications for Adecco Australia and New Zealand, Rick Khinda, believes people should expect to be happy at work most of the time, but they need not worry what their “dream job” looks like to others.
“For some people a dream job will simply be a good job in a bank working 8am to 4pm because they like structure and it is convenient,” Mr Khinda says.
“We are all wired differently. And people need to realise a dream job may not always pay well.”
Mr Khinda also pointed out that we shouldn’t expect our dream job to fulfil us all of the time because there will be days “when your dream job will drive you nuts”.
Timing is everything
Ms Blanshard says most people start searching for their dream job in their 30s and 40s, after they realise the traditional markers of success – an impressive business card and a job earning them more than $100,000 a year – has not brought the internal fulfilment they were after.
“I didn’t find what I really wanted to do until my 30s, and most of my 20s I moved around a lot and that is OK,” she says.
“In your 20s you are chasing the dollar and you are trying to get ahead, but people often come to me later in life to find what they are passionate about.”
Ms Blanshard cites the recent example of a client who is earning $200,000 a year but is miserable.
“She wants to find something with purpose and we have started her on the track to volunteering in an area she is passionate about,” Ms Blanshard says.
“My advice to people is not to look at what other people are doing in their careers or what makes them happy, but to focus on what makes you happy.”
If you happen to find yourself unhappy at work more often than not, then chances are there is a better job out there for you.
Mr Khinda recommends workers spend an hour a week working out what makes them tick: who they want to work with, the kinds of things they are passionate about and what motivates them.
“Take that time to self-reflect, to learn about yourself,” he says.
Ms Blanshard agrees, and says she encourages clients not to focus on finding a job they want to do, but learning about themselves first.
“Look at your skills and your values first and then look for a job that will match those,” she says.