professional development

Are you in a dream job? Here are five steps to get you closer

Eve Ash /

Wouldn’t we all love to have a dream job?

We read about people earning sky-high amounts from their amazing startup, purchasing and inhabiting expensive real estate, travelling the world, being on first name terms with Branson, Musk and the likes. Yep, this is dreaming. 

There’s also those advertised ‘dream jobs’ (such as being caretaker on a remote island in the tropics) that sometimes turn out to have a sting in the tail.

A recent survey conducted by Nazarene University found those most likely to be in their dream jobs are baby boomers or people on generous salaries. If you go by the survey’s qualitative figures, only one-fifth of people are working in a career or role that suits them down to the ground. The rest are muddling along, unemployed, or under-employed, and on the hunt for something better.

What kind of dream job?

The American survey shows 41% want to be business owners. People like the idea of a small company of fewer than 30, plenty of travel for work, a short commute time, a one-hour lunch break.

The survey puts forward the entertainment industry as high on many people’s wish lists — whether they are currently working in finance, hospitality, insurance, real estate or many others.

Conversely, those surveyed who work in accounting, engineering, government, IT, law and science professions are apparently quite satisfied with where they already are. 

Differences between men and women

Broken down further, people’s (career) life goals consist of creative freedom, flexibility, good incomes — but the order in which they’re prioritised generally depends on whether you’re a man or a woman (those who identify as neither presumably weren’t surveyed).

When it comes to perks, men and women do want similar things, except that women look for unlimited vacation time while men want gym memberships and office snacks.

If the entertainment industry is examined closely, comparatively few of its denizens enjoy equal amounts of flexibility, creative freedom and good incomes.

The majority pursuing careers in show business have more than one job (the ‘gig’ economy was initially the working life experienced by musicians and broadcasters), just to keep themselves and their loved ones afloat.

How do you find a dream job?

There’s definitely ludicrous advice out there about how to land your dream job. We need to hear more than ‘look beyond one job search engine, sell yourself and focus on your key skills’. 

Is it ever possible to land your dream job? 

There is no definitive answer, because everyone’s circumstances vary, but here’s what we all can do.

1. Keep your interests and curiosity alive

No matter what you do to earn your crusts, keep your interests and curiosity alive.

Even if it’s as simple as regularly reading, choosing and developing hobbies, meeting people with similar interests, and making time for what’s increasingly known as ‘side-hustles’.  Best-selling author Chris Gillebeau has some very worthwhile suggestions. He even points out frustrations can lead to great business ideas. This is true — the irritation a speck of dirt causes an oyster eventually forms a beautiful pearl. 

2. Maintain an open mind

While some sectors’ job growth is booming, many job seekers are already finding there are not enough graduate positions to go around. Getting a foothold in the industry you’re qualified or trained for can be gruelling. 

If you’re certain you’re in the field you want to be in, it could entail being prepared to move to another state or even country. It could mean developing new strings for your particular bow, being more entrepreneurial with the skills you’ve developed, being prepared to step sideways, or working awhile in two jobs.

Alex Hope’s story of switching from tennis to music is worth reading.

3. Seek and seize opportunities to train and develop more skills

Not everyone gets to make it writing songs for pop stars. Or becoming a well-known TV personality.

If you’ve been around the traps for some years and are feeling disillusioned, it’s time to call in your earlier thoughts and ideas about what you wanted to do with your life. 

Perhaps go for a long walk on the weekend or enjoy a concert, or pull out your old notebooks and plans. Talk to friends or family with whom you can have meaningful ‘career’ discussions.

Maybe you’ve lost a part of you. Gradually consider how that person can be brought back to the surface. 

What skills might you need to help the person you once were or want to be? What development can you undertake to get you excited about your future?

4. Look for possibilities where you currently are

This can be a tougher call, especially if you’re working demanding hours, reaching for KPIs or dealing with uncongenial colleagues. 

Even if you decide enough has definitely been enough, you always learn something. 

Quite often tips, methods and knowledge you’ve acquired can lead you to areas and employers you might otherwise never consider. 

Where possible, go to more seminars, monitor your industry grapevine of choice, sign up for more areas of interest and publications on LinkedIn.

5. (Your) time isn’t infinite

Optimise what you have because the daily, minute-by-minute news cycle is a perpetual reminder of how quickly things can change in a person’s life. 

Ask yourself, from time to time, how I can make my moments count? It could be as simple as appreciating a beautiful spring day, cherishing good talks with friends, or visiting someone who hasn’t seen you for a long time and making their day.

Be willing to research your dream job, examining the people and resources that constitute it, and to ponder whether you want it or whether the dream might take new forms. 

You don’t necessarily have to strain for the stars. Glory can be accomplished in subtle ways if you enjoy what you’re doing.

Dreams, as commentator Phillip Adams once observed, are the bowels of our brains. Science has eventually borne him out: the gut-mind connection is real. 

Dreams are what we’ve been consciously processing during the day. They are enlightening and refresh us. 

Thinking about dream jobs could be as simple as pressing the re-set button for what you’re already doing, but not necessarily in the way you might imagine.

NOW READ: “All roads lead back to influence”: How to future-proof professional jobs

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Eve Ash

Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.

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