What if Your Dream Job isn’t the Right Job?

Not for the first time and not for the last, my dayjob is undergoing a re-organization. That means that, not only have I had many conversations with people who are changing jobs or looking for new ones, but it’s an opportune time to examine what the heck I’m doing — and invariably here in the U.S., that seems to bring up questions of “the dream job.”

Our culture is suffused with notions of finding our dream jobs, like the podcast whence this graphic came from. And hey, I like dreams, but are dream jobs always a good idea?

I’ve written about this multiple times on this site, but I believe it’s important to remember that just one job probably won’t capture all the meaning you need in your life. I talk about this a lot more in a post from three years ago on the concept of “ikigai” and one’s “reason for being.”

My conclusion there, something reinforced over the past few years, has been that no one job can satisfy one’s need for meaning — and in fact one’s dream job will have tasks that are less than dreamy (e.g., running an audio theater troupe is wonderful, but not 24/7 delightful).

I’ve also mentioned that one should avoid the trap of trying to turn any hobby or interest into a monetized “side hustle” (a term I dislike on multiple levels). And I still need to explore further the idea of having multiple interests and eschewing the notion of “one true calling.” I mean, I haven’t subscribed to the notion of “one true calling” for some time, but maybe it’s the circles I’ve been in, I haven’t seen too many people pushing back on that notion.

So Rainesford Stauffer’s article for Refinery 29 this past November came across my computer screen at just the right time. A good chunk of it is looking at the work of Dr. Erin Cech, a sociologist studying the place of passion in work, finding work, and defining job satisfaction. What I really like is how much it goes into our society’s concept of work, jobs, and “dream jobs.”

“When paying bills or being fairly compensated are presented as luxuries in the American workforce, rather than fixtures, it’s worth looking at where the urge to make our jobs into more than just work comes from in the first place. It wasn’t always this way.”

Understanding some of the structural and societal pressures to “love your job” is important as we all are beginning to ask more what we want from work in, what I can only hope can soon be the post-Pandemic times.

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