We all want it. We all search for it. And some of us even believe we have landed it . . . for a while. BUT . . .
FOR THE RECORD: there’s no such thing as a dream job. There is no single position or project that will be everything you’ve ever wanted and needed all wrapped up in a tidy little package.
ABC News was my first job. I thought it was my dream job, or that it would at least lead to my dream job in television production. I was so proud of myself for landing it right out of grad school . . . IN MY FIELD (who does that??). And then came reality: it was a nightmare. I gave it one year and quit with nothing but hope in my hand. To add to my perceived failure, my father asked repeatedly, “Why don’t you come home and be a teacher?” I thought about it. And then visualized my face on the front page of the The Post as I was arrested for child abuse. I stayed in production.
I love production. I love all of the doors it has opened for me, including executive training. Today I look back on two decades of building a business, being unemployed, being underemployed and eventually being swamped and never having enough hours in a day. Nothing has ever worked out perfectly, but all of it has moved me to the next level of invention.
Here are some tips on how to navigate through the rocky road of high expectations, disappointment and realizing your dreams (that will probably change over time).
1. Go in with realistic expectations. The pitch you get from a recruiter or interviewer seldom shows the whole picture. Think of the offer as a movie trailer: you see all the great scenes that will make you go to the film.
No one tells you about the office politics, job cuts that are coming six months down the road or the horrible reputation your immediate supervisor has for dumping his work on other people’s desks. And believe me, even if you ask, nobody’s going to tell you this stuff . . . which leads me to:
2. Keep your eyes open and mouth shut, no matter how experienced you may be. This is not high school or prison. You don’t need to beat the bully up the first day. Don’t go in with guns blazing and your résumé pasted to your forehead. And don’t worry about sitting at the popular kid’s table. Take the time necessary to scope out the situation, learn your job, find like-minded colleagues and figure out how your new position can help you get to the next level in your career.
3. It’s a job, not your life. Life is divided into many components. The key to a happy and productive one is to be able to balance those components. And oh yeah--do you know ANYBODY who has perfect balance? Neither do I. Just do yourself a favor: when you find yourself loving your job, take a little time to eat, sleep, bathe and reach out to your family and friends. Because if you don’t, you’ll either end up in the hospital or spending holidays alone. And no matter how great the job is, it will be over some day. It’s a job.
4. Give it a year. You think you’ve found your dream job. And within a month, you know it isn’t. You are disillusioned and frustrated. GREAT. Use it. Learn from it. Take one year (a year being paid, by the way) and master time management, politics, industry and people skills. Discreetly look for other opportunities. Hire a headhunter and expand your network. Come on, you can do anything for a year, right? That is unless the headhunter finds you another opportunity. Then go for it!
5. Keep dreaming. Don’t ever stop. Because while the “dream job" may never happen, the “dream” just might. It might look, feel and be different than anything you’d ever imagined, but it just might happen. It happened for me!