How To Make Sure Your Dream Career Is The One, Before You Commit
Dream careers are a funny thing, if not a bit of a misleading idea. I’m sure you are wondering how I could say that, given that I write a blog completely dedicated to helping people find these dream careers. Well, hear me out.
You see, as humans we tend to fill our brains with very romantic notions of what different situations would be like, were we living them.
Similar to “the grass is greener on the other side” theory, we love to convince ourselves that our current position sucks and another would bring us 100% happiness every day for the rest of our lives.
We idealistically conjure up pictures in our mind of swimming with sea turtles, or doing photography every day, or happily writing a bestseller while sipping coffee in a quirky cafe. And while these happy times do surface when we are doing our dream work, there is so much more to our work that just isn’t as exciting.
There is also the fact that humans naturally have a wide variety of interests. In all likelihood, you won’t be able to combine every interest you have into a single career. This can leave us with the searching feeling that we just haven’t found our dream career yet.
You may come up with a number of possible business ideas that you’d love to pursue, only to find a flaw in each of them. Then you decide to keep looking, waiting forever to find that one idea that is the perfect combination of everything you love to do with nothing that you don’t.
That dream career doesn’t exist.
Every career or business, no matter how wonderful, is going to have some down sides. There will be long days, boring paper shuffling, and trying times that make you question your love for it.
While this may sound a bit anticlimactic and disheartening at first, it is actually a great thing! Understanding that there will be hard times in any career you choose gives you freedom. It gives you freedom from doubts and second thoughts and the constant worry that maybe your dream idea wasn’t so wondrous after all.
When you go in with your eyes open, you have the chance to create a realistic career that makes you feel purposeful. It also gives you the opportunity to not fear that you’ve fallen out of love with your chosen career the minute things get tough.
Accepting these realities paves the way for success and satisfaction in your work.
Talk To Those Doing What You Want To Do
The fastest way to a quick peek into your future world of work is to talk to people who are already doing what you want to do.
I had a fun experience a few months back that may help you get an idea of what I mean:
I come from a large extended family. What we call the “younger generation” is comprised of myself and siblings, our cousins, and their significant others.
Now spread all across the country, it was an exciting day when we were all reunited in our favorite Thai restaurant in Portland. Gabbing about our lives and careers, someone brought up the ultimate question:
What is the shit sandwich in your line of work?
The stories poured in, despite all of us loving the work we are in. Wonky pay structures, poor weather, difficult clients, never ending bureaucracy, and piles of paperwork plagued us.
Listening to these friends and family members talk about the realities of their dream careers affirmed a notion I’d long since held.
Every career has a shit sandwich.
It can’t be escaped. And the best way to learn this, is by talking to people in your proposed line of work. Whether you find these people online or off, try to nail down what difficulties they face while doing work they love.
What do they spend the majority of their time doing? What is the most boring aspect of their career? What single task do they dislike the most? What types of things often don’t turn out as they’d hoped in their work?
Spend A Week Doing The Work You Want To Do
Have you ever thought that an activity would be perfect for you? It sounded exactly like something you would be into, your friends with similar interests love it, and then… you can’t stand doing it.
All too often, that happens with work too. We figure that we love animals, so why not open up a doggie daycare? Or we love coffee, so we decide to open up a cafe. Then the work comes around and we sadly realize that it doesn’t fit the beautiful narrative in our mind of what we thought we’d be doing.
I don’t want that to happen to you. So, my next tip is to spend at least a week actually doing the work you think you want to do.
- If you want to be a writer, sit down and force yourself to crank out at least 3,000 words a day.
- If you want to be a photographer, take photos for part of the day and spend the rest of it searching for clients.
- If you want to be a Youtube star, start writing your own scripts and filming them.
Once a week has passed, take a hard look at how the week went. It’s perfectly normal for the work to be super tough in the beginning. You may feel clunky and slow when trying something new.
But ask yourself this:
Do you feel inspired? Do you feel the drive to stick with it, even when the hard times come? Does the work feel “right”?
Make Sure You Understand The Back End Work
Marine biologists who study dolphins don’t just play in the water all day- they often have a ton of paperwork and data entry to do too.
Instagram stars don’t just lay around on beautiful beaches taking selfies all day. They are constantly under pressure to produce more and better work, which means lots of money spent, lots of transportation time, and tedious camera time. They also have to constantly pitch sponsors and try to grow their online following.
The truth is that every career has back end work that the world doesn’t see, and it usually isn’t very exciting.
When Chris and I became wedding photographers, we had several other photographer friends ask for tips on how to build their business. The reality is that a lot of people want to be photographers, but few want to be business people. In that industry, you have to be both.
While it’s easy to think that you just need to be an excellent photographer and the rest will take care of itself, that’s just not true.
You need to be the web builder, marketer, customer service provider, lead designer, office assistant, and photographer all in one if you want to succeed. It is likely the same in your industry.
What will your back end work look like?
Be Ready To Put In At Least 5 Years
In Steve Pavlina’s hit article Is it time for You to Stop Dabbling And Get Serious?, Steve recommends committing to a career path for at least 5 years to fully flesh out the business and see success.
His sage advice continues by acknowledging that people tend to OVERestimate what they can accomplish in a year, but UNDERestimate how much they can achieve in 5 years.
I’m not saying that it takes 5 years to become profitable in your business. Not at all. What I am saying is that you need to commit.
You need to be in it for the long haul. You can’t keep coming up with a new business interest every six months and expect to see results. There are going to be a lot of people who do what you want to do, and 95% of them will be gone two years in. Focus is everything when you are building your own career.
Don't Feel Demotivated When You See How Successful Someone Else Is
Have you ever had a great idea for your career, and then found someone who is already doing an amazing job at that exact thing?
Yeah, I’ve been there too. Right off the bat, it feels demotivating. This person is so successful, and already so established, and everything looks perfect in their little business world.
Before your mind runs away with you, take a step back. There are two great reasons why you should keep going.
First, when you look at someone’s business from the outside, whether that’s a blog or a book or a brick-and-mortar store, you simply can’t see all of the work they’ve put in over the years to get to where they are.
You can’t see the mistakes they’ve made. And most likely, you can’t see all of the craptastic work they put out in the early days before they improved. Believe it or not, this person you idolize in your industry did not just emerge from the ether as an icon in their field. They put in the work to get there, and you can too.
Second, competition is a GOOD thing. Competition means that there are customers in that field. Competition means there is money to be made. If you come up with an idea that no one has heard of or no one is doing, there’s a good chance it’s because no one is interested in that product or service.
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You don’t need to reinvent the wheel with your work. All you need to do is put a fresh spin on it, be yourself, and work very, very hard. I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
"You have everything you need to build something much bigger than yourself."
- Seth Godin
Question: What, if anything, has stopped you from pursuing your dream career? Have you ever thought you had the perfect idea, only to get started and realize it wasn't for you? Let me know in the comments below!