My Future

Why Scoring Your Dream Job Might Not Be All It’s Cracked Up To Be

The old idiom ‘choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life’ doesn't tell the whole story.

You’re supposed to want that dream job, right? One that fits in with your lifestyle, morals and passions. A job that will help you live out your dream. Follow your passions. Be your true self.

The truth is, even your ideal occupation is never going to be perfect and here’s why.

The Dream Might Not Match The Reality

You’ve dreamed of saving lives from the time you could walk, but the reality of being a doctor is something quite different. You realise that you don’t love the long hours or the patients piss you off.

Even if you get the day-to-day perfect, it’s not just what’s in the job description that makes a job. It’s your co-workers, environment, flexibility, work-life-balance, and salary.

Even if all the stars align, they won’t stay that way forever—people move on, companies shift location, roles shift focus.

What Comes Next?

What happens to your ambition and drive once you have the dream job? Do you stop growing, stop aspiring, stop looking for the next great opportunity?

Getting your dream job may be demoralising. You’ll have to re-evaluate and find new goals, sometimes for the first time. Just look at Australia’s Prime Ministers—many of whom seem a little lost after losing the top job. Do you hang around in the backbench like Tony Abbott? Or do you switch industries completely like Julia Gillard? No matter what they do, they’ve experienced their career peak.

Losing The Love

Doing what you love as a job can result in a loss of passion. This could lead to a psychological concept called the overjustifcation effect where imposing external motivation (like a salary) on tasks for which you were previously intrinsically motivated to complete (i.e. passionate about) can result in a loss of intrinsic motivation.

People start attributing their motivation to external factors. So if you paint or make music for fun, requiring that passion to pay the bills can mean you’ll lose the joy you got from it in the first place.

Beware Of Brain Fry

There’s no getting home from work and switching off when you want to work on your own passions and hobbies. For creatives, it means using that creative energy all day and having none left for personal projects. For business owners, you’re thinking about your business in your sleep.

Using too much of the same type of energy can lead to burn out.

It’s Still A Job

The old idiom ‘choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life’ is bullshit.

A job comes with different expectations to a hobby. You need to meet a certain threshold to get paid. You still need to be somewhere, or doing something, at a specific point in time.

A blogger might have to write several posts a day, six days a week, to keep afloat. Compare that to the experience of thinking of ideas all week and sitting down on a Sunday to write before another work week rolls around.

Elizabeth Gilbert speaks about this in her book Big Magic, where she explores the ways to seek purpose and meaning in life. Gilbert believes in having hobbies, jobs, careers and vocations—and not expecting your passions to tick all these boxes.

Being happy at work is about more than the dream job. Sometimes, it means putting your passions aside and finding a balance instead. And if you do score that perfect position, there’s no shame in occasionally complaining at the end of the day—just like everyone else.

Sarah Gates is an Adelaide-based writer. She is the author of Love Elimination (Harlequin Australia). Sarah teaches writing workshops at high schools, libraries and state writers centres, and has appeared on panels at National Young Writers Festival and Sydney Writers Festival.

(Lead image: The Circle/IMDB)