Many of us have lofty dreams when we think about our career, as we sit in our tiny cubicle chewing on the end of a Biro.
We seem to grow up in a culture where we are encouraged to "dream big" and we are told we can be anything we want to be, but at the same we have "you must accept ANY job" hammered into our skulls on pain of being made out to be entitled, selfish Millennials.
I’ve always shied away from the concept of a dream job, and the reason has nothing to do with the idea of reaching for something you can never attain.
In fact, my reason for shying away from the concept is because of the soul-destroying realisation that the dream job is not necessarily all that amazing when you do achieve it (it is work, after all).
And once there, then what? You’ve reached your perceived pinnacle, so what do you do now? Scale another peak? Is it a never-ending journey of never being satisfied and constantly looking for more? Or is it followed by a downward ski back to the bottom of the mountain?
Despite the treacherous waters that ripple between us and this dream job idea, many of us still hold onto the dream, while walking an entirely different path.
For many of us, the very fact that this job IS a dream job means it is unattainable, simply because we want it so badly and therefore don’t believe we will ever have it. We treat it like a celebrity crush – never going to happen, but you want it anyway.
However, the difference between a dream job and a celebrity crush is that we can, in fact, do something about it.
I work with so many people who are doing the job they are simply because they can, or they fell into it as a young person and just continued the trajectory.
You see, the thing about a dream job is that it’s usually not on the easy road.
It usually requires some sense of resolution, some planning and some determination. Very rarely does someone fall into their dream job. You have to go after it, on purpose.
See, I’ve come to realise that the concept of a dream job doesn’t actually have to be a particular job, per se. If you allow me to become somewhat philosophical (just for something different!), take a moment to consider the concept as a metaphor – that it is themed path defined by a serious of short-term, related goals.
When I was a recruiter, I had an argument with the national operations manger (always a good move, eh?) about benchmarking in the company.
The thing about a dream job is that it’s usually not on the easy road. It usually requires some sense of resolution, some planning and some determination. Very rarely does someone fall into their dream job. You have to go after it, on purpose.
I felt that the standard of interview and phone reference write-ups by our recruiters was significantly below par and demonstrated a need for further training.
However, I was told that if they set the bar too high, no one would reach it, so they set it low, instead of improving performance.
I told him he had it backwards, he told me I was wrong and I found myself with the new task of rewriting all their corporate governance documents as "clearly I could write".
This is an example of what happens when you have people plodding along, not paying attention to what they really want out of their career and failing to see and (most importantly) act on their potential.
We set the benchmark low because we can achieve that, and when we do, we stop because "Go me! I achieved my goal!"
Instead of thinking about your dream job as a definitive job, start thinking about it in terms of themes.
This broadens your scope and takes away the blinkers when thinking about you next career step.
Even if you wanted to be a doctor but can’t remember your Mum’s name let alone an entire text book of medical information, you can still work in healthcare, help people and solve problems - just think a little broader.
Remember, what you actually want to do is only a vague, far-off fantasy if you don’t do anything about it.
This what career counsellors are here to help with.
You might not land Chris Hemsworth, but the man has brothers. Get creative!
Zoë Wundenberg is a careers writer and coach at impressability.com.au.