think you’re applying for your “dream job”? think again!

A reader writes:

Why do so many folks talk about getting that “dream job” or working for that “dream company”? I’ve had three “dream jobs” in my working life so far. I pursued two, and the third found me. The first turned out to be a nightmare, and the second disappeared due to a series of budget cuts and RIFs (the old term for downsizing) in the area. The third started out as a “how bad can working in The Bronx be?” job, and that one turned into the real dream job and dream company … until the final few years. But I have no regrets on having taken it, since the company provided 30 years of employment doing interesting things and providing professional growth.

I think the emphasis on a “dream job” or “dream company” is self-defeating. Personal expectations may be set so high that either the job or the company can never measure up. The “good fit” expectation is better, but even that seems to drift to “the company won’t do things my way, so it’s not a good fit” type of thinking.

My expectations have always been, … I’ll give this job/company three or four years to see how things turn out.

I’m so glad you brought this up, because every time someone says that they’ve applied for their dream job, I think to myself, “Don’t be so sure.”

The reality is, you have no idea whether something will be your dream job or not until you’re working there. Until you’ve been working there for a while, in fact.

I’d even go so far as to say that there’s no such thing as a dream job that you can truly recognize from the outside. Because as much as you think you might love doing that work for that company, it might turn out that the boss is a nightmare, or your coworkers are horrible, or the company makes you sign out for bathroom breaks and bring in a doctor’s note every time you have a cold, or you’re abused daily by clients, or your workload is so unreasonably high that you end up having panic attacks every morning.

Dream jobs do exist — when it’s work you love, at a company that treats employees well, working for a great manager, alongside coworkers who are competent and kind, or at least unobjectionable — but it’s dangerous to think something is your dream job before you’re really in a position to know. It can lead you to turn a blind eye to warning signs or to make decisions you wouldn’t make if you had all the facts.

So here’s a plea to everyone to realize that the next time you spot something that sounds like your dream job, remember that you really can’t know yet if that’s really what it is. And this is especially good to remember when you don’t get offered the supposed dream job and you’re feeling devastated by it — the reality is that it might not have been your dream job at all.

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