Integrating Career Dreams to Lead the Life You Want

Career DreamsDo you find yourself saying, “I’ve never known what I really wanted to do” or Is there some test that will tell me what I am best suited for?”  I hear these comments all too often from clients whose current work seems mediocre or worse, meaningless, and they desperately hope I can help them find their ideal job or profession.

Seeking help to find your dream job is wise because it is all too easy for the voice inside to convince you that a dream job is unreachable (it’s a dream after all!).  Also, you may feel unsure how to develop a plan and take steps toward attainment.  Since career counselors have guided and supported many people, we can help you see other possibilities in your life, find new paths and overcome obstacles by sharing what has worked for others.

Here are several key tips to consider that have come from working with clients who have had success in pursuing their career aspirations:

  1. Identify and clarify your passions—what you truly love to do (even if you don’t get paid for it). It follows that you can find meaning and your passion in work and have fun at it. The essential thing is to be clear on what gives you joy and fulfills your talents, which can be done inside and outside of work. Simply put, you need to live your values, purpose and dreams in this life. Having and pursuing realistic dreams is important to a fulfilling life. For inspiration to help sustain your quest, see my previous blog, You Gotta Have Hope.
  2. Accept that even dream jobs come with pros and cons, as well as trade offs. The path to reaching large career dreams may be long or filled with extenuating circumstances: it may be expensive and require several years of additional training or education, you may have young children which makes schedules challenging, very few openings may exist in your dream industry, or in the end, you may be unwilling or unable to sustain the commitment and sacrifice to close your gaps. Above all, you must figure out if you have what it takes to sustain the drive to reach a profession you idealize.
  3. Finding out how to make money off a passion may not be the only or best answer to success and fulfillment. I can think of many people who make their dreams come alive while also working full-time and part-time in ‘real jobs’:
  • A full-time owner of a thriving knitting needle wholesale supply business, who also finds larger meaning supporting rural villages in Kenya by using his annual leave to go to Africa and help drill water wells.
  • A property manager whose passion is sculpting, which he pursues in the evenings for commissions and sells his sculptures at art fairs on weekends.
  • A stay-at-home mother with two kids who gives her all to support enrichment activities outside of the school classroom because she loves to help adolescents succeed in life; she recently sourced contemporary office furniture for and helped repaint the high school career center.
  • And me – an otherwise happily-engaged career counselor, whose passion for nature and landscape photography finds expression in off-hours outings both nearby and overseas, and a sample of his photos can be found in his gallery here
Although none of these people are in position to give up their day jobs, they are using their talents and passions to create value for themselves and others.  Are there ways you, too, can move in the direction you choose, toward attainable dreams?

  1. Finally, inspiration and encouragement can come at unexpected times. Just last night I was on the phone with my internet service provider about modem issues. When the problem was resolved, the topic strayed to pro basketball teams. The tech support person confided to me that his dream was to be a sports announcer. Of course this inveterate career counselor took the bait, found out what city he was in (Denver), and I named three colleges where he might begin to actualize his dream by sitting in as an understudy in the basketball play-by-play box with the radio announcer. Who knows when you might find a piece of helpful information to advance your pursuit of your dream job!

The takeaway here is to get clear, very clear, on #1 above, what you love to do. A career counselor can help assess your passions and what you are best at.  Further, he or she can also guide you as you discern how much of your dream can be realized in a profession, or whether it falls into doing more of what you love, even if you don’t get paid for it.  After all, we’re talking about more than a job here—it is finding and expressing the heart and soul of what makes you come alive, the path that is yours to walk.

The only way to do great work is to love what you do.  If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.  Don’t settle.  As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.

 Steve Jobs