Who has second thoughts about their dream job?
May 26, 2013 9:57 PM   Subscribe

I really can't figure out what I want to do in my life. And it's scaring the crap out of me. At many times I really thought I knew what I wanted and then when I started working... I didn't, at all! I tried really hard to figure out what to do. I majored in political science, been involved in campaigns, and I thought I would just go to law school. But felt uneasy about the whole thing like it was just something I was supposed to do cause I would be good at it. So I decided to work a bit in a medical field, which was followed by living aboard for a few years. Now I'm dabbling in film and thinking about architecture. All amazing experiences but no closer to a conclusion. I feel super strongly about some careers and then realize I only feel strongly about those things because I admire the people in those fields and not necessarily the field itself. Does anyone have a similar story? Any conclusions? Can anyone help?
posted by LaceyCoffee to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you are playing around in types of fields, but not the positions in those fields. It's hard to diagnose what you want without knowing what you did for each of those fields.

Example: I do marketing. I primarily work with doctors. I don't have much of an interest in the medical field other than a casual interest and good understanding of the medical field - I have interest in marketing.

So what part of each field do you like? What did you like in your political science major? What did you like about campaigns? What draws you to law? What do you like about the medical field, architecture, and film? What skills do you have that most apply to those jobs? What skills to you enjoy using the most?

Once you decide that, you can try to figure out what your title or department might be in each of those fields. Did you like the creativity? The management? The lead generation and sales?
posted by Crystalinne at 10:08 PM on May 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes. I've found that the people I work for/with matter a lot more to my job satisfaction than the field or tasks of the job itself.

The most wonderful (on paper) job in the world is hell if you work for/with jerks, whereas a relatively dull job can be a joy if you love the people you work with.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:09 PM on May 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

What are you good at/passionate about? What aspect of these positions is attracting you?

I'm like Crystallinne. I love to write. I'm completely industry-agnostic and even the kind of writing I do varies wildly: I've been a journalist, blogger, copywriter, reviewer, social media copywriter, etc. At some point I'll churn out a book. But at heart, it's all the same, I love to tell stories through my writing.

Also, check out I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was by Barbara Sher and do the exercises. I read this book during a time when I was trying to figure out who I was and what I loved and this helped put me on the right path.
posted by so much modern time at 11:24 PM on May 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

One final note: it doesn't matter if it's other people's dream job if it's not your dream job.
posted by so much modern time at 11:41 PM on May 26, 2013

You just have to find something you mostly enjoy doing or are mostly satisfied with.

Every job will have parts that are work.
posted by Lady Li at 11:42 PM on May 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I thought I wanted to be a graphic designer, and a little like Romeo & Juliet, my mother inadvertently made it even more attractive by telling me I couldn't - I wasn't good enough. I was good enough, but a lot of graphic design work is not about design, but about copy.

So then I ended up in admin, because I like to be thorough and detailed, but those jobs always got boring after I revolutionised my role to be the most efficient (and easy) it could be.

What I'm doing now, that I love, is research. I get to use my graphic design skills for models of theories, and for powerpoint presentations. I use my attention to detail for mapping out research and keeping academics on track. I use other skills - constant curiosity, love of reading, internet etc, and I love it. Sure there are bits that aren't wonderful, but most of it is.

So... yeah, I don't know if this helps
posted by b33j at 2:27 AM on May 27, 2013

You realize you haven't mentioned a single JOB here? Law is not a job, neither is medicine, film, or architecture.

Somebody in film, for instance, could be a writer, an actor, a computer graphics designer, a fashion designer, a painter, a singer, a cosmetician, a psychologist, a publicist, a... well, just about anything. There are dozens of dream jobs in that field alone. Jobs in medicine range from lab work to research to patient care to administration, and you could work in a major hospital, a family clinic, for a sports team. There are a ton of jobs in law that don't put you in a courtroom.

My dream job is writing. There are dozens of fields for me - journalism, marketing, arts, public relations, technical writing. But those are just places for me to do what I love.

What do you actually like to DO?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 4:10 AM on May 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

From my (biased and jaded) insider view, architecture is not a dream job. Like graphic design, it's a lot of work requiring attention to details nobody understands or cares about for very little pay.

But, there are niches that you can carve out for yourself once you spend some years getting a good foundation. You could be a code guru, a specification wizzard, a project coordinator and team captain, environment specialist, programmer, or cad jockey ... etc... but there's no architecture job as depicted in the media. It's a high stress problem-solving field of being able to synthesize wildly diverging components and requirements into a unified and pleasing solution.

See if you can spend some time getting to know the insider perspective of each of you fields. Many offices will let folks come in and shadow people (as long as there's no confidential information involved.)
posted by mightshould at 4:38 AM on May 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Find an activity that you love to do and get some bugger to pay you to do it. Happiness.
posted by BenPens at 5:16 AM on May 27, 2013

I found out what I really wanted to do completely by accident. I spent twenty years in the IT industry, earning good money and climbing up the career ladder, but ultimately hating it and believing I was stuck in that career because the money was good and I was very good at the job.

A few years ago I had a nervous breakdown and ended up suffering from depression for three years, which culminated in me losing my job. I knew I couldn't go on with IT but spent at least a year paralysed with anxiety about what to do instead.

As I started to come out of the depression, I needed to get out of the house so I started volunteering for a few local charities, and almost instantly realised that was what I wanted to do.

Took me a year of volunteering almost full time to gain the experience to land a paid role running a winter night shelter for the homeless, and when that finished I moved on to a job running a second hand furniture project for a local charity.

I only earn about a third of what I used to, but I love my work now and can't wait to get in every morning. I think sometimes thinking about what you want to do for the rest of your life can be extremely daunting but the answer is out there. Good luck finding it!
posted by walrus at 5:24 AM on May 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

A job is to make money. It's also important to have good working conditions and a job that fulfills you, but you also have to make a living. And your 20s and early 30s are the times when you can get the best foothold into the best jobs that both pay you decently and work for you on a personal level. So you need to get a little more pragmatic about work. Work isn't meant to be your purpose in life -- work is to make money and be useful. I know that sounds a little harsh, but it seems like you have unrealistic ideas about the role of work in your life.
posted by yarly at 8:10 AM on May 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Seconding Yarly.

I love what I do, make no mistake. I have comfy climate-controlled work environment, make decent money, my company literally gives me just about whatever toys I ask for, generally as close to a dream job as I can imagine, (short of doing something actually meaningful, which in my field would mean halving my pay, and putting up with the BS of working in academia).

And I still would rather sleep in every day than get up and go to work. I'd rather weed the garden than go to work. I'd rather do the same damned thing at home for my own entertainment, rather than doing it as a mercenary for someone else's profit.

Basically, most people work to make a living. You may vary on the spectrum of loving/hating what you do to make that living, but very, very few people would keep doing it if they didn't need to put food on the table. Every day, my employer robs me of a few more hours of my life and gives me a few pieces of green paper in exchange.

Find something you can stand to do for 40 years that pays well enough, and always make it a point to treat your job as just that - A job. Don't kill yourself doing it, or stress over whatever meaningless BS complications came up last week, or delude yourself into thinking they appreciate you, or put in one second of unpaid time or effort. Just live through it each day, and endeavor to enjoy the rest of your time.

/ off to weed the garden. Mmm, holidays, how we so look forward to them! Just one more example, how many people say "no thanks, I'd rather work today"?
posted by pla at 8:26 AM on May 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

I am with yarly and pla. I like my job just fine and I picked something I am good at and enjoy - but it's still work. I don't live for it. I don't leap out of bed thinking about what I am going to write today, what meetings I have or what emails I have to answer.

I never had a "dream job" in mind, I just picked something attainable -- based on my education and skills -- that I would probably like.

I also think the people you work with (more than the job even) matter a whole lot. I work with people I really like -- that makes it all the better.
posted by Lescha at 9:27 AM on May 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Agreed with Jacqueline and Lescha on the importance of the work environment. Your "dream job" on paper will be a nightmare if you work in a toxic environment - and/or you are severely underpaid, have punishing work hours all the time (not just occasional crunch times), or a long commute - all these are career-killers IME.

OTOH even a dull-on-paper job or one that isn't especially prestigious can be enjoyable if you are treated well, paid decently, and have time to enjoy a life outside of work.

It took me years to figure this out. Now I pay more attention to the workplace than the job title. True, if you are doing work that you are fundamentally unsuited for, or is truly a bad fit, you will also be miserable, but working with non-toxic people in a company that pays you fairly and treats you well is something that can make up for a lot of dullness or "this is not my dream job."
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:36 AM on May 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Poly Sci, medicine, film, architecture you've mentioned; but are you an introvert or an extrovert? Are you a traveller or a home body? Are you a pleaser or more inner-directed? Do you want a quiet workplace or a busy one? How important is money to you? Might look at
Johnson o'Connor Aptitude testing for career and educational guidance

Also Myers-Briggs, What Color is Your Parachute.
posted by at at 12:19 PM on May 27, 2013

Film and architecture - both very difficult fields in which to get a job and build a career.
posted by Dansaman at 10:22 PM on May 27, 2013

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