The Why You Do the Things You Do

Deciding what you really want is the first step to a satisfying career

9845937_sA lot of people are unhappy at work. While books and coaches promise to help you find a satisfying career, finding that “dream job” can be elusive. I don’t know if it even truly exists.

Almost twenty years ago, I got my first job as a writer. I had put myself through college by attending class in the evenings while working full-time as a bookkeeper during the day. It wasn’t easy. Many weekends while my friends were out partying I was home reading Shakespeare. But, I wanted to work as a writer so I kept going. When I finally was able to kiss my number-crunching goodbye I was ecstatic.

Did I love my job working as an assistant editor? YES!!! Was it actually the “dream job” I thought it would be? Not, exactly.

My editor was awesome. She taught me more during my first six months on the job than I learned taking writing classes in college. I got the opportunity to do cool things like work with the photographer during photo shoots. And, since it was a small magazine, I was exposed to every part of the often chaotic publishing business. When I saw my name in print on my first by-lined article I was thrilled.

But there also was a downside. At times I had to make dozens of calls trying to get retailers to participate in market surveys. I typed tons labels (on an actual typewriter) and packed boxes of merchandize so it could be returned after the photo shoots. And I didn’t get paid much for my efforts.

But, despite all the grunt work I LOVED my job. It didn’t exactly turn out to be the “dream job” I expected, but my “why” kept me motivated. I wanted to become a professional writer. I wanted to learn the publishing business. I wanted to work in an ever-changing environment. And I was willing to work for peanuts because of the opportunity.

As you contemplate what constitutes your “dream job” think about what makes it so.

What do you really want? Are you excited about the activities you’ll be doing every day? Salivating over a fat paycheck? Energized by the opportunity to help people? Or maybe drawn to the ability to work from home?

Then consider what you’re willing to give up for that.

Are you willing to work long hours? Travel several times a month? Spend your weekends doing homework? Or maybe commute two hours to work every day?

Most jobs are not as exciting or glamorous as they appear from afar. Careers that offer high incomes often include long hours and/or frequent travel. Some occupations in the “helping professions” involve weekends and holidays too. Being your own boss means working what may feel like 24/7 and forgoing the security of a steady paycheck.

This is not to say don’t pursue your “dream” career. Nothing makes a week, or even a day, longer than drudging through a job that is not right for you. Just consider it carefully. What do you really want? Why do you want it? What are you willing to give up getting it?

Don’t be discouraged. Don’t stop because the road looks difficult. Just make sure that the “difficult” is something you can live with. And remember there are downsides as well as upsides to every career.

About Annette Richmond, MA

Annette Richmond, MA, CARW, CCELW, is a Certified Resume Writer, Certified LinkedIn Profile Writer, and former recruiter. Her career advice has been featured by Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Business Insider, Monster, Vault, and WSJ. She helps motivated, senior level professionals tell their unique career story. She also serves as executive editor of career-intelligence.com.

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