Many of us carry around a notion of our “dream job” – the ideal set of conditions, tasks, compensation, and people that would make us engaged, fulfilled, and brimming with meaning.
73% of Americans believe that having a dream job is possible, according to a survey of over 2,500 people, and 47% of them said that they already had their dream job.
But before pouring time, money, and energy into pursuing the wrong “dream job” – or stewing incessantly over not having it yet – we need to know whether our dream job is actually the right fit for us. It may simply be a dream from our childhood self that we’ve outgrown or a borrowed dream from someone else, a common situation psychologists call identity foreclosure.
How do we determine the difference between outdated or hand-me-down dreams and a dream well worth pursuing? Boots-on-the-ground exploration.
That is, we need to actually test out our idea rather than just think our way into it, a process design thinkers call prototyping. Here are four low cost ways to put your dream to the test.
The most efficient way to test out a dream job is to talk to people.
Instead of thinking of informational interviewing as “networking” in the sense of trying to get a new job, approach it in its originally-conceived purpose: for actual information. Too few people do.
There’s simply no better way to get a read on the day-to-day tasks, lived experience, and downfalls of a particular role than to talk to someone who’s in the midst of it. Why interviewees personally like or dislike elements of the roles is much less important than what those elements are. Your goal is to gain a set of rich, detailed information about the role – on the ground, in this moment in time – that you could never get from a Google search.
Importantly, aim to look for convergent information from multiple sources – including from people who have chosen to leave your dream job. Why did they get out? What did they do to try to make the situation work? Are their pain points ones that would matter to you or not?
Resist the urge to discount their red flags out of hand, which we tend to do in our eagerness to focus on the gloss of a dream. You may well be saying the same thing in five years’ time if you don’t measure their concerns up against your own non-negotiables. MORE
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko