The perfect career niche: does it exist?
“The dream job…it’s a fatuous term that doesn’t belong in the lexicon of career discovery and job search. It’s a fallacy. Don’t let it fool you.” ~ Allison Chesterton, Careers Advisor
From the number of dissatisfied people in the world, it would seem that finding the perfect job is far more difficult than one would assume. You have taken the right courses, studied hard, followed advice, made plans, set out a strategy – and still that perfect combination of work and happiness eludes you. It might be alarming to know that this is a common condition from doctors to financial specialists, from sea captains to sales, from architects to analysts. Everyone looks for that true balance, and rarely finds it.
There are a number of reasons for this – and all of them involve our mindsets. We come into the real working world from a cosseted routine of education where we got gold stars for doing good and high praise for high marks, only to find that once you’re working for someone, they’re not quite as kind or concerned about your feelings or your aspirations. So let’s begin with that key blot on our fabulous dreams – people.
No perfect people
No one you are going to work with is going to be perfect. Everyone has flaws. Some you may easily overlook, but there will those with less than attractive attitudes, interactive styles and management efficiencies. There will always be people that irk you whether it’s the boss or your colleagues. These relationships can colour the whole way you look upon your job, even making you wonder why you chose that field. These feelings can govern your whole approach and make you question your decisions every day.
But you are not perfect either. And sometimes it’s not the job or the career niche that is the problem but the way you are managing relationships. Jobs are as much about the people you engage with as the work itself. There is no ideal job. While you might enjoy the work, you have to interact with people whom you may dislike. It’s not just you, and it’s not just your job – it’s the world as it is. There will always be something wrong no matter where you work because people are unpredictable. So, it’s your mindset that must change. Don’t expect perfection, and you will be happier.
Expectations unfulfilled are the single biggest cause of unhappiness in every sphere. Lower your expectations from perfection – the nagging perception that one day you will find the perfect fit. Maybe look at your current job and see what’s good about it, and make those moments count. If you constantly expect more than you get, no matter how good things get, you will become permanently miserable. This will reflect in your attitude and spill out into every day issues and relationships with others. And this will affect your ability to find success in an alternative job. People will pick up on your attitude of disappointment and dissatisfaction without you even realising it – and opportunities will slip by while you’re waiting for the perfect moment to apply for the perfect job.
Working in the future instead of with the present
“Focusing too much time and energy on the future is almost as bad as living in the past.” ~ Maria Tomaino, Associate Director: Alumni Career Development, Florida International University.
Always working with your eye on something better will never make you happy. Because you will be putting happiness on hold while you wait for the perfect job. You will always think that next month, or next year you will find a much better perch than the one you’re on at the moment. As a consequence you miss all the good things that are in the here and now.
If you believe that only certain achievements will allow you to be happy, you are putting so much pressure on yourself. If the ‘dream job’ is your only expectation, then you just might find yourself missing out on opportunities right under your nose.
You can be whatever you want
When we’re kids our parents love to intone this rather open-ended message: we can be whatever we want. In many ways, they’re hoping you might mind the elusive perfection that they have been looking for all their lives! But while the world is full of choices, we are all different – and we can’t all be football stars or famous writers or astronauts. Dreams are good, they keep us motivated and focused – but keep them realistic, grounded and achievable, and happiness is that much closer. Map out a career that is aligned to your personal goals and values.
There is nothing wrong in aspiring for more, and keeping your dream alive, but remaining within the framework of what is possible and workable is important to keeping your mind frame balanced. Sure, you want a career that is fulfilling and will reward you well. But know your capabilities, plan your steps forward carefully, make it a rule to get along with difficult people, and always enjoy the process. Most people don’t even know what they expect from a ‘dream’ job. Details are blurred. They fervently believe that something will be revealed to them, magically offered to them. But dreams are imagined success matched with hard work.
Sometimes the job you love might turn out to be entirely different from what you were expecting. If you cling to your idealised idea of what your perfect employment should be, then you might be blinkered as to the real deal. Match expectations with reality – but always work to make that reality fit more comfortably and successfully with you. Don’t live in a fairytale. Passion and practicality should drive you towards your goals. Don’t make an illusion the focus of your endeavours. Live your dream by constantly working towards it within the time and motion constraints of circumstance.
Passion and hard work will be enough
People often believe that passion alone will result in the perfect appointment or promotion; working overtime, going the extra mile, always being available, taking on more work than you can manage. But this doesn’t necessarily make you happy or fulfilled. Eventually you may become deeply unhappy that you’re not getting the attention and the rewards you expect – and unfortunately complaining rarely changes the constraints of the job to meet your expectations.
Again this doesn’t mean that you should give up on what motivates and excites you, it simply means that you should ease your concentration on the job as a solution, and focus more on yourself. What extra courses do you need to take? Which company holds the key to your advancement? Who do you need to speak to for advice? How prepared are you to move from one city to another? Take your time, volunteer in a variety of fields until you get a feeling for that type of work. Start a blog and engage with others in the search for more enlightenment. Learn as much as you can that is beyond formal education.
Learn to evolve
There are not many people who work up from the lowest rung to CEO of the company – although we like these stories. You may work as hard as you like, but still that special promotion may elude you. Rising through the ranks to ultimate success is for many a myth that only builds resentment and burns away happiness.
Points to remember:
- Hard work is one thing, but researching opportunities together with initiative and a cheerful attitude will very often take you places elsewhere.
- The perfect career niche is not something you find, or something that is given to you because people want to be nice – it’s something you create. There is rarely a golden carriage and sudden switch of fortune. Get into your dream job in a proactive and effective way.
- Make every job you do along the way a lesson in focus and determination, and be content with every small achievement. Seek out mentors, go for interviews, ask your boss questions, read up what you can. Be clear that you’re not unhappy with your job, but you nurture expectations for something better.
- Have objectives, mark off milestones – and share your success with those who have the influence to help you.
- A dream job isn’t necessarily something that exists of itself; it is a constantly evolving dynamic of interaction between you, the work and people around you.
- And don’t forget that your objectives may change as you progress; what was important when you were 25 is less interesting at 30, and you may have learnt other skills which you want to pursue.
- The dream career is unlikely to be handed to you – but it is possible if you are prepared to grow and learn strategically from every opportunity that comes your way.