Leadership Tactic #75: How to Scrap Your Dream Job

Honey I Shrunk the Kids made me want to be an inventor.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Here’s my dream job evolution, starting from when I was a boy: inventor, writer, architect, biochemical engineer, entrepreneur, restaurant owner, and then…well, it’s more in flux now. This isn’t about me, anyway.

It’s about you and your dream job.

Think about your dreams as a kid and how you really had no idea what doctors and lawyers and even grocery cashiers (my sister’s first dream job) did every day. As an adult, you have better gauge of what these jobs entail, but our impressions of jobs are still heavily influenced by movies and television.

As adults, our flexible undergraduate years behind us, venturing into a new career that we think is our dream job is a lot riskier than before. Tell me you haven’t thought this at least once in your 20s: “I know that my dream job is X, and I need to go back to school to get that job.”

Okay. Maybe. Maybe you need to get a master’s degree to get your dream job. But before you spend a ton of money on school, you need to figure out if it’s actually your dream job. I offer two ways to test out and possibly scrap your dream job without spending a penny.

  1. Frank Lloyd Wright made me want to be an architect.

    Do it. Do your dream job. I don’t mean quit your current job; I mean you should find a way to dip your toes into your dream job. If you want to be a veterinarian, volunteer at the Humane Society. If you want to be a doctor, volunteer at the hospital. If you want to be a publicist, find a cause or a person you care about and run a publicity campaign for it. See what it takes to do your dream job. Not only will you learn things you never knew about the career, but you’ll also be able to reflect on how into the job you are. If it’s really your dream job, then you’ll make time to make it happen. Otherwise you’re displacing the dream.

  2. Talk to Someone Who Has Your Dream Job. I’m sure you know someone–or know someone who knows someone–who has your dream job. Call them and ask if you could pick their brain for 15 minutes about what they do. And I’m not talking about some vague description about what they do. You need to ask them exactly what they did at work the last few days, hour by hour. Their instinct will be to brush over the boring details because they hate to admit to themselves how boring their job is. But make them do it.

If you go through those steps and haven’t scrapped your dream job, then it’s time to see what it’s going to take to actually get that job. Maybe it involves school, or maybe it just involves more experience. If the latter is the case, you already have a head start on it thanks to step 1.

What do you think? What was your dream job, and what is your dream job now?