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When to Give Up on Finding Your Dream Career

Everyone wants a job they love. We all want to wake up excited to go to work, spend our days accomplishing goals we’re proud of, and come home feeling pleasantly fulfilled. Oh, and somewhere in there, we’d like a paycheck that provides us with a comfortable lifestyle and may one day put our kids through college.

That’s the dream anyway. But, in reality, we often have to settle for less. We put our dreams on hold in order to put food on the table. That perfect, dream career is exchanged for a livable wage, a decent commute and stability.

To say that you should never give up on finding that dream career sounds a bit naïve. I understand that the world requires us to make sacrifices and, at times, we have to put the needs of our families above our personal desires for career fulfillment. But I still encourage everyone to hold tight to the dream. Not because I think it will one day magically come true. But because nothing is permanent. And, even if you have to momentarily let it go, it’s not to be forgotten completely.

The Path Changes

Many people have told me the path to their dream career looked nothing like what they expected. They took non-traditional roads and explored uncharted territory to get there. It seemed for a while that they were off course. And then, amazingly, they were able to guide their current path in the right direction.

This happened to me, in fact. I had buried my dream of being a writer and was working as an Executive Assistant. I channeled my creative energy into a blog, where I wrote about my challenges at work and how I was overcoming them. My writing was seen by millions and a few years later, I sold my blog and became a fulltime writer. I never would have expected that the path I was on as an Executive Assistant would lead me to my dream of being a writer. I had to manipulate the path somewhat and turn it into something a little different, but it worked.

The Destination Changes

I’ve known many people who tell me they woke up one day and realized they were in their dream career, and it was nothing like what they thought it would be. The job they had taken to make ends meet on the way to another destination turned out to be more than just a stop along the road.

A friend of mine, struggling to become an actor, finally accepted a fulltime position as a customer service trainer. About a year into the gig, he told me wasn’t interested in going on auditions anymore. He felt he had “fallen” into his dream career and it was something he never expected. Sure, it wasn’t as glamorous as being a movie star, but he felt fulfilled. He was using his talents in a way he had never thought of before.

The World Changes

I couldn’t have envisioned my career ten years ago. Even five years ago, the technology I use on a daily basis was only just being developed. The world is constantly changing and growing and, with it, new careers are emerging. In the future, technology we can’t begin to understand will become a part of the mainstream and it will shift our society in ways we can’t predict. Our limits are ever-expanding, and our career possibilities are growing each and every day.

I think about the courses available to college students today and it completely boggles my mind. They are facing a whole world of opportunities that we never had at their age. They can get degrees in online social media! Such an idea never existed five years ago. What will be available in another five years? How will it impact our business world? How will it change your idea of a dream career? No one knows.

YOU Change

You’re not the same person you were yesterday. Ultimately, we’re all changing, every minute of every day. Our dreams are fluid. What once might have seemed like a dream career may no longer suit you.  Be willing to let your dreams change and not feel guilty or that you’ve failed. Sometimes, you have to let go of old dreams to let the new ones in. That’s not “giving up”. It’s growing up.

Let your career dreams live through you. Don’t stifle them, ignore them or forget them. They are a part of you. But give yourself the freedom to make your own way. Because we live in the real world, not a dream world. We have responsibilities and families and mortgages. Remember that everything changes and let the world surprise you. Never give up on yourself, your dreams or the possibilities that exist.

Photo Credit: Toddwshaffer (Flickr)

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13 Responses to “When to Give Up on Finding Your Dream Career”

  1. Renata says:

    Hi Chrissy
    You have no idea how nice it was to hearing from you today in my e-mail inbox. Thanks.
    As I said, I teach English (Corporate) for young recent graduated professionals. I bring to the classes, good articles with lots of tips,about organization, productivity, relationship in the workplace, etc. My classes are, according to them, kind of a therapy and even better: in English. As a 52 year old mother of 2 young men, I consider them my kids as well. One of my favorite articles is “Time Machine”. Excellent one!! I could use a text written in perfect English and it was full of good career advice. It also provided a deep reflection.
    Today your article about career motivation, had the same effect on me.
    As I said during 25 years, deeply demotivated with the low monthly paycheck, I was considering to stop teaching and think of something financially better (2 boys in college,one of them heading tothe US to improve his English. Then 3 years ago I was invited to attend a training on Corporate English. To my surprise all the energy came back. The new horizon and the better (but sometimes uncertain) paycheck are among the positive facts that validated my decision. Wow! What a long comment! Cheers!! Renata

  2. [...] of time sharing information on how to love your career. I talk about making thoughtful decisions, establishing a path and actively managing your [...]

  3. [...] of time sharing information on how to love your career. I talk about making thoughtful decisions, establishing a path and actively managing your [...]

  4. I always wanted to hold on to my dream of being a journalist. But I have read an article about changes. Don’t resist change. That is one important thing that was glued to my mind. So I didn’t. I accept changes. I faced them. I didn’t know what was in store for me until I tried applying for an administrative job. Now, I am an executive assistant to the VP. This is because I decided to love my work. And it loved me back.

    Natalie Loopbaanadvies

  5. [...] and yet, at the same time, still striving for more. Progress is what happens when you feel the pull of your dreams, and instead of just sitting there, wishing and waiting, you dive in. Progress is that [...]

  6. [...] is a great lesson for everyone, regardless of your profession. Personal branding is all about authenticity and showing who you really are. You can’t fake it. [...]

  7. Stacy-Ann Mitchell says:

    Hi Chrissy

    I want to know what do you say to someone who never really had a dream career in mind. I want the usual things – to go to a job that makes me feel fulfilled and to get paid for doing it, but I never had a dream career like wanting to be a doctor or a writer. I did a degree in Social Marketing and have since done three different jobs but nothing has gotten me to that happy fulfilled place as yet and I guess the sad part is I still dont know what the desired destination should be.

  8. Chrissy says:

    Stacy-Ann, The big thing to know is that you are not alone. This is SO common. All to often, people graduate from college with a degree but without any idea what they really want to do. This is one of the things I specialize in helping people with in my coaching practice. Please, PLEASE take a look at my coaching packages. I have so many tools to help you out. (www.EatYourCareer.com/coaching)

    I’m also developing a group coaching program on this topic that will launch in January 2012.

    Lastly, I would recommend a wonderful book called “Finding Your North Star” by Martha Beck. Many years ago, it helped me really understand the big picture of who I am and what I offer the world. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

    Best of luck to you!

  9. Tiffany says:

    Hi Chrissy,

    Thanks for this very common sense article. Having worked for more than 15 years with numerous careers, I vaguely remember that I wanted to run a business in a power suit – how impressionable as a teeenager! Somewhere along the lines, I wanted to write and be creative, transfer my knowledge to others and help them achieve their goals – I still do. Now I also want to travel as part of my job whereas in the past, that wasn’t something I’d enjoy. I used to be shy and lack confidence, but I now want to meet as many people as I possibly could! I thought I’d enjoy managing people but having managed a small team, I found out it’s not something I totally enjoy – I enjoyed the coaching and mentoring but not the performance management!
    You’re right that we’re always changing – sometimes out of our own doing, other times, because of our careers and circumstances.
    My current career path is looking quite messsy so much so that my skills are so diverse that employers don’t know where to put me. It’s both a curse and blessing – blessed are those who see the potentials I bring. But it’s frustrating trying to work out the next career move. I went from being an internal employee to external consultant, back to internal, and am now considering if being external would suit me better. It’s taken me quite a bit of soul searching – I’m not there quite yet but it feels ‘right’. I suppose at the end of the day, I’m still after that intrinsic dream, except rather than being vague, it’s becoming clearer as I discover more of myself… I hope. :)

  10. [...] successful job search should take anywhere from three to six months. It’s not something that happens [...]

  11. Kevin says:

    I am 48 yrs old, currently self-employed (health insurance broker) but honestly I don’t make enough money to pay the bills. I don’t have to, my wife earns a very large income.

    So why am I here on your web site? Well, I went in the Army to pay for college, became a dental hygienist (only job opening for the college money I wanted and since I wanted to be a medical doctor, it was the closest in the medical field), went to college and studied microbiology, became president of the Microbiology club, hated microbiology, got top grades in organic chemistry, but was too far along to change (so I thought)… during school I was asst. to the strength coach for the Div. I football team (I was a powerlifter so it was a natural), I also worked at a retail clothing store and brought our store from last place in the region to first, when they offered me a career, I had no interest, I was only in it for the summer or a little more.

    My senior year, they recruited 4 graduating seniors to become part of a select staff of, at the time, the largest vitamin company in the U.S.A. I was one of them. Thought the meetings were useless and unproductive (people acting like peacocks)… I quit.

    Dropped out of school with 2 classes to go, came to California to do real estate…I grew up poor so I always wanted to be rich. It was during a time when the market dropped out… got a job as a security guard to pay bills, I was guarding some new homes (people steal construction supplies)… one day a couple who I was showing a new home to (from my awesome high end office given to me by the owner of the company) saw me and the look in their eyes, dejected me and I got out of Real Estate.

    Got a job in a gym just opening. Sold almost all their memberships, started doing personal training (before it was a profession) and they told me I had to quit because they already had someone (even though I was already making money for them??) I pleaded, no luck, I quit.

    I got a job in microbiology, was ok, didn’t love it, ended up handling their marketing, trade shows, ad development for thier product, and refined their product that was on the shelf, so it is still today their main product… I asked for a raise, to put me between the pay grade I was at (as a technician) and a marketing rep (significantly more income)… they said no, I said I’d quit (thought I was too valuable to fire)…. they let me go.

    Got a job selling mens shoes at a luxury retail store…. was the 2nd highest producing salesman.. I was running behind the scenes, (you hat to wear a suit and tie and look good).. I was sweating, so I asked to remove my jacket.. store policy was no, but I saw another salesman who produced no where near what I did doing it….I said I’d quit.. they said bye, bye.. I quit.

    Economy was very down 1990′s I couldn’t find a job outside of microbiology and I didn’t want to do that anyway… I became a street sweeper…all that did was make me poor slowly. I had to move out of my beach front house (rented) and move in with relatives.

    Got a job in a physical therapy office..first day, knew it wasn’t for me… as i was leaving, I heard one of the owners talking about starting a gym in all thier clinics… I said, “I’ve done that before, I know exactly how to do it”…. They hired me as their gym manager for the first gym.

    I sold $75,000 worth of gym memberships in two weeks. I was there for 10 years, they never opened another site and while I loved the people part, there were some reasons I had to leave. I wanted to make enough money to support a family and it wasn’t going to happen there.

    During that time I learned to fly helicopters, thinking I might like that… after learning, I realized it was like a glorified taxi cab driver (nothing wrong with it, just not for me).

    I became self-employed as a health insurance salesman. Was promised the world and when I did what they asked me to do to get ot the next step( get the good leads) My manager stole my leads. They never apologized or disciplined that guy. I left.

    Had to get a job, got a job as a life insurance salesman… within 6 months I was running their life insurance division. They made bad decision and their entire company went under (life insurance was only a small part of this financial company).

    Losing that job (no fault of my own -we were doing well in my dept.) was during the first month I was married.

    My wife also dissolved her partnership with her accountant partner (he was weird, had a crush on her and he was married).

    SO we both had some money and didn’t have to look immediately.

    She was offered a job for some people she had known for decades… she loved the people and loved the job and they kept giving her more to do….. company dissolved because of bad partner, so the good partner, started a new company with my wife.

    She makes a lot of money.

    I started my own life insurance brokerage… never took off as i never really liked it, I just did it because it was what I knew..

    We had a child. I became Mr. Mom… and while i love my son more than anything…. I HATED being Mr. Mom… so much so it gave me so much stress, they thought I had a adrenaline producing tumor (no lie)…I didn’t I was that stressed out. Three years I took care of him all day and tried to figure out what to do with my life.

    He finally was old enough for pre-school, which gave me some time ( I lived alone for all of my adult life, so I needed alone time)…. things got better…

    I studied computer programming (at home) and within two years I was a certified computer programmer. I thought it was THE answer…. I couldn’t take being creative and being the salesman…. couldn’t take that rejection and most clients didn’t even know what they wanted, they just knew what they didn’t like.

    SO I switched to health insurance (I still had my license)…. it was ok, never made much money, enough to feel I deserved to eat though my wife provides everythying… my manhood slowly degenerated. Oh I still did jiu jitsu fighting and motorcross riding and all the manly stuff… But inside, I feel like a GINORMOUS failure.

    SO I thought, well, people always told me I could write, I’ll try writing. It’s HARD! I gave up…

    SO today I am very sad and feel like I am lost and have been lost for 10 years… ever since I got married. I love my wife, she loves me…that isn’t the problem… the problem is I feel I will never find something that 1. makes the world a better place because of my work (even small) and 2. that I enjoy and doesn’t feel like a sacrifice only. Sacrifice is good, but if that is all it is, I won’t be able to make it stick… especially since we don’t need the money right now.

    I just looked at a “find your passion guide” and the first question made me cry… “what was your childhood dream”… I never had one..I just wanted to survive. I was abandoned.

    This week, I found out I have hyperthyroid and so my emotions are frazzled…

    I feel the hyperthyroid is in part because of my unresolved guilt and dissatisfaction with my life… and I can’t complain because my friends think I have it made like a king…I only wish I felt that way. I feel I am a burden to my wife and I should be able to take care of HER not her take care of me … and I suck at taking care of the kids (though I’m working on it)… I wasn’t parented so I don’t even know how.

    If I didn’t have Christ in my life, I would be a COMPLETE wreck.

    Well, thanks for letting me unload…even if you delete this comment, it was helpful for me.

  12. [...] successful job search should take anywhere from three to six months. It’s not something that happens [...]

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