You can accomplish anything you put your mind to!
Have you been told that? Most of us are sold on a wonderful future reality where we get what we want. Eventually, we grow up and give up the fantasy job. We start looking at what we do well and how that might become a job where we can be professionally successful. My dismal grades in science for example, were a good indication that I would not be the one to cure cancer. My ability to support others in problem solving and acquiring empowerment however, translated into a much better career fit.
I encounter many people (several who have become clients) who continue to seek out the dream job. It’s a position filled with applause and populated with folks who behave as the dreamer thinks they should behave – perfectly and as desired.
What makes smart people behave like not-so-smart people?
Holding out for the perfect job with the perfect boss solves a variety of problems all at once. No more boss issues, paycheck sadness, or looking at other people’s jobs with envy. Many working people are hoping to find both meaning and entertainment in their careers. They are eager to secure those perfect jobs that meet the need for variety and task enjoyment (performed with great success of course) and satisfying our sense of purpose.
Most people want a manager who provides guidance but isn’t directive or a micromanager. They are looking for an organizational culture that “walks the talk” and seek employment that feels worthwhile and allows them to contribute to some greater good.
Why shouldn’t we look for that job?
Because it’s a fantasy.
Why is it that we can accept reasonable limits when looking for a place to live or choosing a partner but we can’t seem to be smarter about giving up the fantasy of the job that meets all of our wants and needs?! Looking for a perfect job is not reasonable.
The idea of the perfect job isn’t a bad one. It gets us excited about work and that is a good thing. We spend a lot of time at work so being engaged and enthusiastic about how we spend that time is smart and makes good sense. Having hope that we can come nearer to an idealized version of work can put us in the hunt for something that comes closer to that fantasy ideal.
Know however, that there will be tradeoffs. Every job opportunity ends up being a deal between what you are looking for and what the organization wants from you. It’s time to stop being fooled by clever branding or promises of an idealized future. Take the time to talk to the folks who are actually there doing the work and find out what it’s like to work at that place and for that boss.
Don’t get me wrong – I definitely think it’s worth exploring how to find that job that moves you closer to your idea of something better. Who doesn’t want to be fulfilled professionally? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all make a good living and be appreciated for our contributions at work? The challenge is that when work is idealized, expectations don’t match reality. This in turn invites stress, discontentment, depression and anger. And that stress, discontentment, and anger are usually directed outward – toward the boss.
Is there an answer?
I think so. Identify what is fantasy (how you want it to be) and what is reality (how things actually are). If you can do that, you just might be able to focus on what is worthy of your time and attention now rather than chasing an elusive ideal dream or being angry because the person you interact with daily or the situation you are currently in, is not what you expected.
You may have to choose between being underpaid but happy, or paid well but a bit miserable at work. The selection could be between having a short commute and a disengaged boss or a great manager and mentor but a lot of time on the route to work.
Not for those who are clear about their priorities. Forget about the fantasy job that doesn’t exist and find the job that works best for your top priorities.