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What If Your Dream Job Turns Out to Be a Nightmare?


The scariest part of interviewing for a new job is knowing that you can’t possibly figure out what it will be like to do that job … until it’s too late to turn back. You can do your research, ask smart questions, and ace the interview process, but when it comes right down to it, there’s no guarantee that you’ll love the gig once you’re actually doing it.

dream job 

(Photo Credit: quinnanya/Flickr)

“It’s a surprisingly common dilemma,” writes Sue Shellenbarger at The Wall Street Journal. “The idea of a ‘dream job’ is drilled into job seekers these days. Increasingly, people expect to find jobs that provide not only a living but also stimulation, emotional fulfillment and a sense of purpose. The image of a career as a source of passion is promoted by career advisers, self-help books and even the glamorous characters in TV dramas. But fantasies about a job can blind job-seekers to workaday realities and to consideration of the best fit.”

Do You Know What You're Worth?

So how can you avoid getting caught in the trap of the dream job that isn’t, or claw your way free once you’re stuck there?

1. Understand that there’s no such thing as a perfect job.

Even the best jobs have less-than-fantastic aspects to them. Understanding that there will always be a downside to any career decision is an important part of finding a job you love. People who hate math will always have to do a spreadsheet or two; those who loathe public speaking will have to do the occasional PowerPoint.

2. Know your goals and limits.

How much of your time do you get to spend doing work that fulfills you and aligns with your sense of mission and purpose? What do you absolutely never want to do, and what does that mean for your career path? For example, if you never want to manage a budget, but can’t be promoted past a certain level without taking on that responsibility, you either need to unpack why being in charge of money bothers you or consider a career that won’t force you to do something you can’t stand.

3. Pay attention to what you do like.

Even the worst jobs can be valuable, if we learn from them. For many of us, the wrong turns help clarify the right direction. For example, you might learn that you love (or hate) working with people, or enjoy social media, or that you work best with a high degree of autonomy. Everything you can figure out about what you want from work will help you build a career that will really satisfy you over time.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever had to make a career U-turn? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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