Does your dream job really exist? Or are you after a dream lifestyle?

Not everyone has a vocation, but everyone has lifestyle ambitions…

I used to think I wanted to be a TV presenter. Although that dream died a long time ago and I totally lost interest, it hit me recently that it’s literally the last job I would ever want. Having to switch the ‘extrovert’ in me on the demand of someone else, being censored by an external force, having to abide by the timeline of a production company… it’s genuinely my worst nightmare job. I am an extreme introvert, fiercely opinionated and an utter nuisance to pin down for meetings. TV presenter not only goes STRONGLY against my personality type but also against the way I want to live my daily life. How could I have got it so wrong, what on earth was I thinking? I was totally blinded by the glitz and glamour and couldn’t see past the insta-ready facade.

An ex-boyfriend once said to me ‘people often think they have a dream job, but actually they want the lifestyle it will give them.’ He was an awful man most of the time but he was right about this. I thought the job of a presenter would mean I could call the shots, be in control of my own creativity and time. But actually, it’s the opposite. You’re a mere puppet. A vehicle for someone else’s vision, whether that be TV director, booking agent or publicist.

Thankfully, my job now is better than I could have ever dreamed. It pays me barely anything, but it allows my best friend and I to have a laugh together all day every day. We can do what we want whenever we want, we conjure up made ideas and make them a reality on a regular basis… the quality of life we have is incredibly high, even on a low salary. Mae and I regularly talk about how we’re the happiest out of all our friends, even thought we’re definitely being paid the least by a long shot.

But the point is, for ages we both thought we should chase the money and recognition. However, having fallen into a situation that brings us more joy than any other job we thought we wanted in the past, we realised that actually what we were always looking for was the lifestyle, not the job. Before you blinker yourself in the assumption that you’ll only be happy if you get that single job you’ve been dreaming about, whether it’s TV presenter, author, salesperson or whatever, I recommend you have a think about what really makes you happy. Here’s a checklist to help you determine whether your dream job is genuinely what you want, or if you’re actually more interested in a dream lifestyle…

Who do you want to work with

The people you surround yourself with at work are hugely important. There’s nothing worse than the crushing feeling of despising going into work because you can’t stand the people, even if the actual role you’re doing is incredibly fulfilling. And if you aren’t good with authority, having a manager can be the most difficult thing in the world. Do you even want colleagues? Are you more of a solo worker? Does asking everyone about how their weekend was or having to explain your own fill you with excitement or dread?

ASK YOURSELF: Think about your dream job and assess whether it will allow you to surround yourself with the type and number of people you want.

What brings you small joys

Think about what in your free time makes you happy. Is it being around family, is it working, is it spending money, is it being in charge of your own time, is it helping the community… and prioritise what makes you smile. If the dream job requires working all hours of the day, or means working most evenings, is this something you can deal with if your main joy is going out for dinner with your friends?

ASK YOURSELF: Can you incorporate your small joys into your dream job? Or is the dream job worth giving up small joys for?

What tasks do you enjoy

Think about what in you do at work. What are the tasks that make you happy? What do they have in common? Now think about the tasks you hate. Then analyse why you chose these things and what they all say about you.

For example, I enjoy writing articles and I hate sales.

So, on the surface of things the writing implies that I like content creation. However, scratch beneath the surface and actually the meaning behind this is as follows: I like writing articles because I like making things that have a satisfying end product. I hate sales because I don’t like being out of control of decision-making. So, if I were thinking about a job I might apply to, I would need to make sure these elements were present in the job. And as you can see, TV presenter would certainly have been a bad choice for me.

ASK YOURSELF: Are the tasks you enjoy part of your dream job? If not, what daily satisfaction / sense of accomplishment do you think your dream job will bring you?

What environment do you thrive in

Think about what environment you want to be in. Office or home? Are you a routine person, or are you a bit more sporadic in your working habits? Do you need to be able to talk a walk on a whim? Do you love being around other people or are colleagues a distraction? Do you need coffee on tap? Do you like having your headphones on and just knuckling down or do you need silence and natural light? These are all incredibly important factors when it comes to designing your dream working environment.

ASK YOURSELF: Will your dream job allow you the physical freedom you need? Will it allow you to work in the space you feel most comfortable in?

Do you take yourself seriously

To be honest, people don’t like someone that takes themselves too seriously. And more importantly, not being able to see the funny side of things makes life quite boring. I wrote an article about a turning point that my business partner and I had about a year ago that completely transformed the way we saw our work and we’re 100% happier for it. The short version of the story is that we were taking ourselves too seriously and it took a big falling out for us to realise that we’d completely lost sight of the fact that we were living the absolute dream. So focused on the future, we weren’t able to enjoy the amazing lives we were living in the present. Thankfully we managed to pull ourselves back to earth and shake off the self-importance we’d been wallowing in for too long. Not everyone has that lightbulb moment and not everyone has that other person to give them a reality check, so we’re lucky we were able to recognise our own behaviours. So remember, if you get to a point where you aren’t worrying constantly about money life is so much more enjoyable when you can just have a laugh and be less serious. Don’t believe your own hype.

ASK YOURSELF: Who can you rely on to help you see the fun in your work? Are you prone to self-importance and what can you do to reduce this?

This article has actually been turned into a workshop by the author Sam and her business partner Mae. Watch or listen to them chat through the reasons for creating the article and how they’ve actioned these points in their own lives here.

This workshop is the first in a series titled ‘The Career & Self-Development Series by ERIC’. All are action-focused and designed to not only help you know what you want from a career but also find companies that are hiring, get in touch with them, interview with them and find people who can help you get the future you want.

Mae & Sam run ERIC together, a community that empowers Gen Z creatives through career & self-development content.

ERIC are launching a career and self-development app. Sign up to be an app tester at meet-eric.co/app.

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Samantha Hornsby

Co-founder of ERIC. Likes writing, loves listening. Immersive experience obsessive.