How to know whether your “dream job” is right for you

At some point in each of our lives, we will do a job that doesn’t fulfil us. Usually, many of us will get our “in between” jobs out of the way during our student years, or shortly after. For those of us who come to find employment in unfavourable establishments later in life, we can only hope it is for a brief time. But, what do you do when you find a job that you think was perfect for you, and it turns out to be the complete opposite?

One might expect to fall into bar work as a late-teen or twenty-something for a number of reasons, and most of us expect that it will be a short stopgap until one of our many hundreds of applications is successful. Of course, some may decide that hospitality was always (or is now) their passion and make a career within the industry – perfect! I know plenty of people that have stumbled across bar work as a temporary source of income and subsequently made careers for themselves. However, I’m not talking about these jobs. I’m talking about the jobs you thought you dreamed of.

The notion of having a “dream job” is a wild one, especially with the growth of travel, the internet and contract flexibility, working one job for the rest of your life seems like a world away for the Millennial-Gen Z era. However, most of us – through social conditioning or otherwise – have one. Mine was locked-in from a very young age – I was destined to be a teacher. Secondary school taught me that kids are really mean and I definitely don’t feel like teaching them. Then, when I reached university, I wanted to be an academic. Realising my potential for academic greatness became my new goal. Partying soon talked me out of it. As I grew into my early-twenties, I decided to change my trajectory. I now wanted to be a journalist. I have always taken an interest in politics and social issues, I consider myself to be an activist on a lot of topics and I try to raise awareness for causes wherever I can. Politics, however, I had decided was not the right path for me. The best way to use my voice to generate interest and discussion around topics that I think are important? Journalism. “This is my final, actual dream job,” I thought.

I was wrong again, kind of. Breaking into journalism is hard. I struggled to find work for a long time, hence I worked at (multiple) bars while attending interviews at the likes of CNBC and Wales Online. A heap of unsuccessful applications and many more margaritas later, it became imperative to widen my search and start looking into content writing, communications and editing. I even started this blog to keep my brain ticking until something came along. Once it finally happened, landing my first content creating role felt like the best thing to ever happen to me! It was only part-time hours, but regardless, I was ecstatic to finally be working. I came to realise this wasn’t the role for me because I saw no scope for upskilling or career growth – two things that are really important to me. At 23, I want to be working somewhere that offers training and hands-on guidance to those of us who are just breaking into the industry. Not every company has the means or the budget to allow for this, especially when times are tough as they are now, but there are companies that I knew could offer me the things I wanted. So, when the time came that I had done all I could do at the role, I looked for something more fitting. Although I wasn’t offered much progression, I developed my writing and research skills alongside my interviewing and client-management efficiency. There were aspects that I loved, and some that I probably could’ve done without. But ultimately, that was the job which helped me get into full time digital marketing.

Luckily, I realised long before committing to my previous goals that they weren’t right for me. However, I have done work within my own field that I decided I didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I would. For example, I have (and sometimes still do) work as a videographer. I don’t particularly enjoy it, and I loathe editing videos! As much as it has allowed me to work and get paid, Premiere Pro is the bane of my life. I find it to be stressful and tedious, but I can happily do it on a freelance (not very regular) basis. Working with video editing, although possible, was not something I was looking to pursue long term. This was not an outcome I expected, having created a short TV feature for my final master’s project and thoroughly enjoyed. Until I began working with videos properly and professionally, I came to realise that this was not going to be something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, full time. However, video editing is a skill required of many journalists these days and is definitely an ability that I am glad to have. This is an example of a component of a role that you may hate, but is sometimes essential to completing your wider goals. For most people, like myself, this is a manageable expectation: perhaps nobody likes every single aspect of even their favourite job. And, it will be pretty obvious by the fact you really dislike the thought of doing work of this nature, that this one aspect is not a career to break off into independently of your other responsibilities.

The point is that when a job is not right for you, there will be constant indicators. Something about it just won’t feel right. You can and should always try to stick out a role if it is the only thing currently putting food on the table, but the incentive to do more is sometimes enough.

Take this advice (or don’t, I can’t tell you what to do) from someone who has worked in retail, hospitality, content and digital. The only things I liked about bartending/waitressing were the tips and the people. I didn’t like the hard shifts, long hours, I couldn’t see a future for myself in it and my heart was elsewhere, these were the main reasons I left. Teaching and academia, although both worthwhile careers, both involve rigid and predictable schedules, grueling patience (of which I have very little) and a passion I didn’t have. Education is so important, but a love for the craft is required that I could not seem to muster. Journalism, content writing, and digital marketing seemed to be a happy combination of expertise I’d gained over my lifetime, and skills required for job paths I had previously considered. Tucking myself away into my laptop, writing and researching to my heart’s (editor/boss’s) content, is something I feel I will gladly be able to do for the rest of my life. Equally, client-management, interviewing and pitching are all face-to-face components of my roles that I would feel weird without fulfilling.

I am still a journalist, and I love it. I work as a freelance reporter for Eat News, Taiwan, on a no-limit, no-expectation basis – allowing me to write at my own leisure on topics of interest. I also just landed a really great opportunity as Marketing Executive at The Fresh UK, a healthcare business development and marketing firm. They say everything happens for a reason and jobs that you hate can often act as the motivators to get the role you really feel good about. Client-facing positions like reporting would have scared me before I started working as a bartender, a role that ultimately grew my people skills, patience and resilience.

There are times that we all need to do what we must to live, in the time in which we live: we’ve just seen 10+ years of austerity, and now the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. But we can’t lose sight of what we feel is the right way forward. Employment should never compromise your mental health or make you question your self worth. There is always something better; nicer bosses, kinder colleagues, and healthier workloads. Sometimes it takes time to find what’s right for you, but it will come! As my Nan always says, “those who wait, prosper.”


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