First Job vs. Dream Job

Ah, the classic question…”What is your dream job?” or “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. We have been asked a version of these two questions over and over as we grew up. Answers such as a teacher, doctor, lawyer, firefighter, police office, or professional athlete typically were answers I heard (and gave myself). I want to talk about this concept because while innocent in nature, it has actually created, in my opinion, a ton of societal pressure on people to have their careers “figured out” by 22 years old (traditional track). I believe there is real value in doing work that we are not completely enamored with, at least initially. It allows us to see what we DO not want to have as a career in some cases. Now, I am not promoting to go out and take a job fresh out of high school or college that you KNOW is not a good fit. However, what I am saying is that your FIRST job does not have to be your LAST job.

I am constantly telling my students this because I see such pressure in their eyes and voices. They feel, much like I did numerous years ago, that they have to know what they are doing for the next 40+ years of their lives. When we think of it like that, it is quite a daunting task! Instead, I challenge you to think of your career path as just that, a path, as opposed to a finish line. Everyone’s race is different and you’re the only one running it. Yes, there are other factors to your race (personal goals, maybe start a family, friends, move somewhere else, etc), but you decide at what pace you run. My point in this topic is let me be the one to lift the societal weight off your shoulders of needing to have your “dream job” so early on. I’m also not so sure that a “dream job” is even realistic. There is ALWAYS going to be something you do not like about your job, and that’s okay! It takes years of experience and maybe even bouncing around a little bit to figure out the right fit for you. I am not sure how long that time period is for you, but what I do know, is your first job more than likely is not going to be your dream job, and that is more than fine.

Allow me to share a story that inspired me and this topic. I was working a summer internship at Enterprise Rent-A-Car during college and was renting a car to a woman. Long story short, we got to talking and she shared at the age of 56 that she was going back to school to become a nurse because that was her “dream job”. Wow! How inspiring this was because talk about defying all of those societal pressures and expectations I mentioned earlier. She was not happy in her career and found the courage to make the switch. I believe you too have the courage to make a change or a switch. You are not stuck in the job that you have and are certainly not limited in the one you want to or “feel” you should get. Either way, there are steps forward you can take to achieve that goal. So, to my college and recent grad readers, that job you are in or you are seeking to land, it is not your forever, but it will serve a purpose. For my readers well into their careers or maybe even retired, is there something else you want to do? What is holding you back? Your first job is not your last job, and more than likely not your dream job. However, if I was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles at 22 years of age, I’d probably say this blog is a load of junk!

By Dustin Miller
Dustin Miller Associate Director, Engineering