We’ve all heard the Confucius saying, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I’ve had jobs I hated and I’m currently working in a job I love. Obviously, the latter makes life (and me, in general) way more pleasant to deal with.
Having said that, even my current job isn’t perfect. There are tasks that I loathe (any volunteer bookkeepers out there?).
That got me thinking, does the perfect job exist? Does taking a job that’s less than perfect mean we’re settling?*
Realizing of course that everyone’s perfect looks different, I hope you’ll humor me with my own “perfect” as we work through this. I’d like to be Oprah. Think about it: she owns her own network (meaning she has a constant voice), she does charitable work (YOU get a school! YOU get a school!), and she talks to the coolest people (who wouldn’t have loved to interview Michael Jackson back in the day).
The not-so-shocking truth about Oprah is that she didn’t start at the top; she worked her way up. Don’t worry, I’m not going to spend the rest of this article telling you how you need to “pay your dues” to get to the top.
Instead, let’s talk about whether or not that “imperfect job” in your Military Spouse career is bringing you closer to your dream job. Consider the following questions:
Can you identify your dream job?
That may be an easy question for some Military Spouses, but for others this question is more difficult. To get to the place Confucius references however, you need to build your dream job around your passion. I challenge you to do a few of the exercises found here or answer the questions posed here. The biggest challenge for: Don’t limit yourself based on current circumstance. These aren’t exercises to show you where you could or should be tomorrow; they’re about where you want to GO. Stories suggest Oprah knew she wanted to be on stage, but I’m not sure even she could have dreamt up the empire she’s managing today.
Which of today’s jobs may lead to tomorrow’s dream job?
Once you have a good idea of where you want to go, you need to figure out how to get there. What are common first steps in the industry you’re interested in pursuing? Look up the biographies of people who are currently in your dream job. Are there portions of their professional beginning that you can emulate? If you find more than one person in your dream job and they all started with a common theme (you likely wouldn’t be shocked to find Oprah started with a job as a news anchor), you’ve got a place to start. Those are the jobs you should be looking for now.
If your current job, or the one you’re thinking of taking seems to fit along that path, you’re headed in the right direction. If you’re having a particularly hard day, week or month because of the elements of your job you dislike, make sure you’re still on the right track by considering the following:
What are the elements of your current job or the job you’re considering that you love?
The Oprah example is easy because broadcast journalism is a natural path to talk-show gloriousness, but what about other industries? The path may not illuminate itself quite as easily, but once you’ve identified your passion you will be able to identify elements of a position that make the job worth it for you. Hoping to be press secretary to the president one day (I can’t be the only one that wanted to be C.J. Cregg)? Jobs with a public speaking element will likely be satisfying for you. Can you work for a local politician or government official to get a taste of public service? If you dream of being a university president, perhaps you can start as an instructor, but also volunteer to work with the student government or in other policy aspects to hone the skills necessary to help you rise to the top.
If you took a job thinking it was on the path to your dream, but you’ve come to realize there are no longer elements you love, it may be time to consider whether or not your dream job has changed.
Will the elements you dislike in your current job change with time?
If you’ve already identified the job you have/are considering taking is not absolutely perfect, think about the elements you dislike. Are those elements within your control or will those aspects change with time? In my own example, bookkeeping is a necessary evil while my organization has a small staff, but I know that with time and growth we will be able to outsource that requirement. In your own position, will the elements you dislike change for the better if given time? Will you either be able to move up and delegate those tasks or will they be eliminated entirely as your role or company changes? If the answer is no, you may want to look for other positions that can still lead you to your dream job.
With those questions and thoughts in mind, are you on the path to your dream job or are you settling for less? The military lifestyle obviously brings along realities that can be challenging, but with creativity, ambition and perseverance, I believe you can move toward your dream job.
*Disclaimer: I realize there are times in our careers when we must take truly imperfect jobs because we need to support our families. Please know I would never fault anyone for taking those steps, but please consider the above if you have the financial freedom.