Seven years ago, my friend graduated as a designer from York. That same year I graduated with my BBA from Acadia. Our shared dream: Work at an ad agency. The cool offices! The stylish people! The super amazing award-winning creative! It was enough to drive us to think of nothing else, and we did it. We both ended up working with ad agencies for over 6+ years.
For the first little while, the novelty and excitement of the job felt like it was enough to keep us there forever. We had worked so hard to get there, how could we possibly ever think of leaving? Isn't this what we had always wanted? We both had such an ideal picture of what it would be like, and we were both painfully shocked when reality didn’t match those expectations. So after six years of ad agency life, we both decided to leave, taking with us a few shared lessons. Looking back, we realized we were far too stubborn, and far too idealistic.
The 5 myths we told ourselves are now lessons we'll be taking with us to our next “dream job”:
- Everything will be perfect. When you’re first starting out, having an idea of your dream job is great, but don’t get obsessed with the wrong details. I always pictured agency life to be filled with sophisticated people in a glamorous environment. I could tell people “I work in advertising” and feel very cool about that. Only, I had neglected to consider what I would actually be doing. After six years, when I pictured myself in a top advertising position I realized that’s not what I wanted for my career at all. I had to learn a tough lesson: Don’t pigeonhole yourself into thinking your dream job is all you want. There are lots of great jobs out there, some that you may not have been able to imagine because you were too stubborn.
- It's all you'll ever want. Life changes and so will you. What might seem perfect for right now likely won't be in 6 months. Whether it pays a salary or not continue to explore things you are interested in. If you loved being in the kitchen, take cooking classes. Try to expose yourself to things that will allow you to interact with people from many different backgrounds and pay attention to those around you in higher positions. Do they seem happy? Is their day to day something you could see yourself doing? Internships can be a great way to scope out the real deal and see if it fits your expectations.
- If you just work hard, you'll make it to the top. 20 years ago, this may have been true but the working world we live in now doesn't operate that way. Loyalty takes on new meaning when you see people who have worked 25 years at one company get let go. The reality is, business is driven by demand and when there is none, you can't stay. Know what you want from your career and don't be afraid to ask for it. If you don't get what you want, move on. It may not always be a salary. Maybe it’s 3 weeks vacation or great benefits. Don't be afraid to job search and talk to recruiters regularly so you can know where you stand.
- This is as good as it gets. You will feel an overwhelming sense of loyalty to the first place you land a job with. You’ll tell yourself “it’s worth it” or “there’s no way I could ever leave this opportunity”. You’ll work with great people, feel like you have close bonds and a boss who tells you a promotion is around the corner. The thing is, no one knows the future, and if it were the other way around, the company will not be thinking about their loyalty to you. It might seem hard to believe, but they will survive, with or without you.
- I'll stay forever. This is the hardest lesson of all because it’s never easy leaving a dream job. While things might be good you need to know when it’s time to go. Watch out for key phrases that will tell you there is no opportunity left for you. One that always screams to me, “GET OUT, NOW” is when I hear anyone say “I just don’t know what else I can do.” When you hear this from a boss, or coworker it’s time to go. It means that person has felt they have done everything in their power to try to change something about you, but they have given up. It’s not always fair, or even a result of something that matters but it’s a big sign that your time is up. This goes hand in hand with any company that is unsure about your future in it. If you bring up a promotion or raise, and your boss tells you there are 10 steps and 6 months before it can even be considered it’s time to go.
The best thing about dream jobs and goals are that they have no limit. With no timestamp, it’s never too late to create a new one. I recently learned of a women who creates window displays for retail stores. That's all she does. She comes up with the concepts and creates. I thought to myself “Wow. Someone gets paid exclusively to do that?” Awesome. There are so many paying jobs in this world that you may have never considered. It would be a shame to spend your entire career in one position only because you never allowed yourself to dream bigger.