It’s Ok If Your Dream Job Is Sometimes Terrible
There’s a pretty strong assumption out there that once you land your dream job, everything will be perfect. Suddenly the sun is brighter, the air is fresher, and you’re never going to dread Mondays ever again.
Well, unfortunately, that’s just not how it works. We can (and should) seek out a job that brings us into alignment with our goals, values, and vision. That doesn’t mean, however, that there won’t be challenges, perhaps even significant ones, and days when you feel like the whole thing was a big set-up or that you made a huge mistake.
As people fighting for change, our careers tend to be extremely personal— which in turn creates a long list of criteria: Work that feels meaningful, work that makes an impact, a job that utilizes our best skills, a good boss that could also be a mentor, co-workers that feel like a community, decent or better-than-decent pay and benefits, opportunities for advancement or professional development, time to still be a human outside of work…I could keep going.
Then, if we have the luck and privilege to find this position, we expect all the pieces to automatically fall into place.
Sometimes, they will. You will immediately feel respected, powerful, seen, heard, appreciated, healed. (If that’s the case, CELEBRATE! You sooooo earned it.)
But, your dream job might also still come with its fair share of challenges. And perhaps even more so if the job feels close to your heart.
Your boss could be really difficult, some days or every day. Your co-worker could totally take credit for your work whether she meant to or not. You might f-ck up that project, accidentally send that gossipy email, or feel completely frustrated with the organization’s disorganization. These are all possibilities.
Which, makes it completely normal to have those days when you just want to forget the whole damn thing and book it to an island with insert celebrity crush name here. (Escapism fantasies are pretty great, though, yes?)
It’s not only normal to have those down days, they can actually be very useful. Those feelings of frustration or doubt have information for you. It could mean:
1) That you’re invested enough to care, and it’s worth riding the rollercoaster because it’s stretching you beyond your comfort zone (which is good, even though it can feel bad), teaching you about yourself (also a gift, even when what you’re learning is hard to face), or showing you that real leadership is actually freakin’ hard (but ultimately, so worth it, and bringing you closer to the person you are meant to become).
2) That you actually want to show up differently, and it’s time to look at your own role in the conflict, the default behaviors you might have fallen into, or the energy you’re bringing into the office. Yes, this one can sting. We’ve all had times when we’ve acted out, not been our “best selves”, and let the pain of our internal worlds wreak havoc on the task at hand (aka, being a professional). If this is the case, be gentle, and know that growing pains are the result of both self-awareness and fortitude.
3) Your feelings actually aren’t fleeting, and your gut is starting to realize it’s time to go. That’s ok. Your current job filled a purpose, whatever it was. Say thanks, and move on. Start here: Are the bad days the exception, or the rule?
Whatever the case, it’s important to distinguish between the discomfort you feel from learning important lessons, and the deeper discontent that comes from being stuck in a position that doesn’t fit.
Either way, you have the power to be the advocate of your own needs, and figure out how to keep moving forward (whatever that looks like). Remember that.