define “dream job” before you get it or it may become your nightmare

In 1999 I was a student on a practicum with the Canadian Government and the new Director of my program came for the site visit. I welcomed her to the role as I was her very first site visit ever, explained my position where I worked and introduced her to my boss. I thought nothing of our visit and she was out of sight and out of mind for the next six years.

Fast forward to 2005 and I’m planning and plotting my success.

I want my dream job.

I’m sick and tired of picking and getting jobs that I feel small in. I want to feel like I’m actually making a difference. I want to be doing something important. After some reflection, the Director that I’d met years ago comes to mind and I email her. I ask if I can pick her brain about new work ideas.

“Absolutely” was her reply. Yah!

We met in her office and she gave me a big hug in welcome. And then, without any real prompting on my part, told me about a job that she thought I’d be perfect for. She described the role and I fell in love just listening to her (with her enthusiasm, not the job, but I couldn’t tell the difference in that moment). To boot she had just approved funding for it, so it was a sure thing. She sold me on the job and reminded me to keep an eye out for the posting when it came out.

I was one of 130 applicants. My future boss, who interviewed me as part of a panel told me afterwards that the Director had “put in a good word” about me and so she at least had to meet me. And then that she was also pleased to invite me on board.

I got my dream job.

I would be traveling internationally representing the company and my country. I would be talking about something that I believed in. I was offering something of value to people.

I thought it was going to be great.

I was wrong.

I had dreamed up what the job would entail. And I had dreamed up who I would become when I did the job.

I felt worse than awful.

At dawn in a hotel room in Seoul, South Korea was where I first started to come undone. The pillow was soaked with my tears. I was so far away from home in every sense of the word and didn’t know if I’d ever find my way back.

I was more lost than lost.

In my mind, I had tried to reach out for support from my friends. I had, in earnest, tried to explain what my job was really like. That it wasn’t as glamorous as it looked. But I was laughed at. One friend even called me crazy when I mentioned that I might just walk away from it all. I too thought I might be crazy, so instead I felt stupid and lonely and stayed.

From their perspective I was racking up frequent flyer points, having meals delivered to my room, enjoying the hotel’s dry-cleaning service and shopping for the presents I brought back that they so liked.

They couldn’t see and I was trying to deny too how sick, stressed, and fatigued I was all the time. Nor could they see how my needs for support, trust and competency to even feel like I was doing a good job were going unmet.

And this was the beginning of a shift for me in defining what a dream job is to me.

What got me where I was, was my thinking: I used to think that a dream job was this magical place where all of my career dissatisfaction would vanish. I used to think that it was an environment where I would be welcomed for who I was. I used to think my dream job wouldn’t have the same problems as my previous jobs and workplaces.

This experience gave me real insight into why people don’t just ride off into the sunset with their dream job.

My problem (and I say this in the most loving of ways) was me.

So, for the umpteenth fucking time, I was learning that wherever I went there I was. Argh!

Oh yes, I saw the pattern so clearly now and I wanted out of it. By this time I had changed career trajectories on several occasions without incident and with enviable ease (given what I do and who I am, this was incredible preparation – thank you hindsight for being so generous in this way).

And this was how real desire for awareness can be born. For the truth is that you will get nothing different if you don’t dare to do something different.

And yes, I am so grateful for the process (as frustrating as it is when you first start out, it’s more painful to stay the same) of unraveling without judgment, but rather with real, genuine, mind-opening curiosity.

I wanted, needed, and was this time desperate enough to do whatever it took.

I’d given myself an ultimatum: Do this life differently or die because this, whatever “this” is that you’re doing, ain’t working (sister).

I was sick and tired and severely suppressed.

And if you’re reading this, you know that I learned how to do it differently.

At this point I’d honestly kind of thrown away the concept of finding a dream job for awhile but only because I didn’t have a better definition than the one that created my version of a nightmare.

But I felt lost without some kind of anchor in the real world to guide me.

This is where re-defining a term to revive your life creates the feelings you want to have until you realize, manifest or come across what you truly want in real life.

And now you? Is there a term that you need to let go of so that you can re-define it in a way that makes it useful again?

BTW if you’re looking for the process that helped me do life differently – I made this for you. Just in case you or anyone you know has ever felt even one inch of what I did once upon a time.

P.S. If you got something useful out of this post, someone else might too. It’s a compliment to share. With thanks. xo

make. believe. for real.
Where you fuel, re-tool and attune your imagination. Get your soul to work (on purpose). Ruthless compassion. Fierce gentleness. Sassy wisdom. And oodles of insight.
January 9, 2013 / 3 comments tagged as: ,

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I loved this article. It speaks straight from the heart, and my own heart too. I’m a little overcome with emotion right now, because of how well I can identify with all of your words. So, while I would normally type up a lengthy praise, I just don’t have the strength to do it right now. But I just want to say thank you for writing it. It means more to me than you will know :)

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Thank you Ellen. It’s best to speak from experience. :)

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Raw. Honest. Genuine. And above all, hopeful!

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