In the dumpster fire that is today's job market, it's easy to go one of two directions when faced with the job search.
Direction No. 1: That's IT! I am tired of putting up with this! I am BETTER than this! I am taking nothing less than personal assistant to the Queen of England! I did not get this hospitality degree for NOTHING, I tell you! I! Did! Not!
Direction No. 2: I give up. Pass me the Cheetos.
No one needs to tell you that both approaches could benefit from, shall we say, some adjustment.
Trouble is, we do ourselves a major disservice with all this black-and-white, dream-job-or-bust thinking. Sure, you're frustrated you don't have your perfect position, and anyone can understand that. While it's great to have high standards, though, your dreams may actually be holding you back from . . . your dreams.
The Passion Problem
The blogosphere is a wonderful, supportive, blossoming community of people helping people look better, feel better, and be better. But one of the deadliest myths it has promulgated in the last two decades is the idea that you must always "go for your passion."
This is wrong, for a number of reasons. Firstly, because it is a rare, rare person whose ultimate dream job matches up with their skill set upon graduating from high school, college, or even graduate school. Yet many people insist on applying to jobs they don't have a hope of landing until after they've paid their dues for a few years — and they get discouraged.
Secondly, as Cal Newport points out in So Good They Can't Ignore You, we love our jobs once we're good at them; we don't get good at them because we love them. This is counterintuitive, but very true.
Thirdly, at the outset, we tend to have a very limited idea of what a dream job looks like for us. You might want to be a pilot for American Airlines, a lead physician at a refugee hospital in Rwanda, or a social media manager for a high-profile New York City magazine. But you're not going to be handed these jobs, and in working toward them (for years), you may discover that what you thought was your dream isn't quite as awesome-possum as you once believed.
The Mindset Shift
What does this mean for job seekers? That the misguided notion of pointing and shooting ("I want . . . that job!") is a problem. Even if you land your "dream job," you're unlikely to have the skills and familiarity with it that make work enjoyable for at least a few years.
The takeaway? Getting good at your industry is what makes a job dreamy, and until you put in your time, you may not even know what you're actually good at.
So while it sounds backward, if you want the perfect career for you, start with giving up your dreams right now. That doesn't mean don't work toward them; it just means stop expecting them to be met, like, yesterday.
Let go, little caterpillar, in order to become a butterfly.
Once you free your soul from the devastation that is every. single. day. without your perfect career, you'll be able to throw yourself, heart and soul, into the work you do have. And that is what will get you noticed, what will convince employers to give you the opportunities you deserve, and what will convince backers to lend capital to your new startup.
Your passion for your job will arrive once your skills do.
In the Meantime . . .
Once you set your "dreams" aside, you have your work cut out for you. I know, because I've been there. I'm that person. The person who vacillated wildly between being better than ("I'm too good for this!") and less than ("I'll never make it!"). The one who, after years of groping for success, just let go of the perfect career as a novelist and became a copywriter.
And I have never, ever, ever been happier. Never could I even have imagined this much satisfaction in my life and work.
How did I do it? By giving up the dream and, like a madwoman, throwing myself into skill acquisition — writing email sequences that convert prospects for clients, penning blog posts that got them (and me) noticed, building a clientele base and a LinkedIn profile that generate new work all the time.
You can do it, too. Let go of that dream and get started on the skills that will get you a dream job, even if it's not what you think it is right now. This is a much better approach, and I've seen it work time and time again for the writers I work with.
This can be you. It should be you. So don't wait.