Last week I received an email through work inviting me to teach a group of medical students about “End of life choices and care”. I responded, “Of course, I love doing that!” A few thoughtful moments later, I realized that my job was something enjoyable, meaningful, and—very important—sustainable. Some people call that a dream job.
It wasn’t always like that but with hindsight there are a few lessons that helped make it happen. It took 20 years but I’m under 35 and I love doing what I’m doing, I guess that’s good enough for me.
1. There are things out there more important than your dream.
I remember my first big career idea came when I was 15 and wanted to be a doctor. I was always in awe of people who could take something dying or unhealthy and give it life again.
I didn’t go to med school. I gave up the dream for something I thought was bigger and I ended up in the seminary instead.
I still dabbled in medical journals and occasionally guest blogged on bioethics but really the next 15 years of my life were spent in contemplative prayer and mission work. I still loved medicine but it expanded my vision.
So that was my first step to discovering and achieving what I really wanted. Try to broaden your horizons and see that there are bigger things in life than just what you’d like to do.
2. Learn how to start over
I was 14 years into a 14.5 year formation program to become that priest when my superior told me, “This just isn’t for you. You need to move on.” It was over.
My first attempt building a career could be called a total disaster. I had set out nearly 15 years ago. Now, I was unemployed, my glorious twenties were gone, and I had only a mountain bike to show for it all.
I found work brewing coffee for politicians to save money for a car and it was all back to the first rung on the ladder. I was starting over.
I made a list of all the things I could potentially be very good at and got to work trying them out one at a time; one day at a time, one week at a time. I learned to start over, and if I hadn’t, well, I’d still be your local barista.
3. Finding a dream job is a little like shopping at Whole Foods. You can probably find something really good for you if you’re willing to pay the price.
Moving on, I learned that a 3.98 through college and intercontinental volunteer work on the resume isn’t good enough. It’s not enough, because a lot of people pay that price. You need to pay a price that nobody else is paying.
You need to wake up a couple hours early to scribble a blog before heading to work if you want to be a writer. You need give up your own place and use your rent money to start the business if you want to be a professional coach. At the end of the day, ask yourself, “How many of my peers have done what I’ve done today?” If your answer is confidently, “none” you may be on the road to something special.
If there’s something you love doing please don’t wait for someone to pay you to do it. Jump in and pay the price yourself.
4. Don’t be afraid of the dirty job
At one point in my career I knew I wanted to work in higher education. The first time a university ever paid me to do anything was to de-tassle corn in a research field at $10/hr. It was a dirty job. A month later I was lecturing in the classrooms, and a year later designing curriculum.
Worried about what people will think of your dirty job? A dirty job that’s part of a plan is a lot better than a clean one with no direction.
5. Trust in a Higher Power
You can do everything right and make all the right choices, but really, the odds of you getting what you want in this world – once hurricanes, recessions, and Murphy’s Law are factored in – are extremely slim. If you don’t believe in God now may be a good time to start; unless, of course, you prefer to take on the entire world solo. Well, good luck.
And yes, of course, don’t forget. To get your dream job in 20 years, well, you need to keep trying for 20 years. 5 won’t do. 19.5 won’t do.
That’s just for the job, but I think the lesson applies beyond. If there’s somewhere you really want to go in life, plan for a lot of layovers and be patient.
#findingyourdreamjob #catholicdating #prayer