Career Q&A: When your dream job is a bust

Q: What happens when you spend four years interning/studying for your dream job, then get out into the real world, work for a few years, and realize that the job you thought you wanted wasn’t your dream job after all?

A: This is totally common, and it’s better to learn this now, rather than when you’re in your 40s and have kids to support! Here are some suggestions:

  • Figure out exactly what you don’t like about your job. If it’s the company culture or your boss, you can look for a new organization. If it’s the grunt work of an entry-level role, trust that will change as you advance up the ranks. If you don’t like the actual content of your work, then a career change may be in order.
  • If so, look to the organizations and people that work WITH your current company. Who are your vendors? Who are your clients? What nonprofits do you work with? Who does your marketing, PR, accounting, advertising, consulting, training, investing, etc.? Sometimes you’ll find a better career just one degree of separation from what you’re doing now.
  • If you decide to pursue a completely new career totally unrelated to your current job, start experimenting with what else you might like to do before you make the leap. Subscribe to industry e-newsletters for fields that intrigue you. Take a class on one topic that might be a good career option (then network like crazy with the teacher and other students), and set up informational interviews with people who work in jobs you might like and get the real story on what that job would be.

Online resources to check out for career changers: My Plan, Virtual Job Shadow, and Pivot Planet

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