It's Okay If It Still Feels Like You Haven't Found Your Dream Job

Whether or not you know what your dream job is, you’re expected to get it early in life. There’s an assumption that once you get your college degree, you’ll get a job in your degree’s field and that’s the start of your long, successful career. That’s not always a reality for a lot of people, including me. Personally, I know I haven’t found my dream job. Right now, I’m working a retail job to financially support myself while I’m working towards my goal of writing full time for a living.

With people announcing their new jobs on Facebook and LinkedIn every day, the notifications just lead to added pressure. You’re constantly being reminded of other people’s accomplishments, so it’s hard not to start the comparison game. I’ve gotten pretty overwhelmed while reading a friend’s post that begins with, “I’m so happy to announce that I’ve accepted…” It’s as if landing the perfect job is now a competition—not just finding a job in general, but a position that’s bigger and better than what everyone else is getting.

Even though this can be daunting, I’m here to remind you that you don’t actually need to have found your dream job yet.

There’s no benchmark age for you to have career fulfillment.

It can sound pessimistic of me to say that you may not be in your dream job for a few years, but it’s also strangely comforting. The point is, don’t feel like you have to rush anything.

The thing is, careers are not a race. There’s no reason to feel insecure about where you are in life because everyone’s path is different. You don’t have to have anything done by a certain age, whether that’s because you aren’t sure what field you want to pursue, or because a spot hasn’t opened up at your desired company. Your field could change in the next few years, spawning new jobs that never even existed before.

“Our society emphasizes often unrealistic achievements, thus making people feel less than for not being further,” explains Jace, Framingham State University '19. “You’re still doing great!”

As post-grads, it’s easy to put so much value on what job you get, rather than if you’re happy or healthy and doing the best you can. Throughout college and soon after I graduated, I put pressure on myself to get a full-time, paid job because it was what was expected of me and that’s what (I thought) everyone else was doing. I assumed the things that made me happy and didn’t make money could wait. I’d be fine as long as I was doing things the “right” way, right?

After several months of struggling to find a job in my field that I cared for I realized I was miserable with this process. I turned to freelance writing to gain experience and got a retail job to support me. I realized I was happier taking this “untraditional” route. The past year I learned do have time to work on what I love while heading towards what I aspire to be and my goals don’t need to have an expiration date.

Related: Your First Job Shouldn't Be Your Dream Job — Here's Why

It takes a lot of time and effort to find your new job.

Another truth to finding your dream job is that it will take serious work. You may need an internship (or several), plus a master’s degree and even then discover that the career you thought was your dream job actually isn’t. No matter the case, it’s not nearly as simple as it may seem.

 “I’m currently working a temp job. My dream job is in a fairly competitive field that usually wants masters degrees,” says Jace. “I don’t have the time or money to do that yet and I wasn’t having luck with entry-level jobs related to my field. I’m getting a paycheck and professional experience that will help me in the long run.”

If your dream is to be a CEO or a famous film director, chances are it won’t be your first job.  That might take starting in the appropriate industry and climbing up the ladder, or taking literally ant role that can support you financially while you chase your goals on the side. Many careers, especially science and medical fields, require you to start in smaller roles before you can reach what you aspire to be.

“I have to do an internship with supervised practice experience before I can even get a job as a Registered Dietician,” says Erin, Framingham State University ’18.

I know I still have a lot to learn within my industry and plenty of networking to do before I can follow through with my goal. Pursuing a creative career comes with a lot of rejection, little pay and a lot of effort. It’s a long journey to get to where I can be recognized as a professional writer.

It may seem everyone else from your graduating class ended up exactly where they wanted, and, sure, maybe they did. But everyone needs to start somewhere, whether it be through networking or interviewing for entry-level jobs.

Your career goals can change.

It’s also important to understand that as you move closer to your ideal role or even get some experience in your desired industry, you can still change your mind.

Lacey, a Framingham State student, is no stranger to the way your career goals adjust once you have hands-on experience. “You’ll learn now if you love your field or hate it. If you’re expecting your first job to be your dream job, you’re going to let yourself down and set yourself back in the learning progress.”

While I know I want to write for a living, what I want to write changes sometimes. Some days I write spec scripts for television shows, hoping it’ll land me my big break. Other times I daydream topics for magazine features. I have a lot of different interests; it’s difficult to set myself up for a career until I try one out.

Hannah, a Framingham State University graduate, explains that she came close to her dream job, but was turned down after an interview. “Then a couple of months later I got my current job,” she says. “I really like it, and it’s been good for me. I’ve always tied my identity to my job or school, and I think if I’d gotten that other job I might have stayed more stagnant with my interests and how I view my self-worth.”

Related: 8 Things Every Recent Graduate Needs to Hear

You don’t have to feel passionate about something right now.

You might want to go in 100 different directions within your industry or you don’t have strong feelings toward one. You might even have ambitions within multiple fields! You may not find your passion until after you graduate or your ambitions can change as you do.

“I don’t know what field I’d like to go in. I know I want to be an RD, but there are so many different fields!” she notes. “Some people know what their dream job is before they even graduate from their undergrad but for me, I won’t know until I have experience.”

It’s also okay if you haven’t found your passion yet. Just be patient and open to new opportunities. Your passion can find you in unexpected places, like a job promotion, grad-school or a class or club in your community. Your passion doesn’t always have to be in the form of your career, either. Your career can simply be what you’re good at and what pays the bills while you explore life and your interests.

Quick and easy success is not a reality for everyone. Some people get lucky, have connections or the timing was right. It can be discouraging to watch others do well early on when it feels like you’re not. But you’re not alone! There are SO many people who don’t get their dream job seconds after getting their diploma.

I try to remind myself often that my personal and professional heroes didn’t have it all figured it out by 24. So many of the people you admire got their big break after a lot of work, failure, and time. You have that time, too! And so do I. My success and career fulfillment doesn’t have to be in my twenties. Because my life doesn’t begin and end with just my job.