I don’t have a dream job, and it makes for really awkward conversations about my future.
Like most college students, I could probably pay off a large chunk of my accumulating loans if I got a dollar every time someone asked what I wanted to do once I graduate. It also doesn’t help that I’m double majoring in anthropology and history, which leads to questions of “What can you even do with that degree?”. The perception is that my only options are to teach or become an archaeologist. Which aren’t bad jobs. Plus, according to research from 2013, around 27% of people actually work in a job that requires a specific degree, and even less ultimately work in a field that requires their major.
So why are people still asking this question?
I don’t have the answer unfortunately. All I can really say would be speculation, and it wouldn’t be accurate or fair. So instead of focusing on being asked that question, I focus on myself and what I want from my life, which is… complicated.
I sit with my professors (current and past) every semester to talk about my plans and future. One particular professor referred me to a New York Times opinion article by Adam Grant, titled “Stop Asking Kids What They Want to Be When They Grow Up.” Grant lays out a three-part thesis, of sorts. Asking us what we want continuously forces us to define ourselves in terms of work and success instead of values. The idea that everyone has a singular calling we must seek can lead to feeling lost or confused. And that a career rarely lives up to childhood dreams.
Overall, the article is worth a read, and it really resonates with my sentiments toward how I define myself and my future. It helps me to better articulate that instead of dreaming of a specific job, I dream of living my life according to certain values. Instead of finding joy, or my identity, in a job and financial success, I want to find joy and identity in my values and who I am as a person.
Now I know what you’re thinking, all of this sounds a bit naive and unrealistic for the masses. Finding joy in yourself? Not wanting financial success? What world do I live in?!
I’m not going to lie, I still have goals in my life and things I would like to do. I would like to teach at some point for a period of time. I would like to get a masters and maybe even a doctorate. I want financial success, but everyone’s definition of what that looks like is different. I don’t want exorbitant amounts of money. However, I do not want to have to constantly worry about money. I don’t know where I’ll be living, my relationship status, if I’ll have kids. And I don’t know how all of these will affect my financial needs. There are so many unknowns to life and the future. I will not set myself up for disappointment by putting myself in boxes that other people deem appropriate, just as I haven’t followed the prescribed timeline for a college education and life so far. I had a dream of getting an education, and I’m doing that and I’m happy, but hinging my identity and validation on it made me unhappy at one point.
Ultimately, this all points to the fact that we dictate our own future and happiness.
Rebecca Koenig from US News wrote an article “Your College Major Does Not Define Your Career” with a new approach to how you can look at majors. The liberal arts teache us many soft skills that are applicable in a variety of fields and industries. Technical skills, for employers, are easier to train than the broad necessary skills of competency. “Safe” majors typically lay within STEM or business nowadays, and many of these require additional education to directly make use of them so developing their other competencies is essential. Koenig’s final thought is that with the scope of potential opened, we have to think about the kinds of skills we want to be able to offer to employers, how we can acquire and develop those skills, and then how we can sell those skills later.
I feel like I’m still working to develop my set of skills and discovering new skills I can acquire. I think that this article really paints a picture of a practical approach to having dreams but not boxing our success and joy into a specific job or salary. So don’t be afraid to say you don’t have a dream job. Instead,feel empowered to say you have a set of skills to use and values that you want to live your life by.
My dream is to live a life that brings me joy and spreads joy to others. I dream of forming friendships with caring and invested individuals. I dream of finding joy in my interests and passions. I dream of giving back to my community and the institutions that have helped me succeed. I dream of helping others to feel empowered in their lives. Any other things along the road to these dreams will be stops on the journey.