I actually have two dream jobs right now; and I have had several in the past. So I will tell you how I got so lucky. The stories will reveal tips and hints for how to get your own dream job.
The other day in my social media venue someone referred to herself as a “slasher”, and when I asked what she meant the reply was a mysterious, “Actually, you are a slasher too”. Since I had only ever heard this term in connection with a genre of books and films I never watch, I turned immediately to my favorite search engine. There, several entries down on the second page I found my answer: In contemporary parlance, a “slasher” is a person who is involved with more than one job, or better yet, profession at the same time. My friend was right. She is a writer/educator/administrative assistant and I am indeed a pastor/professor/farmer. At other points in my life my multiple careers have included pet shop clerk, homeless shelter case manage, freelance writer, and activities director at a camp for special needs kids.
Some Advice on Finding Your Dream Job
I am not really a slasher for economic reasons; I am a slasher because this is how I make my dreams come true. I want to offer you some advice about finding your own dream job – or jobs – from my own experiences in stitching together the rather crazy quilt of my own life’s work. Whether your dreams are of trying something a little bit insane, working in a particular company or place, or finding a professionally rewarding, cream of the crop, high-end job, finding and getting a dream job takes some common ingredients.
First of all, you’ve got to get your dream or dreams to come into view. Dreams often flutter around the edge of consciousness, and we know our dreams intimately yet often do not really see them. They are so much a part of who we are that they can come bursting forth in a gush of passion and vision, or they can hide in the ordinary places of our lives. So if you are going to look for your dream job, you’ve got to know what the dream is all about. One of my dreams was to put to good use my peculiar ability to stay up all night with little effort at all. This kind of dream job had to do with making a difference, and especially making a difference with a relatively unique piece of who I am. Another of my dreams has been to recover from burn out while nourishing my physical fitness by doing something fun, engaging and positive to the point of being just a little bit crazy. And a third dream has been to work in a very specific setting doing anything this place would hire me to do. Do you see how each of these dreams is intrinsic to who I am, yet it is nuanced and different? Your own dreams may have to do with your creativity, your desire for job security or for a professional challenge. You have got to bring the dreams into focus if you are going to bring their visions into reality.
Next, start looking. I am serious – don’t build a resume, write your dream job description, or take any other actions until you look at the ads. Look in the papers, the online classified ads, and the employment listings of companies or other places you might want to work. This is the easiest way to learn what the jobs are, and it is a great mirror to test your dreams. As the phrase goes, think outside the box – look at lots of different kinds of ads in lots of different kinds of places. If you’re going to find pearls of great value, you’ve got to learn where the oysters are – and you’ve got to know what pearls look like in your eyes, for you are the beholder. What is catching and keeping your attention as you look at the listings? And what is missing from the ads that drives you to look further or elsewhere?
Finding Your Dream Job is Only the First Step to Personal Success
Now you are ready to do your preparation. Create resumes that convey your dream – yes, I said “resumes”, plural. I have a professional resume relevant to my being a pastor, a second professional resume that demonstrates my desires and competencies for teaching and a third resume that is about the off-beat, up-beat side jobs that I love. Your resume must be distinctive and lustrous, and it must be absolutely honest. Depending on your field, you may also need to build a portfolio – do it with zeal and polish it well. Next, use your professional and personal networks for leads, support, and potential references. Now it is time to dig deeper into your own wishes, and, at the same time, you need to dig into the ads and listings and make some contacts.
What do I mean by digging deeper? Let me show you through the three dream jobs I landed that matched each of the three types of jobs I mentioned already. First was the desire to work all night and to make some sort of positive difference at the same time. I read all the ads because I was looking for a job at a time of day, and I didn’t really know what the work or setting would be. Some third shift manufacturing jobs appeared but they did not fuel my dream. Night jobs in stores and fast food restaurants and other hospitality venues didn’t pique my passion, either. Still, I had this confidence that my night habits could be put to good use, so I looked in education, health care and at non-profits. Now I began to see some interesting things – there were residential schools for kids and adults with special needs that need awake-overnight staff. There were various non-professional needs at the local hospitals so I kept my eyes open there – but I began to see that the types of jobs in health care that are at night are boring enough to thwart my ability to stay alert. And then I saw postings from emergency and homeless shelters. These were entry-level jobs, and there was room for growth and training. They were also jobs many other people did not feel they could handle, but I knew I could serve them well. I applied to begin as a substitute overnight case manager, was hired, and quickly was asked to become part time-permanent. I had found a good fit by trying on in my mind the various jobs that suited my primary objective.
Then second, at one point I was so burned out in my primary work that I fell apart at a big meeting. When I came home I had no idea of looking for a new job until I found myself at my desk top looking at help wanted ads. All of a sudden a posting nearly jumped off the screen at me – it was for a part time zoo keeper. My tears turned quickly to laughing out loud, and I sent an email reply to the advertisement. This time the listing elicited my dream – I had to do something to recover from my exhaustion; it had to be physical work and it had to be way outside my usual box. I was dead honest in my email regarding my situation and why I was excited by the posting. The employer responded very supportively and suggested I consider a volunteer position since I did not have any relevant experience beyond my love of animals. I met the employer a few days later and we arranged for my working in this volunteer position on the spot. So, maybe you are not impressed that I volunteered. In this brief episode, though, I had recognized how deeply I was hurting, how needy my soul was, and I had seen something that filled me with hope and the prospect of joy. I had also quickly realized the outdoor, physical work would help me and strengthen me. I spent a year at the zoo two days a week and it literally healed me and made me well again. The compensation was priceless. Then I kept the dream of working in similar settings and moved on to paying work at local farms.
My third dream job has been to work at a certain local college. I once took a course there, and I have also gone to events at this college, and I have always simply loved everything about the place. Even though I have been an adjunct professor at other colleges, I watched all of this college’s personnel listings for two or three years. Twice I nearly applied for chaplaincy or full time teaching positions, but my gut simply told me these jobs did not fit. I watched and waited, considering everything from unskilled positions to administrative jobs to teaching, and finally there was a listing for an adjunct instructor in humanities. I immediately submitted my resume, the online application and a cover letter. I did not hesitate to state emphatically that teaching at this college was my dream job. Two weeks went by before I received an email inviting me to an interview. In addition to candidly answering questions, and asking about things that were important to me in both the curriculum and the relationship I would have with the college, I made it very clear that my passion was really about wanting to work at this particular school. To close the interview I said, “I can promise you that if you hire me to teach this course, I will definitely get my oar in and row hard”. The dean smiled, said he would be in touch with me, and checked again which sections I would be able to teach. Now, every time I am in the classroom I think again how much I love this place.
The moral of this story is that if there is a particular setting where you really want to work, keep watching, keep waiting, and apply whenever something is right for you. Be clear and strong-voiced about how much this means to you – you can make it happen.