What Happens to a Dream NOT Deferred, But Found Wanting?

American poet Langston Hughes famously asked, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” These days, some of us become fortunate enough to see the other side of the quandary: What happens when you achieve your dream, and then you wish you hadn’t? The Wall Street Journal investigates:

It’s a surprisingly common dilemma. The idea of a “dream job” is drilled into job seekers these days. Increasingly, people expect to find jobs that provide not only a living but also stimulation, emotional fulfillment and a sense of purpose. The image of a career as a source of passion is promoted by career advisers, self-help books and even the glamorous characters in TV dramas. But fantasies about a job can blind job-seekers to workaday realities and to consideration of the best fit.

By “job seekers,” of course, this article means “millennials,” as becomes clear when you read on and see that the people given as examples are both young women. Since millennials have long been indoctrinated with the insidious advice that we should Do What We Love, we have been butting our heads against cold, hard realities of the workplace for years now. Like that most of us cannot afford to do what we love, because what we love doesn’t pay (enough). Or there isn’t something remotely career-ish that we love.

Both women profiled in this piece are the kind of well-educated, photogenic yuppies who could someday appear in the Vows section of The New York Times. Though their dream jobs — National Security Expert! Advertising Executive! — turn out to be not so much elusive as unsatisfying, the jobs they switch to — Career Coach! Marketing Exec! — are still definitely somebody’s dream jobs, especially because both women end up working for themselves. I’m more interested in dramatic mid-career course corrections, which are both harder and more interesting. A professional ballroom dancer I know went back to school in his 40s to become a nurse. How many men are doing something like that? If you look into it, WSJ, let me know.


Image via The Undercover Recruiter


10 Comments / Post A Comment

aesir (#5,963)

I don’t think one should be allowed to be a career coach until one has actually had a career to speak of…

Elsajeni (#1,763)

@aesir Right? I mean, it’s not that I think people can’t give advice on things that haven’t happened to them personally, but I feel like a career coach should be someone who has some experience in hiring, recruiting, that sort of thing. Not someone who has a grand total of 3 years of work experience split between 3 different jobs.

AitchBee (#3,001)

Oof. I think I may have sprained something rolling my eyes at the opening line…

a27 (#2,268)

i love the notion that the three circles are the same size.

glitterary (#6,299)

@a27 And that “Stuff someone will pay you to do” intersects with the others AT ALL

How do you spend your life wanting to go into national security and not realize it’s a macho, competitive environment adjacent to a lot of violence and messy international events until you actually get there?!?! Did this girl read a newspaper ever??

Eric18 (#4,486)

@polka dots vs stripes Yeah, I did a double take at that. What exactly was she doing to prepare herself for that career?

HelloTheFuture (#5,275)

This is where I think “whether or not these jobs were the “dream” job isn’t the question — what about the working environment led both these young women to change careers?” I mean, both women say straight off that the hours were too long. One woman said she had no life outside of work. Then they both choose to work for themselves. THOSE are the issues on the table, not the red herring of the “dream job.”

@HelloTheFuture Totally agree – it seems more about the oft-written trend pieces about millennials and work life balance. I also left what I thought was my “dream job” industry because of life reasons… too much travel, crazy irregular hours, and seeing how those factors affected the personal lives of older colleagues. It seems the bigger story here is the struggle to adjust your professional aspirations to the life you envision for yourself outside of work. Which, still, PRIVILEGE.

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

@JNC Musings Factory Almost every trend piece of this sort makes the mistake of conflating “dream job” with “job which does steamroll any hope of a personal life or private ambitions.”

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