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Didn’t get your dream job after graduation? Read this

Didn’t get your dream job after graduation? Read this


Didn't get dream job after graduation

Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
– Dalai Lama

Most young graduates seem to have a clear picture of what their dream job would be: a big salary, great perks, regular promotions, a good boss, and attractive colleagues. But is a dream job right after college such a big lottery prize?

Fresh graduates from elite schools prone to building castles in the air may not realize that they may someday earn a million a year but still come to hate their “dream jobs” and that their long office hours, workplace politics, and always-on-call schedule are too heavy a price to pay for “the good life.”

They seem to have missed a big, open secret that everyone else seems to know: a number of young professionals envied for their “dream jobs” are dissatisfied and restless and often tell themselves, “But this is not what I signed up for.”

A feeling that they “need to be somewhere else” gnaws at them constantly.

What are dream jobs?

Studies have proven what some of us suspected.

It is not your take-home salary that brings happiness, but the time and leisure to spend some quality personal time, the chance to work with people whom you respect, and the opportunity to do meaningful work.

These are among the important “perks” that bring job-happiness provided your salary takes care of your basic financial needs.

A job that’s missing even one of these perks may not fit the bill as a “good job,” let alone a dream job.

Social scientists and psychologists go even further to say that your dream job should involve tasks that reinforce the values you cherish and that gives you a place of real consequence in the world.

A job should give you a strong financial foundation but should also satisfy your longings outside the ambit of your material needs.

Why do some top-tier professionals find their dream jobs turning into highly paid drudgery in a few years?

For one, they fail to find a larger meaning in what they do, although they slog as hard as anyone else, often harder.

They wonder how they are making any difference to the world, except by helping rich people grow even richer.

Research has found that a great salary does bring you happiness, but only a little.

Additionally, whether a job is easy to do and whether the work environment is stress-free are not big factors that decide the attractiveness of a job.

Rather, the six other essential elements tha constitute a dream job are as follows:

  • work that you’re good at.
  • engaging tasks that give you variety and freedom.
  • supportive colleagues.
  • absence of big negatives (such as a long commute and unfair pay).
  • good fit with your personal life.
  • work that helps others.


‘Craft’ a dream job

Studies suggest that some workers are able to turn their ordinary jobs into dream jobs by making them more meaningful, sometimes by serving others beyond the limits of their normal duties.

A New York Times article refers to a study, published in 2001, that found that doctors weren’t the happiest people at a large hospital, though it was they who cured sickness and pain and sent people home healthier, but the janitors at the facility.

The researchers found that these workers didn’t see their jobs as just cleaning up the patients’ rooms, clearing bedpans, and emptying the waste bins, but as contributing to healing the patients.

The researchers termed the janitors “job crafters,” for their ability to transform their tasks to serve a bigger purpose through their interactions and initiatives on the job.

They also found that some hairdressers “crafted” a more enjoyable job by redefining their tasks and improving the quality of their interaction with clients.

According to their study, restaurant kitchen employees who were job crafters didn’t see their objective just as the preparation of fine meals but as an artistic and creative enterprise taken forward by their time management skills.

Know yourself

At least a few of the happiest professionals have had to complete a hard journey experiencing failure and rejection on the way.

Many of them probably didn’t go to elite colleges or figure among the top students of their class through their school days.

Ironically, some professionals manage to find their calling and vocation only after suffering bad luck and learning some hard lessons from life.

Of course, going to a great school and working hard may seem to be the surest path to professional fulfilment.

But in a world where prosperity or even job security can’t be predicted with any reasonable level of certainty, the key to job satisfaction may be in knowing oneself and following a career path that seems most suitable to you, not in trying to reach the top of the pile all the time.

Following your personality traits may not exactly lead you to a dream job, but it might well bring you happiness and a sense of purpose.

Moreover, you are likely to find out what you really love doing more from bad experiences rather than from good ones.

You need to try out different roles to know what you enjoy doing and what you’re able to do well.

Of course, single-minded pursuit of a passion may not be advisable. There’s this cartoon showing a taste-tester at an ice-cream factory wincing as he eats an ice-cream.

The caption reads, “By the fifth year, Jim really regretted following his childhood passion for ice-cream.”

Yes, it is possible to overrate a passion or a dream job. So, watch out before you “follow your passion.”

Dream job? No, thanks

Ironically, getting a dream job may not always work in your favor, especially if you are a millennial who just graduated.

You may be on cloud nine initially but will likely find later that it’s hampering your all-round career growth.

Landing your dream job early on puts you in a situation that is too comfortable for your own good, according to recruiting experts.

It stops you from having to get used to unexpected problems and learning new skills essential to career progress.

If you land your dream job right after school and continue in that role, you may end up having professional and personal experience that is limited to your company and industry.

Some people may call you a specialist, but you will really be one with a very narrow set of skills.

On the other hand, if you don’t get a dream job initially, you are more likely to pick up a range of skills that may prepare you for various roles.

The first period of your career is the time when you can afford to experiment, make mistakes, and find out more about yourself.

The first few years give you the opportunity to improve your expertise in your college major.

The reality of today’s job market is that only very few graduates are recruited for roles that are closely related to their majors.

If you don’t land a dream job right after school, you will have more opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills related to your major.

Another advantage that you gain from not securing your dream job right after graduation is that you become more flexible professionally and personally.

Playing different roles improves your capacity to handle different jobs. Working with different people improves your communication skills and ability to manage different situations.

Handle rejection

A performance coach advises maintaining a resilient mindset to tackle the predicament that a rejection letter or a failed application brings.

The trick is not to beat yourself up and join a pity party but to adopt a die-hard attitude and optimism.

One setback doesn’t make one a failure, this coach points out.

But you should review the facts behind the rejection.

For example, a company may have may have decided to promote an employee instead of hiring someone new.

Watch out for our habit to inflate the effect of failure and its consequences. “A boo [sounds] much louder than a cheer” in these situations, as Lance Armstrong once pointed out.

Of course, you should also keep in mind that rejection is a part of life.

A “no” from one prospective employer may not be a red flag to all your career opportunities. Perhaps, another company might find you a great fit.

Analyzing the nitty-gritties of an interview failure endlessly is not a good idea.

“Should I have worn a blue shirt instead of a brown shirt?” “Did I greet the interviewer properly?” “Was my anxiety showing?”

Such worries become irrelevant the moment the interview ends.

A better course of action would be to send a simple note to the interviewer for suggestions to improve your qualifications or interviewing skills.

After a rejection, think of a situation where you shone, where your knowledge and skills received praise from your colleagues, or you used your leadership skills effectively.

Try to boost your self-esteem when you feel down in the dumps.

If you fail to get your dream job, you are likely to go through five stages of grief: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and only finally, acceptance.

Few realize that by rejecting you once, the company is not implying that it doesn’t want to see you ever as a candidate.

In fact, by sending a thank-you note despite the rejection, you can maintain a relationship with the company and keep alive your chances of being considered again.

It’s certainly not the end of the world to fail to land your dream job right after graduation. It may well be the beginning of a journey of self-discovery.

What is important is to continue on this road. As Martin Luther King Jr. said:

If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.


Dream job: myth and reality

Myth Reality
It will make you rich. Perhaps. But some “dream jobs” may not even pay your bills.
It won’t feel like work because you will enjoy what you’re doing. Any job involves a lot of hard work. That’s why they still call it a dream “job.”
Others working this job are doing very well. Maybe. But it still may not be suitable to you.
You can do this all your life. A few years on, your priorities and your “dreams” may change.
A dream job means a fulfilling life. Work is only a part of life. You still need to be around people you love and be able to follow your interests.

Also read:
Rejected by your dream university?
References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

2 thoughts on “Didn’t get your dream job after graduation? Read this”

  1. Nicely written, Sameer. My first job out of college – in a small family run business – wasn’t a dream job, certainly not. But it helped shape my thinking of what I look for. The hours were long and the compensation was not sustainable. As junior, entry-level “management” I was often at odds with senior management’s directional strategy – profit at all costs, often at the cost of employees. But I got results consistently and was respected by the employees and senior management for that. In hindsight it was one of the most stressful period of my early professional life but also one of the most fulfilling. This paradoxical mix was not sustainable and resulted in me eventually moving on.

    In the overall context of the dream job that you write about, I am reminded of a quote from a reviewer of the TV show Mad Men who lamented the failure of the show’s character Megan Draper: “Her dream wasn’t deep enough. Her work ethics wasn’t durable enough. Her sense of purpose wasn’t clear enough.”

  2. There’s no such thing as a dream job. It’s a facade, the reality of every job includes stringent deadlines, work hours and politics. It is also human nature to feel that the grass is always greener on the other side, and as long as that greenery is in monetary terms it’s legitimate to crave it.

    Why I say so, is because all of us at some point in our childhood wondered what we would become. Some aspired to be great cricketers, some wanted to become astronauts, some wanted to become great explorers, some just wanted to be nice good honorable men.

    Nobody thought about the industry, it’s demands and supplies, other alternatives besides their “desired careers” etc. Some didn’t have the resources to pull it off. Some were not good enough to clear the entrance tests and were coerced to take up other disciplines in good institutes.

    End of the day hardly anyone made it to what they desired as a kid and even if they did they realized that it’s not as glittery as it seemed to be.

    Therefore I believe entrepreneurship seems to be the only realistic way to achieve your “dream job”.


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