The key to career happiness: is finding your dream job always it?

A lot of the lawyers we speak to talk about their dream job and their desire to find it. People tend to have this notion that one day they can find work that is wholly satisfying across the board. The problem is, more often than not, these people only have a vague idea of what their dream job is, and an even vaguer idea about how to achieve it.
Of course, this approach is problematic. If you’re uncertain of where you’re heading then it’s usually very unlikely you’re going to get there. But are we even sure that finding your dream job is a healthy outlook on your career? And, more importantly, is it the key to happiness that so many lawyers think it is?
Let’s have a look at some key points to consider when tackling this problem.

The Dream Job vs. Different Moments in Your Life

First of all, it’s important to point out that the entire notion of a dream job is a little warped to begin with. Throughout our lives, our values, hopes and dreams are ever-changing. So it makes sense that our vision of what our dream job is will change too. What you imagine that ideal career move to look like now may be drastically different in ten years’ time.
This isn’t just an issue in establishing whether finding your dream job is a key to happiness in the first place. It can also cause major stress on yourself, in and out of your work. It’s not unusual to become despondent if your dream job doesn’t come to fruition immediately, if you have some sort of setback or if you start to feel your values shifting.
The root of this problem often comes down to looking at your career in a narrow way and setting yourself poor goals. One of the aspects we look at is the importance of setting the right goals and seeing the bigger picture. This way, you’re better able to progress and be happy with the steps forward you’re taking.

Getting Boxed In

As we mentioned earlier, one of the problems that lawyers searching for that dream job face is having a narrow perspective on their career. By having an unwavering faith in your dream job, you may be missing out on loads of other opportunities. This type of tunnel vision can have a negative impact not only on your career but on your health and happiness too.
The key to happiness in your career is often trying new things, taking on new challenges and expanding your horizons. Many lawyers who are happy in their work invest time in different positions across different industries; refining their perception of what makes them happy.
Don’t be someone who gets stuck in a rut because you’re chasing a dream job that may or may not exist. Instead, experience new things, learn new skills and keep an open mind about the direction you’re heading in.

Managing Your Expectations

We talked a little bit earlier about how it’s easy to get knocked off kilter when chasing your dream job, so let’s look at that in a bit more detail. The problem generally comes down to having poor or unrealistic expectations.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be ambitious about what you want to achieve with your career, because you should. Instead, it’s about knowing what’s feasible with your strengths, skills and experience. You might be a successful lawyer wanting to switch tracks to become a grand slam-winning tennis champ. If you set yourself these types of goals, you’re ultimately going to be disappointed when they don’t come to pass.
Much of this comes down to knowing what your values are inside-out. This allows you to plot the trajectory of your career, achieving plenty of happiness along the way!

You Never Quite Know…

One of our biggest problems with the notion of a dream job is that no one knows how it’s going to pan out until they’re in there and doing it on a day-to-day basis. Our aspirational lawyer come tennis champion might win his grand slam and realise that it’s not how he imagined it would be. The reality is that it’s impossible to know until you’ve got the first-hand experience.
At the end of the day, having some sort of arbitrary idea of a dream job isn’t going to get you very far. Instead, what you aspire to do in your career should be based upon concrete values; what you’re interested in and the things that you consider most important in your life. When you understand these, you can start moving towards something that’s not necessarily your dream job but that addresses the important factors for you. This might be work-life balance, more freedom and autonomy, or more creative work. The list is endless and depends on you and you alone.
Everyone’s an individual, and everyone’s drives and needs are going to be different. If you’re someone who believes that your dream job is out there, then your first step is becoming sure that your goals are truly important to you deep down. Because if you don’t realise that now, then you will further down the line, and by then it could be too late.