The advice we give children as they ponder growing up doesn’t quite translate in adulthood. “Follow your dreams” and other sunshine-and-lollipop statements are irrelevant in a tough economy and challenging job market. As you embark on your first job after college, that’s worth remembering.
The brilliant satirists at The Onion took note of this with an advice piece titled “Find the thing you’re most passionate about, then do it on nights and weekends for the rest of your life.” In it, helpful adviser David Ferguson offers this sage wisdom:
“The bottom line is that life is short, and you owe it to yourself to spend the majority of it giving yourself wholly and completely to something you absolutely hate, and 20 minutes here and there doing what you feel you were put on this earth to do.”
Cynical, Yes, But Also True
There is a harsh nugget of truth within such cynicism. That screenplay that has long been gestating in your head might be a major life goal, but it might not replace your salary anytime soon. Your penchant for yakking about fashionable shoes on Facebook might be a fun distraction, but it doesn’t mean Fashionable Shoes Yakking Monthly will come calling with a lucrative offer.
That doesn’t mean those dreams should die. Like so many parts of work and life, it just takes balance and a realistic outlook. Here are five tips for navigating through it all:
- There’s a reason it’s called work: Even the luckiest among us who work in “dream jobs” have to buckle down, because complacency won’t lead to success. Whether it’s the drive to innovate, improving the corporate culture or just the constant push for revenue, “fun” doesn’t equal “easy.”
- Seeking the perfect job may be problematic: Let’s say you’re in accounting, but your real passion is impressionist portraits of game-show hosts. Chances are slim that someone will pay you to do that as a profession. But try to find elements within your current job, or look for a logical next one, that gets you one step closer to your dream scenario. So when Wheel of Fortune is looking for a new accountant, you’re ready to pounce.
- This is a workplace, not Chuck E. Cheese: If you find yourself questioning your place in life after a difficult day at the office, remember two things: You are there voluntarily, and you’re getting paid. Terribly obvious, right? Right. But we all have bills. So suck it up.
- Don’t get discouraged: Yes, we say that right after saying “suck it up.” Pursue your interests on your own time. If those passions are truly what matter most, take another step and learn the trade. Take night classes, online courses, whatever you need to actually move toward a full-time pursuit. Just don’t let it get in the way of your real job. Those bills won’t pay themselves.
- Don’t let your job define you: This is tough. We spend so much of our adult lives at work, and our jobs can become the biggest thing in our lives. This goes for young people trying to make their mark in the workplace and older people trying to stay there. Everyone needs an outlet to blow off steam. Find your place of solace, whether it’s with family and friends, or through exercise, faith or hobbies. There’s more to a man than a job title.