In 2017, we search for jobs like we search for romance: scrolling, or swiping. Somewhere in there, a needle in a haystack, is the Perfect Partner or the Dream Job.
The job hunt and swiping left
Sixty-six percent of millennials are “somewhat” or “very worried” about finding a rewarding or satisfying career. But when we despair our friends remind us how that one girl met her husband on Tinder and now they’re pregnant and painting their nursery in Brooklyn, or how Elizabeth Gilbert wasn’t famous until she was like 40. Victims of interval reinforcement, where we wonder if this time we’re the lucky one, we hold out: We don’t take the pretty-good job; we swipe left.
There’s one problem with holding out: Dream jobs don’t exist. There are no jobs floating around that are 99 percent perfect for you like an OKCupid match (who’s not perfect for you either). Given the millennial fixation with uniqueness, it’s surprising so many of us fail to recognize that there couldn’t possibly already exist an ideal-in-all-ways job.
So dream jobs aren’t something you “land.” They’re something you create.
The perfect puppy? Not quite
There’s a website called Petfinder, which is a Tinder for finding animals. I recently clicked on the most adorable border collie mix there and, soon after, adopted her. A few days in, I discovered the obvious: she’s not perfect. She jumps on people, pulls on the leash and gets pink eye like twice a week.
In truth, everything we want is at first imperfect: jobs, houses, partners and dogs. But I’m glad I’m stuck with my dog for the next 15 years, because it forces me to train her if I want to have a good relationship with her (and anyone who meets her). I wanted to teach her to wipe her paws on the welcome mat the first week I got her, but I’ve learned that raising things right takes time.
Similarly, we raise our dream jobs by learning and deciding what we want, selecting a close match, and then working on the rest. Psychologists call this “job crafting” – and you can do it even if you’re not a freelancer. Apply to companies that share your values and need your skills. Then negotiate what your role will look like day-to-day, from the projects you’ll lead to who you’ll work with to what your salary will be.
Finally, raising a job requires willingness to change both yourself and your role to make a fit. Organizational psychologists call this daily, humanizing process “career adaptability” – “the readiness to cope with predictable tasks [as well as] unpredictable adjustments prompted by changes in work and working conditions.” In other words, raising a job right means both adapting to and changing your environment to better serve your and your company’s needs.
In short, a dream job is what you want, what you ask for, and then how you adjust to make it work. Commit to raising your career like I’ve committed to training my dog, and the pressure of perfect will be replaced with an abiding peace that your ideal is within grasp.
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