But for every Picasso, there may be hundreds of Franks and Fionas — people just like you and me, still searching for their ideal career, without a clue where to start.
So if the pressure of finding your dream job is causing you great stress, you’re not alone. We have some simple strategies to help you get started.
Do what you can become good at
“Just do what you’re good at.” It’s one bit of career advice that is much easier said than done.
Not to mention that it limits you to things you know you’re good at right now, rather than jobs or careers that you can become good at, by gathering knowledge and experience and practicing over a long period of time.
Athletes like Kobe Bryant and musicians like Mozart put in years of deliberate practice before they became world class in their respective fields.
Similarly, you might have what it takes to become a great high-school teacher, but it’s unlikely you’ll be good at it without attaining the required knowledge and qualifications and putting them into practice.
So, how do you find something you can become good at?
A good place to start is the Myers-Briggs personality test, because it can help you understand how you perceive the world, what you value and what your strengths are, three things that are invaluable in the world of work.
Pursue your passion, but make sure it has a purpose
Somewhere along the line, it’s likely you’ve been told to simply “follow your passion”.
We’ve already established that doing what you’re good at can be slightly tricky when you don’t have a clue what that is. Some argue that pursuing your passion might be similarly problematic.
Talking at the Democratic National Convention in 2012, Steve Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson said: “The important point is to not just follow your passion but something larger than yourself. It ain’t just about you and your damn passion.”
Isaacson went on to describe a conversation he had with Jobs before his death to cancer in 2011.
“I remember talking exactly a year ago right now to Steve Jobs, who was very ill, and I asked him that question: He said, ‘Yeah, we’re always talking about following your passion. But … you’ve got to put something back into the flow of history that’s going to help your community, help other people, so that 20, 30, 40 years from now, even if it’s a small pebble you put back in, people will say, this person didn’t just have a passion, he cared about making something that other people could benefit from.’
The message? Do something that feels worthy and ethical and makes a difference to people’s lives, no matter how small, because passion alone is not enough if it doesn’t have purpose.
Test the waters
So you have a shortlist of potential careers and are trying to whittle it down to that One Dream Job.
If you’re tossing up between becoming a high-powered lawyer or a super-fit sports scientist, you should first talk to people who actually work in those professions.
These days people are much easier to contact through social media, and with the right approach you can get a few minutes on the phone to gain some insight into a career or industry before you go any further.
Once your shortlist gets shorter, you can look at course options and assess things like the career non-negotiables: job security, a reasonable salary and a job that fits in with your personal life.
And if after all that you can’t come up with a career that seems like a perfect match, at some stage you need to make the leap.
Nothing is certain in life but some things could still be worth exploring — new skills and new experiences often lead to new opportunities.
Stay open to the possibilities
Remember when you were at high school and thought you needed to pick a dream career that would last you a lifetime?
Well, those days are long gone. A 2014 study by McCrindle found that the average Australian could have 17 employers and change careers five times in their working life.
That means that every bit of study you engage in and every job you take is a process of trial and error in which you grow and evolve, both in a professional and a personal sense.
It’s unlikely that what makes you happy now will still make you happy 10 years from now, so there may be more than one so-called “dream job” in your career.
Life is full of twists and turns we have no way of predicting, but if we stay open to possibilities, take risks and make the effort to continue learning, we can always find job satisfaction.