All of us have dreams of the career we would love, but not so many manage to translate the dream into reality. Often this is because of circumstances outside our control. So what do you do if your dream job is not possible?
The first step is to work out exactly why you wanted a particular career. And keep on asking why until you get to the essence of what you want. Let’s look at an example. Say you wanted to become a doctor, but didn’t get the grades, despite several attempts. You couldn’t afford to train in another country, which some people are able to do with lower exam marks.
List all the reasons that you wanted to study medicine, for example, to help people with a specific illness or to do research into an incurable condition. Often people choose medicine because of an illness experienced by a close family member.
Or you might have spent a lot of time in hospital as a child and developed an interest in the job then. Or you might have been excited by the potential of new developments in a specific branch of medicine.
It could be that you also want the prestige of being part of a respected profession, or the money that you could earn as a consultant or in private practice further down the line.
Once you’ve made your list, take each reason and ask why again. So why do you want to do something about a specific illness that’s in the family? Perhaps because you felt helpless and want to feel more powerful, or because you felt so much compassion for another person’s suffering.
You might want respect because it makes you feel more confident, money because you aspire to a certain lifestyle or your family didn’t have money when you were growing up and you don’t want to experience that ever again.
What activities attracted you to the career and what skills did you want to use in your dream job? Add these to the list.
Now you can look at everything you’ve come up with to give yourself a starting point for other careers that could give you the same feelings.
There could be some careers related to the dream, for example, in the case of doctor there are many other medical jobs in hospitals and the community. And there are plenty of careers in alternative medicine.
However, it won’t always be so easy to find a career so directly related to your ideal job. In this case, focus on the experiences and feelings you are looking for, such as challenges, fulfillment, achievement.
Then break those down into more tangible ideas. What do you find challenging? How would you define fulfillment or job satisfaction? Think about the activities that could be fulfilling or challenging or both.
Are there specific skills that you want to use, develop or learn from scratch? Do you have knowledge you would like to use?
Once you’ve narrowed it down, start looking for careers with the things you want. You could use very general terms, like challenging careers or add a couple more search terms, such as challenging careers working with children with special needs. Or involving languages and travel.
Be open to new ideas – there will be lots of jobs out there that you have never heard of and many that didn’t exist when you were growing up.