The Insidious Myth of the “Dream Job”

What’s your dream job? That thing you want to do for the rest of your life, the job that gives your life meaning and value?

Have you given any thought to what it is?

I have, and I’ve concluded that it’s a big ole pile of crap. I don’t dream of working. The idea of a “dream job” is capitalist propaganda meant to make us think that we can only find meaning in our lives through work, and I’m calling it out.

There is No “Dream Job”

The truth is that there is no real dream job, not for most of us. Even the most glamorous jobs can have horrible bosses, ungodly hours, or low pay. Being a world-renowned actress seems like a dream until your face is plastered all over the tabloids constantly. Traveling the world for a travel magazine sounds fantastic until you realize that you can’t turn down an assignment.

Every job has its pros and cons, and some are much better than others. But are any really dreams? Are you truly living your dream if you have to work to collect a paycheck?

Some People Do Live the Dream

Maybe I’m being a little too dramatic. Some people may actually think that their job is a dream. Perhaps they are a researcher figuring out how to send a person to Mars, and every day they go to work thinking:

“I can’t believe they pay me to do this!”

These folks might continue working on this project even if they didn’t get paid for it. They love every aspect of their job, and they are truly fulfilled.

It’s Not True for Most of Us

There might be a minuscule number of people who truly have dream jobs, but that doesn’t make them any less mythical or out of reach for most of us. That’s like pointing to the one person who dug their way out of poverty to become a successful business person and yelling,

“See! The system isn’t broken! He did it – why can’t you??”

The fact is that it isn’t realistic for most people, and using that one anomaly as an example keeps people trudging along, thinking that there is something wrong with them for not being able to find their “dream job.” There’s nothing wrong with you if you can’t find your dream job. It’s just a myth! So stop beating yourself up about it and stop searching for a dream that will, more than likely, never come true.

What to Do Instead

Maybe you already have a dream job in your mind that you are pursuing, and maybe you can be one of the outliers who achieves. That’s awesome, and I think you should go for it! If you’ve found a way to live your passion, don’t let me tell you otherwise. That’s what we’re all about!

But for the rest of us, those normal folks who don’t really have a dream job, there’s another way. A better way. Instead of pursuing a dream job that doesn’t exist that will cost you a ton of money in education and pay you peanuts, go for a crappy job that does exist that will pay you an exorbitant amount of money and quit after 10-15 years.

The truth is, most jobs are going to be miserable, so you may as well get paid well so you can opt-out and do what you actually want to do as soon as possible, right?

How Do I Do That?

When choosing a career, instead of going with the old adage of choosing what you love, choose a career path that will pay you a lot. Right now, tech is pretty hot, so consider software development, programming, coding, and things in information security. You can also opt for a career in finance, medicine, or law, but be advised that you will probably need an advanced degree to pursue those options, which might saddle you with heavy student loan debt. This might make opting out less of an option.

Next, follow your career ladder for a few years. Nab a few promotions, improve your job title, make more money, and keep moving up. At the same time, save and invest as much money as you possibly can. Pay off your debt. Set yourself up so that you don’t have to work anymore.

All the while, remember that this isn’t a dream job; it’s a means to an end. You are working so that you can live your dream. You aren’t working your dream.

This might sound a little familiar already…

What if I Already Bought Into the Dream Job Myth?

Let’s say you followed their rules and went after a job you thought would be a dream job. Now that reality has come crashing down; you realize that the hours are long and the pay is low, and you feel trapped.

Don’t despair. It’s never too late to switch careers. Transitioning to a new job in a new industry can be hard and scary, but it isn’t impossible. The first thing to do is find a high-paying industry that needs the skills that you have. These transferable skills might be related to customer service, leadership, information technology, or anything else, but they are skills. And you have them. All you have to do is identify them and play them up.

Figure out what you are good at, and look for high-paying jobs that need those skills. Then, hit the job boards and explore your network to see what is available.

You might have to invest in yourself to learn new skills or get a certification in something you already know how to do. Try not to saddle yourself with debt while obtaining this certificate. If you can, take a short internship rather than a class to boost your skills. If you need to take a course, opt for online options geared specifically towards your chosen industry to brush up on the skills you really need.

Not Only About the Money

Remember, when considering all of this, that life isn’t just about money. You may not need that much money to live, so perhaps instead of looking for a career change to a higher paying industry, you want to switch to something that will give you more free time and a better work-life balance. If this describes you, maybe you should look for a remote job. This will decrease your commute to 0 and give you more time at home to do whatever you want to do. You may also want to look for a part-time job or a job with flexible hours. These will help you fill in the income gap while allowing you to live your life in your free time.

Living Your Dream Life

The point is, your actual dream life probably has nothing to do with your job title or your qualifications. It probably has a lot more to do with your passions than any line of work. You may be one of the lucky few who was able to turn their passion into a career, but if not, that’s okay!

There’s still time to do it.

Passion FIRE

This post quickly turned into a post about Passion Fire, and although it wasn’t intended, it makes a lot of sense. Passion Fire is about turning your passions into a dream job. Yes, I said it was a myth, and I stand by that. The way we think about working as our driving force for everything is insane. Our work culture that says you have to work to be happy or have value is horrific! A dream job is still about work. It’s about idealizing a job over everything else.


Passion Fire is flipping the script on that. It’s about valuing our passions over everything else and finding ways to monetize those if we need to make a living. It takes work and dedication upfront to design the lifestyle we want so we don’t have to worry about a normal, traditional job. But no one is under any illusion that the job they work to achieve that dream is anything more than a paycheck. We do it because they pay us, and although we may find some fulfillment in it, most of us wouldn’t continue to do it if we didn’t get paid. However, most of us do follow our passions without getting paid. Heck, we even PAY to do them! So why not turn that into money?

The Controversy

Yes, I know all about the controversy around pursuing your passion as a career. It’s not fun anymore if you HAVE to do it. But with Passion Fire, you don’t actually HAVE to do it. The point is to have enough money to do whatever you want, and then you GET to dabble in your passions and profit off of them. I think there’s a subtle difference to that.

Back to Dream Jobs

We went a little off-topic here. Most posts on dream jobs promote the idea that they are real. It’s “How to find your dream job” and “Writing a resume and cover letter to land your dream job.” The posts drone on about career services, job skills websites, Linkedin, networking,  job hunting tips, interview questions, and all that nonsense about job searching.

I get it. Most people who are searching for dream jobs are actually looking for the dream. So, of course, the media will give them what they want and talk about job seeking to help these searchers find that dream.

But the truth is, for most of us, a dream job is just that—a dream. No amount of researching, job hunting, interviewing, negotiating, or anything else is going to change that.

Instead of dreaming about work, dream about life. Use your talents to get a job that pays you a ton of money and live the life you want. That’s the real dream – being able to do what you want with your time without worrying about work. So let’s go after that.

2 thoughts on “The Insidious Myth of the “Dream Job””

  1. I’m an outlier, I enjoyed my career more than almost anyone I’ve ever met. But I also picked a college major and a first job that fit me so well I never left my first employer and went from intern to running the corporation. I think I enjoyed it because it was such a good fit that I became very good at it. And in the same way star basketball and football players and star actors rarely retire until they have to, stars in business also are reluctant to trade in those coveted positions until they have to. But it is a small group who have that kind of career, and maybe it isn’t the best path. I worked until I was 60 though I did not need the money. Maybe if I had liked work less, I would have retired earlier and enjoyed what I now see as the best part of life, earlier? Great post, something to ponder.

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