In today’s society, where most people define themselves by what they do for a living, getting your “dream job” – a job which not only provides financial security, but also a satisfying work experience that reflects your passions and values – seems to be a major goal for most people. This is perfectly understandable, but many don’t take into consideration the long-term sacrifices their dream job may require. If they do consider these, then in their late teens and early twenties when many people are making initial career decisions, those sacrifices seem manageable and, to many, even admirable.
Those who know me know that I spent almost a decade of my life working as a teacher in some very tough schools in Baltimore. I loved it. I devoted much of my time to my career and spent much of the rest of my time worried about my students’ lives. Teaching was not just what I did, it was who I was, and I was willing to sacrifice my personal life to do what I believed a great teacher needed to do. And then I had a child. My hopes of “saving” my students, my desire and need to be there for them (physically, emotionally, etc) did not dissipate, but it got to the point where my “dream job” was causing me to put my daughter second. I realized that I couldn’t be the teacher I felt my students needed and also the mom I felt my daughter needed and deserved; forcing myself to try and do both would cause me not to be the best teacher or mother I could be. I changed careers. I miss working with students, but I don’t miss being so exhausted at the end of the work day that I was too tired to take my daughter to the playground and run around with her.
Others I’ve known moved across the world to pursue their dream job. They sacrificed just as much, if not more, in their pursuit of their “dream job” and their careers. Many of them have had families and raised happy, intelligent, successful children. For them, the sacrifices were outweighed by the work they did and their support systems were able to pick up the so-called slack.
When considering your career, it’s important to really consider the sacrifices and what you, as an individual, are willing to give up. After discussions with many people in many different walks of life, I’ve realized that there are some things you really need to think about before deciding if that “dream job” is really your dream job:
Are you willing to move away from your loved ones if need be? Will you have the time to start a family? Once you start that family, will you have the time to spend with them? Will you be able to make the time you do have with them matter? Some parents spend very little time with their children because of the nature of their careers, but they manage to make the time they do spend enjoyable, memorable and important.
What if you find your dream job, but in order to pursue that career, you have to live in an unsafe area? Or, if you have a family, consider whether you would be willing (and able) to live in an area where the schools are not at the level which you want for your children – are you okay with either sending your children to these schools and believing they can still succeed or paying out of pocket to send them to private schools? Are you willing to live in an area where your car is broken into monthly? Or, on the flip side, are you willing to live in the smallest house in the neighborhood without feeling judged or inferior?
How much of your life are you willing to subject to public scrutiny? You may not think about it at the age of 22, but many careers require you to consistently be a positive representative of your workplace. With many careers, you don’t want to get caught in a negative light, whether that be with unpopular opinions you post online or on a night out for a bachelor party. What if a student’s parent sees you over-indulging with your friends after the last day of school? What if your patients see that your opinion about something political is the complete opposite of theirs? Are you willing to hide some aspects of yourself to keep your dream job?
There are no right or wrong answers to any of these questions; the answers will, and should, differ from person to person. When thinking about your career though, think about the sacrifices you have made and are willing to make; and remember, your job is what you do, not necessarily who you are.