For years you dreamed about having the right job. Sleep was literally interrupted with nightmares of not getting the job but you pressed on, you applied, you interviewed, and you got the job. You blissfully slipped into the honeymoon faze with your new job. You meet all the new people including your boss and you get accustomed to the new work flow.
But then it happens. One day the work goes from new to difficult. The demands of the job move from training to production. Next thing you know you are dreading a couple of pieces of your job. You'd love to hand them off but the responsibility falls on you. You used to have nightmares of not having the job, now parts of the job are giving you nightmares. Then the self-accusations set in: "I don't have what it takes to do this."
So now what? What happens the day your dream job turns out to be a hard calling?
I would say this has been my experience for the last eight years. Exiting college I felt a clear calling to a specific role in non-profit work. Two years into working I landed the role. I was thrilled and thought I was going to do BIG things. Three years into the dream job I started to realize I would leave the job with more cuts and bruises than I would victories and celebrations. The 80/20 rule has been a reality, 80% of the time I felt beat up and 20% of the time I want to celebrate. I wouldn't say I've failed 80% of the time it's the reality that even victories come at a cost. A reality for each of us is we can win in our job and lose somewhere else in our life.
Through these years I've learned a few things and I hope these lessons will help you navigate the day you discover your dream job is more difficult than you thought it would be.
1. It's only a big deal if you make it one - That may feel like ice water thrown in your hot shower but it's true. Repeat after me: "Work is work, is work, is work." It's okay that your work turns out to be hard work. I think we're intended to work, to force ourselves to create something from nothing; others may refer to this as art. But too often we turn work into unnecessary stress, I know I do. So as the saying goes at my house, "It's only as big of a deal as you make it." Hoping work circumstances will make your life fulfilling is a dangerous train to ride.
2. Identify the seasons - Maybe the most sustaining advice I got when I realized the job was going to be hard was from a friend who shared with me the seasons in a year of the job. August through Thanksgiving - Hold your nose and jump in the water. Don't expect to come back up till Turkey day. December through January - Relax. February through May - Hold your nose and jump back in. Summer months - refuel yourself. Knowing these seasons has helped me from jumping off the cliff. I'm not going to lie, I've had my toes over the cliff at least three times in these past eight years but when I recognize the finish line to a season is coming I can take a step back. By the way, this goes for bosses too, they also have seasons.
3. Have other passions - If your entire life is wrapped up in your work you're in a world of trouble. All work comes to an end. Your work ending may not be your decision either, so have other things that makes your heart beat quicker. It's GOOD FOR YOU. If someone tells you it's a distraction they are probably all in type of people and you don't want their advice.
4. It's your fault - I think one of the hardest things I've had to come to grips with is the job is my fault. I wanted it, I committed to it. Not only that, I felt called to it. I still feel called to it, I love the "why" behind what I do. But at some point I have to stop blaming the hard on everyone else and realize I have more control of the situation than I think I do. It's my fault I'm in the job. It's also my fault how I respond to the difficulty of the job. Which brings us back to my first point, more than likely it only as big of a deal as I make it. Your dream job may only be as good as your ability to walk away from it. As the saying goes:
Dream jobs can be difficult jobs and you may need to be told that that's okay. The real challenge might not be the job however, the real challenge may be your response to hard work. I know this is true for me on a daily basis. So, I'm hoping you can help other people as well. Your experience is as valuable as mine.
What would you tell a friend who is experiencing the realities of having a hard dream job? Please leave a comment below!