Where Have All the Career Dreams Gone?

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As I wrote in Creating a Work Legacy, sometimes you have to forgo your dream job for one that will pay the bills right now. Or perhaps your dream career isn’t attainable because of money, lack of talent or difficulty in getting into degree programs. But that does not necessarily mean that you have to give up what is behind those dreams. Believe me, you are lucky if you even know what your passion truly is. People often plod through their careers without knowing what it is that they would really love to be doing.

Figure out why your career dream is so important to you. Why do you want this career? Is it money, prestige or fame? Is it about using special skills you feel you have? How can you incorporate what drives your career dreams into your present-day life? Sometimes you can do this by setting a simpler version of your dreams as a goal or by pursuing them as a hobby.

For example, I loved performing music in high school. However, I knew I lacked the talent to pursue a music career, and stage fright was also a deal breaker. But I still loved music. I joined choruses over the years and performed in concerts. I participated in as much amateur training as I could, taking music classes at the schools where I worked, advising students with performance-related health problems, and attending training institutes. Pursuing simpler goals and hobbies gave me some insight into music, this love of my life. I realized as much as I loved music, I did not have the stamina for a single-minded pursuit that a music career demands. Instead, I found that sometimes scaling down my dreams gave me big rewards. I have had careers on both coasts, working with creative students, have met famous musicians, learned from fabulously talented people and have traveled to Russia to perform. I know now I would not have traded any of this for a career in music. I’ve also learned that the word “amateur” means “lover,” not “less skilled.” And I don’t let the professionals tell me any different.

As Shakespeare’s famous quote puts forth, who we are and what is important to us is ephemeral and eventually dissolves away. I would pursue music as a hobby if I could not do it as a career rather than not have it in my life at all. This is it. There is no do-over, no second life in which to pursue your real passions, so do it now while you can.

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