Could Your Idea of a "Dream Job" Be Holding You Back?

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Woman thinking

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Alex Wilson
Alex Wilson
April 14, 2024 at 11:38AM UTC
It’s normal for career goals to evolve over time. As we undergo new experiences, visit new places and are introduced to new people, our view on the world expands — and so does what we want out of it. Even if our dream jobs evolve, when is it appropriate to keep holding out for the perfect opportunity and when do we settle for something else?
Experts say that instead of continuing to wait for the dream job to appear, you should focus on creating your dream role out of what you’re already doing.  Does it sound difficult? Maybe, but it’s better than passively waiting for something to happen to you. You can make work work for you, provided you have the right approach.
Neil Morrison, group HR director for Penguin Random House, says that the way employers look at employee roles is evolving.  “People used to be recruited into a specific role and they’d expect to do it for a defined period of, say, five to 10 years,” he told The Guardian. “Now, we recruit talented self-learners… we know that they’ll come in and do one job, which then morphs into something else.”
Allowing employees to customize their own job descriptions allows them to assist the company in a way that best utilizes their skills, while also giving them the freedom to explore their passions.  It’s a great benefit to employees, but science shows that it’s beneficial to employers as well.
According to a study by the UCL School of Management, teams are more successful when employees are able to find and claim components of their roles that are useful while dropping the parts of their positions that are uninteresting and unhelpful.
“Because we can’t predict the future, companies that need to innovate often have only a partial idea of who they need to hire and what those people need to do,” Assistant professor Vaughn Tan writes in the study. “Under these circumstances, it makes no sense to hire people as if we know exactly how their roles should be defined.”
Most companies’ hiring practices haven’t caught up to this trend, despite its usefulness.  Instead, employees need to create a plan on how they are going to evolve their current roles and what additional training they’ll need to do so. If you’re looking to turn your current job into the one you’ve dreamt about for years, here are some steps you can utilize to take your career to the next level.
  • Take online classes. Free online courses are an easy way to learn new skills that your dream job requires. Set aside a dedicated time each week to study so you make constantly learning a habit, and sign up for one-off webinars to supplement what you’re learning.
  • NetworkNobody likes the traditional version of networking, but it’s the best way to get to know people in the industry you’re interested in. For example, if you want to move into public relations, find a local PR professionals event to attend. So long as you head into the event looking to make lasting connections, it’ll be less painful than you think.
  • Eat lunch. Don’t forget to take your lunch break — but ask somebody to eat with you. It’ll be a great way to network and learn more about potential opportunities within your company (regardless of what department you have your eye on).
Once you’ve done the above, then you can approach your manager and ask about expanding your role. Brush up on your negotiation skills before you set the meeting, and don’t hesitate to ask for the role you want. Your dream job is out there, but you’re going to need to work for it!

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