Is the Dream Job just a Dream?

SALT is a small collective of writers from our Advance friends at Grace London seeking to engage with thoughtful Londoners on matters of faith and life. We believe that Godfirst and the people of Cheltenham would also find their weekly posts interesting. We reproduce them here by kind permission.

Is the dream job just a dream?

‘Something’s missing and I don’t know how to fix it, something’s missing and I don’t know what it is, at all.’ [1]

It’s Friday morning and, as award-winning musician John Mayer once discovered,  sometimes even the dream job just doesn’t cut it. Maybe it’s been a long week at a job that isn’t your favourite, a job you had to take to pay your ridiculous London rent. Maybe you’re desperately hoping you’re in a temporary situation, waiting for that perfect opportunity to come along. Or maybe you landed your ideal job, thought you’d finally made it, but soon realised it wasn’t all you thought it would be.

What do you do when the dream job is just that?

Currently, 75% of Londoners feel they are neither in, nor working towards, their dream job [2]. More than 50% of us are thinking about changing jobs [3], chiefly due to lack of career progression, long hours, low pay, and not getting enough thanks for our work. Furthermore, although our job security and employment levels are rising, we are much less satisfied than we ought to be, our hours are getting longer, and we don’t get enough time off [4].

So what can we do about it? Forbes recently suggested giving up the dream job for the dream company. Essentially, this is what they argue: find a company that gives you enough time off to do the things you really want to do [5]. That may make you happy in a short-term, living-for-the-weekend kind of way, but it seems a bit of a cop-out to me, an attempt to push the problem away and cover it up with enough fun and excitement in your down time. It’s saying the dream job is unobtainable; instead, try to satiate your desire for fulfilment with other things. Brief moments of escape from reality will help you get through the week.

Naturally, we would rather our work was rewarding, but in our relentless desire for the dream job, are we really chasing after something that’s going to fulfil us? The Guardian’s Tina Nielsen argues working for a business with a social purpose could be one way to solve the problem [6]. Granted, that seems thrilling at first and undoubtedly looks great on paper, but I know from friends of mine in this sector that they still feel the lack of something and a frustration that, even there, the real is not quite the ideal. For example, friends in aid and development work studied for years at great expense, filled their CVs with admirable stints of volunteering, and eventually joined organisations accomplishing some of the most remarkable work available in the world. But on the ground they found corrosive corruption, a paralysing lack of funds, insuperable administrative barriers and a great loneliness in the transient, endless canteen of the development world.

There is also a desire in many of us to create a legacy, to do something which will have a lasting impact, something which ‘only you can do’. Yet we don’t have to look far back in history to discover that empires eventually crumble, companies are dissolved, and even charitable organisations break down and their once admirable aims are forgotten.

So, where can we go to find this sort of lasting satisfaction? Is there a way to truly be fulfilled, if not in our work? A songwriter named David, composing three thousand years before John Mayer, found the ‘something missing’ when he sang of God: ‘You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore’ [7].

‘Fullness of joy […] pleasures forevermore’, isn’t that what we truly want? The fact is, we may never get our dream job. God doesn’t promise that, but he does promise to give you a fulfilment and a joy that nothing else in this world can offer you—a fullness of life that begins here on earth and continues in perfection in eternity afterwards. Jesus claimed to be the fulfilment of this promise when he said, ‘I came that they may have life and have it abundantly’ [8]. He longs to give you this certain hope of an abundant life and fulfilled future. If you want to finally find the God who made you, who cares deeply about you, and who has plans for you that are more wonderful than you could ever imagine, just let him know. He’s waiting for you. 

Questions or comments? Email Salt

[1] John Mayer, Something’s Missing © 2003
[2] Ranstad, Fulfillment @ Work Survey, 2014
[3] Investors In People, Job Exodus Trends, 2016
[4] Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, How’s Life in the UK?, 2015
[5] Christopher B. Nelson, ‘Give Up The “Dream Job”: Instead, Find A Company That Cares About You’, Forbes, 25 Feb 2016
[6] Tina Nielsen, ‘Working for a company that cares could be the secret to a happy job’, The Guardian, 11 Feb 2016
[7] Psalm 16:11, written by David in the 10th Century BC (English Standard Version)
[8] John 10:10, written by the apostle John, eyewitness and friend of Jesus in the 1st Century (English Standard Version)