Why I Hate the Question, “What’s Your Dream Job?

When I was in elementary school, I starred as Oprah in a school play. I don’t have any recollection of the grade, nor the reason for the performance. All I know is that I was Oprah, the host of a talk show and I killed it! I can admit that my extreme curiosity about other people made me want to be the person whom they would trust to give their stories. I wanted to be that person with the inside scoop. I would later watch The Oprah Winfrey Show with women in my family countless times, and come to the conclusion that my dream job was becoming a famous talk show host, just like Oprah.

Probably as early as middle school and on into high school, and after watching every episode of Living Single, I wanted to be Khadijah — to have my very own lifestyle magazine that would cover topics ranging from relationships, fashion and music to culture. I subscribed to multiple magazines over the years to get ideas that would influence my vision. I would brainstorm magazine titles and everything because running a magazine was my dream job.

Before my senior year of high school, I was awarded an awesome opportunity to attend the Princeton Summer Journalism Program, where I first heard the words that have basically shaped my life and career goals ever since. I don’t remember the words verbatim, but one of the counselors said that majoring in journalism doesn’t make you a great journalist. The point he wanted to get across was that if you want to be a great journalist, you need to be well rounded and knowledgeable about different things. The writing part would be easy.

Sure enough, I took his advice. I mean, he did graduate from an Ivy League, so why not? By not majoring in journalism, I opened the possibility for more learning and development opportunities that I may not have considered had I focused solely on journalism. In my head, I did not want to limit my skillset to those held by a great journalist, and quite frankly, even journalists need to have other skills besides being great investigators, fact-checkers and unbiased writers if they want to truly be great in their field, but I digress.

For me, working in the field of communications was a given. I shifted my focus from getting a very particular job to focusing on a variety of interests. I don’t believe that I’ve settled for anything less than a “dream job” because each opportunity helps me improve and better market myself in a competitive job market where being good, even really good at just one thing, is not ideal. More importantly, just as society changes, I change too. My passions back when I was basking in the bliss of being carefree have evolved since I’ve learned more about who I am, causes that matter to me and exactly what it is I know I can do better than anyone else if I work hard enough. So this leads me to why I hate the question,  “What’s your dream job?”

When people ask me, “What’s your dream job?” I cringe and ball up my fist similar to that which you’ve probably seen in the Arthur memes that have plagued social media recently. Other times, I feel like my life is unstable or that I am living without a purpose because I don’t have a set answer. Though I’ve responded with vague, on-the-spot responses before, I haven’t believed that I have a dream job since I declared my undergraduate major while the words from the Ivy League counselor played over and over in the back of my mind. I basically know what I like to do, which are many different things, and to me, that’s okay. I know we’re a generation who tends to obsess over titles, but a job title has always seemed to be a little restrictive to a person like me, who seeks out additional opportunities that are often not listed in my job description.

I urge everyone to never set limits on his or her potential to thrive. I mean think about it, Bow Wow probably used to dream of being a famous rapper, and yea, maybe he did achieve it at one point in our lives when we were all too dumb to see what a lame he really is, but do you think he is happy with his life and career now?

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That’s a rhetorical question (I don’t really care if he is happy; to me he is simply an outdated child star trying to regain relevancy by being a stupid adult). To get to the point, we see him as a “has been” because he focused so hard on becoming so great at one thing, a “kid rapper,” and now we cannot imagine him as anything but a “kid rapper.” DO NOT be like Bow Wow. Don’t get caught up in focusing on one interest in order to work your dream job that you never evolve as a person or as the professional that you deserve to be. In the long-run, it will spare you many sleepless nights of worrying and feeling depressed because your resume is not getting the hits you desire.

I challenge you to practice two things that I feel have carried me the most in my professional life.

  1. Take advantage of learning opportunities and allow them to sharpen your greatest skills. — I work in PR & communications, and while I always knew I loved writing and talking (communicating), I didn’t realize how hard it would be to land a job in this field straight out of college. Furthermore, I had no idea that working in customer service would ever be as beneficial to me as it has been in my professional career. I was quick to say I did not want to work in a call center or be a server for the rest of my life, and I became really discouraged when it seemed as though I was only hired for those jobs, even though I had a degree. As it turns out, I probably would not be as skilled of a communicator if I did not have a solid understanding of customer service — knowing what customers desire, what shapes their attitudes and how and why they value certain things — that enables me to appeal to and engage diverse audiences, a critical focus of any business/organization that is thriving today.
  2. Be open-minded when it comes to choosing your job industry. — There is not a single industry that does not require a good communicator, and I was so focused on working in the sports industry that I nearly missed what has been an awesome opportunity for me to develop as a communicator. Where I am in my professional development now, I can confidently say that I know I want to use my voice to inspire, shape/challenge opinions, evoke emotion and encourage action. It’s true that working in a particular industry will require a specialized knowledge, but that’s fine. I can always learn about any subject, that’s why I have a brain. The key is for me to not be so totally focused on getting hired in a certain industry that I lose the chance to actually develop in my field in a not-so-desired industry. My goal at the end of the day is for no industry to deny my talent to inspire, shape/challenge opinions, evoke emotion and encourage action because my communicating skills will be too damn good!

I know that many career paths may be different from mine, but these steps can still be applied and I encourage you to re-evaluate your perspective on your career in order to truly gain from your professional experience. Don’t be the person that works so hard for a “dream job” that you miss important moments of growth, learning and professional development that could lead you to your calling. #DontBeLikeBowWow

Tabresha is a D.C. Metro transplant who loves the beach and tanning cheeks. She doesn’t always rock a twist out, but when she does, it’s poppin.