From Dreams to Reality

When you were a child, what did you dream of becoming when you grew up? Did you actually end up working in this childhood dream job? Think about this question while you consider the following infographic, courtesy of Workopolis:

According to this, the five most common childhood dream jobs of Canadians are:

  1. Teacher
  2. Doctor
  3. Pilot
  4. Nurse
  5. Veterinarian

However, only 19% of people surveyed by Workopolis ever worked in their childhood dream job. Of those who did, only 4% are still working in the job now. These numbers are incredibly low, and got me thinking about dream jobs and why so few people ever attain their childhood dreams.

Think again about what you wanted to be when you grew up. Do you remember why you thought that choice was the right one for you? Where did you get your information about what your dream job involved? Most likely, your information came from comments from family, friends, and what you could pick up from the media and popular culture depictions of certain jobs. Much of this information was likely inaccurate to say the least.  Television and movies paint a glamorized picture of many careers, and even when they depict the struggles that people often face in their careers, those problems are often resolved by the end of the episode. It’s hard to get a true picture of any job from such portrayals.

Unfortunately, information from family and friends is also often skewed, based mostly on their own opinions and interpretations of what jobs actually entail. Also, family members can inadvertently influence our choice in jobs, by revealing their approval or disapproval of certain roles. Because of this, friends and family members are often not the best source of information around job choices.

However, the bigger issue around childhood dream jobs, is that children are simply not equipped with enough self-knowledge to really know what job is suitable for them. A child who wants to be a pilot for example, does not necessarily possess the mechanical aptitudes to do the job successfully. He or she might just think it would be cool to be a pilot, which is not reason enough to pursue it as a career.

The reality is that job preferences change, as we learn more about ourselves in terms of particular skills, aptitudes and values. Childhood is simply too early to be certain about those things; this knowledge is gained through life experience and by trying many different things to see what feels right.

Also, it is important to focus not just on job titles, but on transferable skills. When we know how our skills can be applied to many different occupations, our choices increase, and so do the chances we will land on something we are truly suited for, and can be happy doing for many years to come.

It is fun and even useful to dream, but also important to remember that dreams don’t always come true, and that’s okay.

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