What does your dream job look like? In a recent survey, MidAmerica Nazarene University found that 25% of people loved where they are. That number was higher than I expected, but it still means that 75% of people are something less than delighted with their jobs. Other interesting takeaways from the study include Americans’ desire to drive to a job within 2 miles of home, at an office with fewer than 30 people. You could consider getting a doctorate or moving to the Southwest, but those aren’t options for many people.
It’s unlikely that everyone can achieve their dream job. But that doesn’t mean everyone has to be miserable in the one they do have. Here’s how to make your daily grind feel more like a dream come true:
1. Be an Intra-preneur
41% of respondents to the survey said they would like to own their own business. It’s an often-romanticized position, but it comes with significant challenges, like handling financial pressure and putting in long hours. Many of these respondents said they didn’t want to do it if it required more than 60 hours per week. But there’s a happy middle ground here! You don’t have to be an entrepreneur facing all the challenges alone. Instead, you can be an intrapreneur, and be a promoter of creativity and innovation from your existing position. These employees are incredibly valuable to a company, and intrapreneurial behavior may help you climb the company ranks without going it alone.
2. Let There Be Light
Weather seemed to play an interesting role in the study. Many respondents indicated that they wanted to live in California, and many who responded that they already had their dream job lived in the Southwest. What do those places have in common? Beautiful weather. Unfortunately, most of the country isn’t blessed with endless sunny days, and it’s not in the cards for everyone to move west. How can you fight the weather doldrums? Brighten things up! Science has proven the importance of exposure to sunlight, and studies have shown that people who work in well-lit offices with lots of windows are happier and more productive. See if there’s any way to change the light bulbs in your office. Rearrange desks to maximize everyone’s window view. Take a meeting while walking around the block. There are lots of ways to lighten - literally - up your day.
3. Go Hollywood
Many respondents said they wanted to work in the entertainment industry. As a theatre major in college, I can relate. Lots of people dream of stardom. But there’s no reason you can’t bring some elements of the entertainment industry into your existing job. Organize a happy hour at a posh local spot. Host an awards show watch party. People in entertainment are also usually in shape, so organize a group of people to go to the gym at lunch or after work several times a week. Best of all? Produce a talent show, and find out what skills your coworkers are hiding!
4. Work Smarter, Not Harder
Pretty much everyone wants more vacation days, and this study backs it up. It also confirmed that people don’t want to work too many hours each week, and they love their hour-long lunch breaks. You may not be able to change your company’s lunch policy, but you can help avoid your own late nights and long weekends at the office. Constantly monitor your priorities so you can make sure you’re tackling what’s most important, and avoid getting hit with a tight deadline you forgot about. Look for efficiencies that aren’t being maximized, and find repeatable processes that you can automate. Definitely make sure you’ve delegated well. Using these tools will help you get more done, complete tasks faster, and ensure they’re done well. That way you can go home at a reasonable hour and take guilt-free vacations.
5. Save Wisely
The study found some very interesting differences in the priorities and desires of men and women. But there’s one thing they definitely agree on: the single most important job perk is a matching 401(k). This is indeed a great perk - who doesn’t like free money? - but it’s also an expensive one, and some companies don’t or can’t offer it. Even if your company’s retirement benefits are subpar, you can still have a comfortable retirement as long as you act smart now. Make sure you aren’t wasting your money on things you don’t need, and definitely don’t blow a ton of money on flashy big-ticket items. Buy items that are good quality and will last a long time, even if it’s a little more expensive. Invest in education. Get a financial planner to help you maximize the resources you have for the long term.
6. Adjust Your Attitude
If you actually had your dream job, would you recognize it? Or would the grass continue to look greener on another side? What is actually lacking in your life that having your dream job would solve? Just about everyone could use more money, but make sure you’re using the money you do have wisely. If you were to take on a bigger job, you may earn more, but you’ll also probably have more responsibilities that require more time. Be careful what you wish for - it might just come true.