You shouldn’t have a ‘dream job’

You shouldn’t have a ‘dream job’

As AT&T’s vice president of global talent acquisition and human resources business partner, Astad Dhunjisha knows a thing or two about career progression. And, through his experience interviewing several hundred prospective hires, he has advice for career-minded professionals, especially those early in their careers: Stop having a “dream job.”

It’s not that you shouldn’t have aspirations, Dhunjisha says. But when you elevate one job or role above everything else, you’re probably cutting yourself off from other opportunities and putting a few substantial obstacles in what will likely be a long career path. Now that he’s been through his own learning curve—and watched so many others do the same—he shares four reasons why being singularly focused on a dream job is a bad idea.

1. You could be setting yourself up for disappointment

Dhunjisha’s thoughts going after a so-called dream job also have their roots in his personal experience. After he graduated from college with degrees in finance and accounting, he had his sights set on landing his own dream job in the financial sector. Members of his family worked in banking, and he had decided that following a similar path was his dream. But after he sent out his résumé and completed interviews, that job in banking never materialized.

“In hindsight, I was probably immature in some ways and one-sided,” he says. “I didn’t tell my prospective employer what I was capable of.” Instead, he says, he was focused on his perspective and goals, instead of showing the interviewer why he was well-suited to the role and could bring value. Dhunjisha ultimately built his career in the agriculture and financial technology sectors.

2. You don’t know what you don’t know

We all have an idea of what a specific job entails. However, actually doing the job may be quite different than what we imagine. “Many of us have had the experience of having something be different in reality,” Dhunjisha says. And if you have committed yourself to pursuing one type of job and it ends up being different than what you imagined or understood, you could end up following a path that leaves you unfulfilled. “Some people are pleasantly surprised,” he says. “Others—especially those who have very lofty aspirations—find themselves disappointed and kind of burnt out at the end of the first couple of years.” Instead, try to educate yourself about what potential career paths entail and stay open to possibilities, he adds.

3. You may be showing your ignorance

Even if you do understand the job, you might not understand the responsibilities or role within that particular company, Dhunjisha says. “Some people go into an interview with kind of cocky attitude, like ‘Oh yeah, I’ve got this,” he says. But if the candidate is taking up an interviewer’s time and is fixed on an idea of what the job entails that isn’t correct, they could be making a bad impression and talking themselves out of a job.

4. You’re cutting yourself off from opportunities

A 2023 survey by FlexJobs found that more than half of people surveyed were looking to make a career shift. Even if you start out wanting to take on one role, you may find that your goals change at different stages of your life, Dhunjisha says. “What a person would want in their career in their early 20s would be very different from what they’re thinking versus their 40s,” he says.

If you’ve committed to a dream job and identify with it, you might close yourself off from change that could lead you in new career directions, he adds. There are many jobs out there that you might not even realize. If you’re not seen as flexible and adaptable, you might not be considered for growth opportunities that could ultimately advance your career.

What should you do instead? Look beyond the title and look for the parts of roles that truly make you happy, he says. Understand the elements of your personality that make you well-suited for those roles. When you let your skills and personality guide you to the roles that are right for you, you’re more likely to have long-term job satisfaction.

“In the corporate world, one quality that I feel allows people to succeed as a longer term employee is adaptability,” he says. When you can figure out the things you can do to ensure career growth, you may just be surprised at where you end up.