Are Your Career Dreams Realistic?

“Are my career dreams realistic, or should I be looking for something to pay the bills?” It’s one of the most commonly asked questions in life, and it has no easy answers. Maybe one of the mistakes that people commonly make is in looking at it as a black or white issue. In order to achieve any dream, you need to be able to pay the bills. So that’s a given. You don’t want to turn your back on what you really want to do with your life either, though, paying your bills to the exclusion of what gives you real joy. Otherwise you will look back at the end of a long, stable life with regret.

Perhaps a better, more useful question would be this: “Will doing what I love pay my bills or not?” In other words, is it realistic for you to link up your career and your dreams at all? The best way to approach this question is by looking at the facts.

Do some research on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website. This site provides detailed information about every profession you can think of. You’ll learn what the average annual salary is, what the high and low ends generally are, and what the work environment is like. You’ll discover how quickly the field is growing, and how many openings (as an actual number) are expected to appear. You should also find out roughly how many job candidates there are competing for those openings.

All of this information put together can tell you whether, realistically speaking, you are likely to earn money doing a given job, and whether you are likely to find a job in that field. Even in a seriously competitive field, a determined person can push his or her way to the top, but it is important to know what you are up against—and also whether the salary is worth it.

Conventional wisdom seems to state that our careers exist to inject meaning into our lives. If you can find a career which will fulfill your professional needs by paying your bills and your personal needs by fulfilling you, then that is the best possible scenario, and you should go for it. But for many, many people, these two things are separate. The need to pay the bills is one thing, and the need for self-fulfillment is another.

At that point, you have a couple of choices. You can try to fight your way through by combining the two anyway (and for some people, this is the right choice), or you can learn to separate the two parts of your life, and take a career which gives you the money and job security you need to pursue what you love in your free time. You’ll be busy, but you won’t be broke, and you won’t be turning your back on who you are either. And eventually, you may find a way to bring your two dreams together. Either way, you won’t be walking blindly into your future.

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