It’s not uncommon to see that many people are eager to take on a job offer, only to quickly realize that it’s far away from the dream job they envisioned. An exciting job on paper could turn out to be a never-ending chore. But there are also cases where a normal job transforms into a dream one. Without an ability to truly predict the future about an offer, one may lose out on a golden opportunity for their career trajectory.
Too often, job description is the first factor that attracts you to apply for a job at a certain organization. When deciding whether to invest your time and efforts in the application process, you’re most likely look at the compatibility between the skill set and experience requirements listed and what you have. You also look at the company’s name. (And if that’s something like Google, you even don’t have to think any further before working hard on your resume and cover letter.)
But what if you come across a job that sounds standard in a normal company – not one as sexy as AirBnB, Facebook or the like – or a company that you have never heard of? Chances are you are more hesitant and may not even bother exploring it further. In order to not let a dream job slip through, it’s necessary to understand what that means to you first.
Based on my own experience as a job-seeker who stumbled on dream jobs all the time, and as an HR professional who hired people, facilitated reorganization, and led Employee Happiness at multi-national corporations, I believe that the components of an awesome job go far beyond the job itself. Before you turn down an offer that taps into your unique talents but sounds normal, make sure you look at the following.
The first is job “elasticity,” where you can truly own your role by innovating and experimenting with your responsibilities, and integrating them with what you are truly passionate about beyond the key tasks. Job descriptions fail to tell you this. Most of the time, hiring managers only focus on listing what they want from a potential hire from a current business need perspective. If there are opportunities where the role could be elastic, they wouldn’t want to make a hard promise.
Therefore, it’s worth it to explore the level of elasticity of a job from different angles throughout the application process. Typical instances where a job could be “bent” are where the function or project is new and of strategic importance in the company, the company itself is still quite young and fast growing, or the team is very lean and the manager is visionary, flexible and empowering.
I once took on a job with a typical job description for my function, Employee Relations/Happiness. However, during the interview with different people in the company, I realized that I had to educate them a lot as well, because the company had just transformed from a big “small” company to a small “big” company. I saw plenty of opportunities to conceptualize and create. I once loved Corporate Social Responsibility and wanted to work in that area, but didn’t get there. However, with this opportunity, I was able to build CSR strategies and programs, which were among the key pillars to increase employee happiness, especially at an organization where the majority of employees were young and cared deeply about mission and purpose.
It’s a trend these days that old jobs are cut off due to reorganization as part of cost-saving measures. However, given the competition, customers’ demand, and the speed of change and innovation as well as location strategies, many jobs are redefined, combined, or created in both existing and new locations. A not-so-ideal job today may become an ideal job tomorrow as the boring parts could be done by robots, AI or machine-learning.
During this selection process, leadership and HR often prioritize top talents / high performers with high potential for retention and promotion. If you keep adding value and channel your energy and passion to a standard job, it’s likely that your role could transform quickly to an ideal one soon. Therefore, look for companies where leaders are serious about talent, have talent management among their top priorities, and where talent mobility is the norm.
The ‘whole you’ enablement
While job elasticity and talent mobility enable your growth, another big component in the making of a dream job is whether it allows you to be the person you are as a whole. You would be happiest in your job when you fulfill your purpose, have your values aligned, utilize your talents, unleash your creativity, and interact with your “tribe” through it. More often, a job may not satisfy every aspect of who you are and what you want out of life. However, if it allows you to express your creative and social identity with supporting systems beyond your daily responsibilities, then it is indeed a dream job, isn’t it?
I once was a regional HR program manager, and while I enjoyed my job, I didn’t feel totally satisfied. Some part of me wanted to support women and to enable talents. It was great that my company had a very well-established women’s network, so I volunteered as one of the committee members. Also, I was allowed by my manager to work on a “side hustle” within the company, a talent management project with a talent manager outside of my role. By then, I felt fulfilled.
In some companies, there are employee clubs where you could be part of a group of employees who share the same interests, from painting to sports. There are also companies where the purpose and mission are so cool that it makes you feel that your daily tasks, even though sometimes boring, feel significant as they contribute a much bigger impact to the world. It could also be that you can volunteer for causes your support through a company that cares about giving back. For others, especially parents, flexibility, for example, is a big plus, as it matches their personal values.
At the end of the day, beyond skill-set and talents, it’s also about growth, impact and who you are that makes or breaks a dream job. So dig deeply into the above aspects through research, reading business reports and company reviews, and talking with existing employees about the culture. Find out how values are expressed and how leaders treat talent, and seek mentorship from an industry veteran who can offer you the big picture and forecast. Ask the interviewers questions about company’s vision, business growth plan, and culture, and observe the hiring manager and the office vibe when you have onsite conversations.
With today’s speed of new challenges and innovation, the chance of getting a dream job is high if you know what it means to you – and if you take some extra strategic efforts for due diligence beyond the normal job search and application process.