There’s a myth out there about dream jobs: if you want to work in your dream position, you need to sacrifice either your non-work life, your salary, or your sleep/health.
Like I said, it’s a myth. Not all dream jobs are created equal. You can find your dream job without sacrificing to the point of hating getting out of bed and heading to work every day.
My dream job growing up was to be a doctor (thanks to George Clooney and cast on ER…and yes, I was all of 6 when I fell in love with it). I didn’t know what doctors went through in order to get to the point in their careers where they are able to actually work with patients: stellar grades in their undergraduate education with a rigorous course load and the need to out-volunteer their competition for medical school, where exams determine rank every few months and their lives revolve around studying medicine; once they’ve matriculated from medical school, residency and fellowships include being thrown into the specialty of choice, working long hours and sacrificing their time and life outside of work.
I toyed with the idea of working in other fields — and going to school for non-medical fields like international relations or public service — but couldn’t bring myself to take out student loans as high as I did for a career that wasn’t guaranteed. And I honestly wasn’t sure how to go about studying what I liked and getting to a point where I loved my job when I was only 18.
I applied to 6 universities and got into all 6 — but only one was for nursing school. The rest were a combination for international studies/languages/foreign policy majors that don’t guarantee a job after graduation except retail. I still liked the idea of studying medicine and helping people achieve a better life through improving their health.
The nursing school I got into not only had a world renowned reputation, but it was closer to home than others and cheaper than the other 5. I was still a little unsure about my decision when I submitted my deposit, and even moreso when I completed my freshman year of gen eds. I figured if my nursing career would be like my freshman year, I would hate my life.
Then, I started clinicals.
My clinicals showed me just how much nurses make a difference in their patients’ lives. And I loved that. My sophomore year I lucked into a job in a neonatal intensive care unit, where I got to feed and care for babies who were just learning to eat and grow as they worked towards reaching their original due date. And I fell in love (with the babies and the job).
I worked there for over two years when I graduated and started working as an RN. I may have to work wacky hours (3am to 3pm this 6 week schedule), every other weekend, and deal with stressful situations and angry parents, but I love the babies I care for. Yesterday, I fed a baby its first bottle ever and helped another through a drop in heart rate and pulse ox sats that made her bluer than Violet on Willy Wonka. I had five minutes over my 13 hours shift to eat, and I loved every minute of it.
I am Example A of how you can get your dream job, be paid well, and do both just out of college. Yes, it took some planning, and a little luck, but it can happen. You need to keep your head down, take opportunities as they come (even if not directly related to your dream job; I worked in a psychiatric facility before my current hospital scooped me up as an employee), and work hard. Having my dream job makes the strange sleep schedule I have to wake up at 1am for work all the more worth it 🙂