My dream job is more of a nightmare
I remember the feeling like it was yesterday.
Questioning my outfit.
Ashamed of how long it took me to decide on my outfit.
Even more ashamed that I just said outfit.
But there I was. Ready to take on the first day at my dream job.
I had just been recruited to work for a high-powered advertising agency and after binge watching Mad Men all summer my hopes were equally as high. I step off the elevator after sitting in my car for an extra five minutes listening to “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. I then walk through the doors to find myself in what I can only describe as the corporate version of Narnia. The office had everything. Ping-Pong tables. Xboxes. Giant beanbag chairs. Collaboration. Free food. Free drinks. Trendy, creative people. Good vibes. It was everything I ever wanted. And I was ready to establish my spot on the team as the new Don Draper.
That feeling barely outlasted my orientation.
It didn’t take long to figure out that I wasn’t Don Draper. Nor was I on track to be the next Don Draper. I was actually just an entry-level peon assigned to a cubicle to do the grunt work the real Don Drapers didn’t want to do.
This came as a shocking realization because I went to college. I wasn’t sure if they were aware, but I had a bachelor’s degree. I had spent four whole years reading books about how to do this very thing. I wasn’t supposed to be an entry-level employee. I was supposed to be calling the shots. I was supposed to be making waves. I was supposed to be making 100K and driving a Beamer. But that day I came to a jarring realization: My dream job is more of a nightmare.
Maybe you’ve come to the same realization. Maybe you’re reading this in the cubicle you expected to be a corner office. Maybe you’re reading this standing in line at Starbucks waiting for your boss’ coffee. Maybe you just sat through orientation and you’re now questioning your entire existence. If that’s you, the temptation is to quit and go find your actual dream job. I know that because we see this all the time.
There is a growing trend among young adults where we leave a job we thought was our dream job in search for our actual dream job only to leave again a few months later because that wasn’t our dream job either. It’s the work version of trying to find “The One.” And it’s exhausting. You’re more than welcome to put in your two weeks. But before you do, let me give you three reasons why I think you’re unhappy and why quitting won’t solve the problem.
You think a job will eventually satisfy you.
Once upon a time our culture believed that a job was simply the way you provided for your family. But somewhere along the way we adopted a belief that our jobs are designed to fulfill or satisfy us. That’s a problem. You know why? Because there is no job or career built to hold the weight of your satisfaction. A job will never satisfy the deepest longings in your heart because it wasn’t designed to. It’s simply not built for that.
Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that God has placed eternity in the heart of men. That means we long for the eternal and are dissatisfied with anything but the eternal. That’s why a job will never satisfy. It’s not eternal. It doesn’t matter how good things are at your job. A bad performance review, a mistake, a complaint from a client, a bad quarter, beef with your boss, an economic crash, any of these things could mark the end for you. If not the end of your job then at least the end of a good season. If your hope is tied to your job, you’ll never be satisfied because there’s always the subconscious awareness that our work is fleeting.
You know who does satisfy? Jesus. You know why? Because He’s eternal. He’s the only One who is constant in the midst of chaos. He’s the only One who is steadfast through the highs and lows. He’s the only One who is immune to bad quarters, economic crashes, and performance reviews. When everything proves to be fleeting, Jesus proves to be eternal. His love for us is eternal. What He has accomplished for us on the cross is eternal. Our job status may change but our status as sons and daughters of God never will. And that’s what satisfies.
We need to understand that our jobs are designed to help us eat. They won’t satisfy. They’re just not built for that.
You’ve lost sight of your workplace as a mission field.
Jesus gives us a job to do in Matthew 28. Go and make disciples. We call this “The Great Commission.” As believers, that’s our ultimate job. Our job is to make disciples. And every day you go to work you interact with people who don’t know Jesus. Every day you labor beside potential disciples of Jesus. That is in an incredible opportunity to do the job we’re ultimately called to. And it’s an opportunity we should take advantage of because it isn’t afforded to everyone.
You have access to people I’ll never have access to. I get up in the morning and go to my job at a church where I work alongside other Christians. I don’t get to sit in staff meetings with lost people. I don’t get to hang out in the break room with people who have major questions about God. I don’t get to build the same kind of relationships with nonbelievers that you do. And if I do get to hang with a nonbeliever they assume I have some Jesus agenda because I’m a pastor. You, however, don’t have that problem.
You get to build relationships with people who have never truly experienced the love of Christ. You get to provide a view of Jesus they’ve never seen. You get to be a light in whatever field the Lord has placed you in for this season. But when we make our jobs about our own satisfaction we lose sight of our ultimate job: to make disciples.
Adopting a view of your workplace as a mission field will absolutely change the way you view going to work. It provides a new sense of purpose because it reminds you what our ultimate purpose is.
You’re experiencing sanctification.
If you’ve never heard the word sanctification, it’s a fancy church word for that uncomfortable maturation process that chisels you to look more like Jesus. There is absolutely nothing fun about it. And I think having a horrible job is one of the many ways God chooses to sanctify our generation.
I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I love doing the things I want to do and I love delegating the things I don’t want to do. The problem is that most young adults don’t have the ability to delegate the things they don’t want to do because they’re the ones being delegated to. And that’s a bummer. But it brings to light an important and sanctifying reality: Sometimes work isn’t fun; it’s just work.
I think those moments are so necessary for our spiritual growth. Doing grunt work when you have a college degree is humbling. And that’s sanctifying. Dealing with a difficult boss requires patience. And that’s sanctifying. Working a job that doesn’t pay what you thought requires trust that God will provide. And that’s sanctifying.
The reason your dream job feels more like a nightmare could be the fact you’re in a season of sanctification and it doesn’t feel good. I don’t know why the Lord is choosing to sanctify you in this way, but I can guarantee it’s worth it. God is trying to teach you something and I believe you’ll look more like Jesus because of it.
Now, let me be clear. I’m not advocating you stay in a job that’s unhealthy. I’m not advocating sticking around an office where the leadership takes advantage of you. I don’t think there’s anything especially godly about suffering for the sake of suffering. You should find a job that challenges you and brings you some sort of joy. But I do want to make sure we have a healthy and right perspective when it comes to our jobs. I want to make sure we don’t fall into the trap of jumping from job to job in search for our dream job. So when you’re tempted to bail ask yourself:
Do I hate my job because I think it’s supposed to satisfy me?
Do I hate my job because I’ve lost sight of my workplace as a mission field?
Do I hate my job because it’s sanctifying?
Written by Josh Storie, Life Stage 2 Associate Pastor and College Director