The Dark Side Of “Do What You Love” – The Job

office cube work

(Steve continues his descent into the pains of the job world that the flip advice “Do What You Love” avoids, doesn’t cover, or even actively keeps us from facing. Now, we’ll look at what happens when you actually get that dream job.”)

So you decided to “Do What You Love” for a living, and actually are doing it for a living. You overcame your circumstances, your ignorance, educational challenges, and more. By luck, pluck, or co-incidence you’re there. Congrats.

And you should be congratulated. Judging from a lot of people I talk to they’re no where near living their dreams, even the realistic ones. Please, contact me so you can blog here.

But now that you’re in the job, well, there’s a few things “Do What You Love” doesn’t cover. Like how much it’s probably going to suck.

The Dream Job Is Hard

Here’s the truth bout the dream jobs – they’re usually incredibly hard.

That’s because most dream jobs are prominent, do big things, involve big challenges, and often involve big money. Not everyone can do them, not everyone wants to do them, and it’s often quite competitive. Failure is also very costly.

There’s not exactly a legion of people publishing hit novels, making hit movies, coding the future of the internet, or whatever. Getting in is hard enough, but when you get to the job it’s often really challenging.

Sure you may “Love It” but those 60 hour weeks and the need to get a PhD to stay competitive aren’t going to be that enjoyable.

It Won’t Be What You Think

The job, I can guarantee it, is not what you thought.

This is because you can’t know what something is like until you do it. You have to really be there to truly know all the surprises, subtleties, challenges, and issues. It takes years to learn them (I find at least two to five).

This is because each job is individual and isn’t some generic summary in a book. The location, company, clients, and co-workers are all going to make it a truly unique situation you can’t fully prepare for. And that situation amy really be unpleasant.

This is because the job will change over time. You may have had a good idea a few years ago, but this is now.

This is also because your hopes probably got in the way of setting your expectations.

It’s Just The Beginning

If you get your dream job it’s only the beginning and it’s going to change.

Economies change. Industries change. The CEO is caught in a sex scandal with politician and flees to South America to join a cult. The job is going to change, possibly rapidly.

For that mater you’ll need to change. You’ll have to grow and improve skills, keep up with technologies, and ask what’s next. Think you can do the same thing forever? Don’t bet on it, even with out the CEO cult sex scandal, you won’t do the same thing forever.

Don’t bet on wanting to do it forever.

“Skill” Is Only A Part Of It

No matter how good you are at your “job” there’s other skills, knowledge, connections, and so on needed to succeed. Sure you may have gotten hired as a programmer, but you’ll need to schmooze, write written reports, and watch historical trends. Yes, you may be a successful novelist, but you’re going to have to market yourself.

What you do is often far different from hat the job focuses on. For instance, in IT, event truly dedicated professionals like developers at sysadmins at best spend 80% of their job doing technical stuff – and often it’s as low as 60%.

You’ll Run Into Bigots and A-Holes

Remember when I discussed how the circumstances of your birth would affect how people react to you. That’s not going to end once you start your supposed Dream Job. That’s just the beginning of a whole new bias parade.

A lot of industries have their own biases and outright jerks. There’s always a story about someone discriminated against, or you hear about how certain things on your resume make you look bad, and so on. That’s going to keep happening.

You’ll also meet people who tun out to be raging hatebeasts. You know the kind of people I’m talking about, and yes they’re out there. You may wonder how they keep their jobs, and that’ll just expose you to the maze of company and industry politics.

You’ll Get Exploited

Sometime in your career – probably quite early – you’ll get exploited.

You’ll be desperate enough to take any job, and work 70 hour weeks for lousy pay. You’ll sign away some rights you wanted to keep. You’ll have to deal with bizarre demands for your working hours. You’ll cover for someone just to keep everything from coming apart.

Dream job aside, unless you’re savvy and fortunate, there’s a good chance you’re going to get used. Most people want to do the “Dream job” you have, and people will do anything to keep them – and make unreasonable demands.

Your Pay Rate May Be Low

Yeah, I covered this before, but there’s a difference once you break in. Your pay may be low.

Note I don’t say will be. Thee’s a chance if you’re smart, savvy, and lucky you’ll get a good pay rate. If you’ve paid your dues for even a few years your chances to up.

But early on? Yeah, there’s a chance your pay rate is going to be so low that your blood pressure will raise commensurately.

Sometimes this is exploitation – but sometimes this is the way it goes. Some jobs are popular, some pay rates are low due to the industry, and in a few cases they’re low but fair. After all starting out may mean you really aren’t worth that much.

You Will Do Stuff You Hate

Part of your “Doing What I Love” job will involve thins you hate.

You don’t like to write, but you’ve got to write a design document. You don’t ant to go on a marketing tour but have to. You don’t want to make this crap derivative art, but need to as it pays the bills.

You may even be good at the things you hate. Which makes it worse as maybe you’re good at these things.

But that’s the way it goes. There’s almost always going to be something you don’t like. These things may even be necessary to do the dream job and you didn’t know about them.

People May Try To Lure You To Other Jobs

And here’s where it gets weird.

You get the dream job. That’s a pretty impressive achievement.

You stick with the dream job despite the above challenges. That’s even more impressive.

Then a bunch of people try and hire you away, or suggest you move to another job, or you find you may get promoted – but aren’t sure you want the job.

So even if you like the job, there’s people who will be trying to move you, lure you, or push you into other jobs. You might even be good at them, but it makes things complicated.

One good example I knew was a manager who dearly missed coding. He didn’t want to manage, but was good at it. It conflicted him for awhile – and even sadder, he gave up for a time and moved into total management. I felt bad for him.

That’s gonna be you.


So now you realized this great job you got has a whole lot of pain points. THe dream isn’t exactly what you wanted. So how do you cope with this?

  • When The Job Is Hard – Seriously? Lump it and learn to live with it – or leave. The dream jobs are hard, and if you want it, you should step up.
  • When The Job Is Different – Head off the shock of discovering your job isn’t what you think by learning and being willing to adapt. Try and embrace it as an opportunity to learn, and something you can stick on your resume.
  • When The Job Changes – Be ready for changes in your job, be ready for the job to evolve, by making sure you evolve. You can at least stay aware and take control of your own development.
  • When Your “Core Skills” Aren’t Enough – Don’t rely on your main skills on your job to do everything. Look for areas to improve (and build on stuff you’re good at that you love). You may even need coaching for skills like management and communication.
  • When You Face Bigots and Jerks – Hopefully by the time you face them you’ll be ready, but learn to deal with office politics and hone your people skills. I also recommend, again, joining professional associations – many try and improve working situations and may give you allies if you have to take someone on. There’s even organizations specifically fighting for tolerance in industries
  • If You’re Exploited – Some of this is normal, there’s all times we get misused – so learn when it’s just temporary versus a habit. Learn to stand for yourself, and it always helps to have an exit plan and/or a plan to fix situations. If everyone’s getting exploited, you might become the one that fixes it.
  • Pay Is To Low – Make smart calls before hand by knowing your value, and learn to budget and save money. Stay aware of salaries and ask for proper raises – but also it may not hurt to have an exit plan.
  • When You Do Stuff You Hate – Thats often part of any job. It’s probably best to become good enough that the stuff you hate is tolerable, and otherwise work on maximizing your “don’t hate time.” If the things you hate are unavoidably part of your career, then you may need to do a rethink.
  • When People Lure You To Other Jobs – This one I have to leave to you, because it get get pretty strange. Make smart calls and think things over.

Good luck on making sure that dream job becomes what you want.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, publishes books on career and culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at