Your dream job is not step one

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Graduation is nigh for myself and many, many others. I will leave Oklahoma Christian with a degree in English Writing and years of practical experience in the field. As the commencement date approaches, the advice most adults have given me rattles around in my head: “Follow your dream.”

I get the importance of perseverance and encouragement, but I can’t help but think of “America’s Got Talent” each time I hear it.

Every year, thousands of aspiring superstars perform on a national stage, filled with expectations and dreams, only to abruptly learn they aren’t as skilled as they thought. The truly amazing part of the show, to me, is not the lack of talent—it’s the absolute shock at being told they’re not as great as they thought. YouTube is full of bad auditions and subsequent breakdowns. They simply cannot reconcile the idea their dreams and their ability don’t line up.

“America’s Got Talent” was an extreme example. How about this one from the Gospel of Luke? “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?”

Dreams and passions can be blinders. In reference to the Bible verse above, a passionate builder may neglect to count out his funds before beginning construction, and then when the money runs out, he is left broke and with a half-finished tower. Lose-lose.

I’m graduating with a “dream job” in mind. I’d love to be a best-selling novelist, or even an editor in a prestigious publishing house. These are my passions, and they are not necessarily bad or damaging. I need to be careful, though.

A “dream job” might keep me from focusing on the here and now. The green light at the end of the dock may keep me from exploring opportunities right under my nose, careers that may offer a legitimate chance to find passion right where I am.

Now, clearly nothing is 100 percent, but I have found I can follow opportunity to passion much more often than passion to opportunity. Unless your name is Mozart or Nicholas Sparks, you are unlikely to achieve success on your first endeavor. Prosperity takes time, determination and a résumé. And a résumé might mean settling for something less than “dreamy.”

At this moment, millions of Americans clutching diplomas are searching for sustainable careers that fit into their narrative of success. At the same time, employers are trying to fill millions of jobs that few are trained for.

When graduates zero in on their passions and dream jobs, they can miss out on opportunities they didn’t even realize were options. The most surprising aspect of this discussion is a positive frame of mind can result in passion no matter where you may be.

One example of this comes from Mike Rowe, host of the television series “Dirty Jobs.” When asked how septic tank cleaners and pig farmers manage to stay positive, Rowe answered, “They didn’t start by going, ‘What am I passionate about? What do I love?’ People on ‘Dirty Jobs,’ they say, ‘No, no, no. You don’t follow your passion. You always bring it with you, but you never follow it.’”

After all this, you might be hearing me say passion is a bad, misleading entity, which is not what I believe at all. I am saying, though, if you let your dreams make decisions, you will be changing direction every day. Passion is fickle; let it be your engine, not your guide.

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