dream jobs

Should You Follow Your Dreams or Get a ‘Normal’ Job?

If you’ve been interested in self-improvement for a while, you’ve probably come across phrases like “follow your passion” or “find your dream job”. You might have read books or articles that push you towards seeking out a career that you love, rather than a job that’s simply a means to an end.

But should we all be looking for our dream jobs, or trying to monetize our passions? Is that a recipe for happiness … or a recipe for disaster?

Following Your Dreams

Whatever the gurus might tell you, it’s not all that easy to make money from some passions. If you love watching TV, you might just score a job as a TV critic for a newspaper … but that’s not going to work out too well if you hate writing.

Hopefully, you’ve got some interests and strengths that are relatively easy to turn into a career.  I’ve loved writing since childhood, and today, I write thousands of words every day and get paid to do so. I have friends who are photographers, designers, web developers … and they all enjoy what they do.

Often, these sorts of interests lend themselves to self-employment (though you can get similar jobs within agencies). Some people love to work for themselves; others find it very difficult to be happy without a steady paycheck and colleagues.

Getting a ‘Normal’ Job

When most people think about jobs, they’ve got in mind a Monday to Friday, 8 – 4 or 9 – 5 office position, or at least something with regular hours. You might have friends or neighbors (or even colleagues!) who clearly don’t like their jobs all that much, but who see a boring or stressful job as an inevitable part of life.

Many jobs are a bit boring. But for lots of people, that suits them fine. Perhaps you’re in that group too: you see your job as just one part of your life, a way to make a living while you enjoy your evenings and weekends. It could be that you’re working hard now in order to take early retirement, or so that you can have a sabbatical from work.

Knowing Yourself

You don’t have to “follow your passions” and attempt to create a career where you get to do what you love all day, every day. For one thing, you’d be chasing an unachievable goal. I talk to lots of highly motivated self-employed people, and while most of them do genuinely love what they do, they’ll certainly admit to not enjoying every single minute of every single day.

If you want a steady paycheck, there’s nothing wrong in working at something while pursuing your main interests outside work. I did this for a couple of years when I started my working life: I had an office job in IT and I carried on with my writing in the evenings and at the weekends.

What’s important here is to know yourself. When you’re thinking about following your dreams, you’ll probably have to face questions like:

  • Would you rather have more freedom or more money?
  • How self-motivated are you?
  • Are you someone who works well under pressure?
  • Do you like to switch off from work at the weekends?

There are no right or wrong answers. Don’t let anyone convince you that you should be pursuing a dream career … or that you should give up and get a “real job”. You need to find work that’s a good fit for you personally.

Strong Finances = More Options

In the current financial climate, you might well be facing a lot of uncertainty about your employment. Perhaps you’re grateful to have a job at all, even if it’s not quite your ideal position.

If your current financial position isn’t great, work on building up an emergency fund, and cutting back your monthly expenses. The better your financial position, the more options you’re going to have when it comes to your work – whether that means taking an extended period of unpaid leave, moving to a new city for a new job, or setting up on your own.

Be open to the possibilities in your own life and career. Don’t rule out any options too soon. Maybe you’ll find that, instead of struggling to pursue a dream career that involves long hours and little money, you’d rather work in something well-paid for a few years to save up first. Or maybe you’ll find that you could cut back on expenses and live on half of your current income –  giving you the opportunity to start up your own business.

Whatever your parents, friends or colleagues tell you, whatever you read on blogs or in the media, there’s no one right answer when it comes to work. It’s up to you to find your own path, whatever form that takes.


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Photo credit: ‘Dream Beach‘ by Big Stock


36 Responses to Should You Follow Your Dreams or Get a ‘Normal’ Job?

  1. Mauricio Zepeda says:

    “Know when to tune out, if you listen to too much advice you may wind up making other peoples mistakes.” — Ann Landers

  2. Thank you! now that’s really helpful because I’m always being told to study medicine and become a doctor,and I believe I can but that’s something I don’t enjoy or like and I’ve always wanted to be a writer and to have my own books. But that’s gonna take a long while to make me money, so I guess it’s alright to do a job I don’t like to achieve my goal and the follow my dream.
    Thanks again! I really owe PickTheBrain :)

  3. Wutzthedeal says:

     Pick the brain is good but I feel like this one was… something we all already knew?  Need some fresh content, specific methods, and studies.

  4. TG says:

    Weak article.. really weak. I really enjoy PTB, but lately things seems to have gone downhill whem it comes to deepness… it seems just a bunch of random thoughts thrown together in a text.
    Hope to see improvement on site’s articles.

  5. Amy Putkonen says:

    I disagree, TG. I thought it was refreshing to be given advice contrary to that which says to run off and do your own thing all the time. Everyone’s situation is different and this was good advice.

  6. thebigkahuna2009 says:

    I think that some examples of the difficulty of trying to earn money following one’s passion would make this article stronger.  I do–in part–agree with some of the above-mentioned comments, though I think the premise of this article is good.

  7. Ally K says:

    My brother has tried to follow his dream for over 30 years in owning his own business, he is no further than the day he started. When he is down and out he comes back to my parents for them to help him get back on his feet so he can chase his dream again. Sometimes we need to look at reality and realize that some things needs to be a fun hobby and not a business.

  8. pickthebrain says:

    Hi TG – what topics would you be more interested in? Would love your feedback.


  9. pickthebrain says:

    Hi … Thanks for your feedback – interested if there is a specific topic that you’d like to read about? Let me know – thx::erin

  10. Follow your passions, yes! Whether at work or at play, hopefully both.  I agree about the finances, it feels safer, though many have done great things starting with little money.

  11. Lucila says:

    Great article. Helped me a lot.

  12. magicks says:

    9 years ago when I was 18 I dropped out of the local community college after less than a semester to pursue a career in music.  I got a job at a record store a mile down the road from the college and spent all my time practicing my instruments.  In 2007 we closed the store and relocated from the suburbs to the city of Chicago.  We re-opened with a bar/venue/record store.

    I ended up in the perfect place that I needed to be.  Having this job lets me meet industry professionals almost on the daily.  Lately I’ve been getting to travel and play music.  In 2009 I started a new music project and since then it’s gotten way more attention than anything I’ve previously done.

    Nowhere along the way did I talk myself out of any opportunities, no matter how uncomfortable I thought it might make me feel.

    This isn’t the only correct path, just one of them :)

  13. Guest says:

    The article doesn’t seem to make a strong point either way. Or, maybe the point is that only YOU know the “right” answer when it comes to finding a job that’s right for you. Don’t be pushed either way by someone other than yourself. In that case, it would be helpful if the article, or a future article, listed ways a person could answer that question for themselves, such as online resources, books, career services, questionaires, meditation, journaling, etc.  

  14. Self Help says:

    Insightful article Ali. Perhaps a key to following one’s dreams is to be able to keep pursuing them in some way even when working unrelated jobs.

  15. TG says:

    Hi there. First I’d like to apologize for expressing myself slightly wrong when I say about lack of deepness in PTB’s articles – it’s not related to all articles, but this one specificaly. Sorry 😉

    Yesterday I kept thinking about it for a while (BIG while) and, re-reading the text, I have come to an interesting outcome: at first sight I didn’t like the text because it seems to speak directly to me. Allow me to explain mself.

    I work for a big company but it seems I just don’t fit here. I don’t feel I’m interested in anything that happens around me and nothing seems to concern me at all. My dreams are about music/arts/writing but I know it’s rather hard to live on that (maybe because I were told so since an early age), so I figured I should find something to be interested in. I still didn’t quite find out, but I believe the situation is getting worse everyday.

    That’s when I stumbled upon this article with this great and promising title “Should You Follow Your Dreams or Get a ‘Normal’ Job?” and read with great expectations for it to be the panacea for all this I’m going through.

    I needed to get it out of my chest. Sorry for the big text.But, answering your question about my interests of reading, I recently read here at PTB a very good article about Growth Mindset – based on a Carol Dweck book, if I’m not mistaken. I really enjoy that kind of “practical” approach. Or maybe it’s just me…

    Best regards!TG

  16. One important thing you hit on was that most people think they just have to deal with the stress and crappiness of having a regular job. Not true of course, and it just takes a lot of pushing, thinking, trying, failing, and all the other good stuff, to make it work as an entrepreneur. 

  17. pickthebrain says:

    Thanks for the clarification TG … I’m glad you like the other articles. You’re welcome back as often as you like!!!

  18. Rudolph Valentine. says:

    I’m wrting this because I so much enjoy reading such articles. Regarding job, I am still trying to find the right one, I know it’s gonna be hard but it’s worth trying too. I had the chance to have two jobs and the pay was not that bad, but I resigned because I didn’t feel quite comfortable and I also knew I could do much better. I really hope I made the right decision. Bottom line is that I want a job that suits me and I don’t care if the wage doesn’t meet my needs. I’m just gonna pursue my motto which is, ‘The struggle never stops’.

  19. Nurali says:

    Hi Friends,

    I  really like the last line of article .. 
    “It’s up to you to find your own path, whatever form that takes ..”

    It’s quite true .. 
    I am running 6 yrs of successful career in IT industry and enjoying my job at the best .. but now I want to take a next step towards dream .. I talked many successful people in my field .. how they got into where they are now .. They explained me their story .. the choices they made and of course the hard work .. but when it comes to what next for me .. the answer is generally fit very well to the last line of articles .. :)

    So, I do believe .. for me it’s unique situation in my career .. I need to focus what I want and need to start working towards that .. hard working .. and It will find it’s way .. 


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  22. Thom says:

    I can understand what you are saying here in this article. However, I must say, most of this type of advice is just a lot of words and that is about it. I am a published writer several times over and yet, I can’t seem to make enough money at it to pay for lunch! No one wants to pay for anything anymore. I have been on the writing staff for a few national magazines and all they wanted to pay for articles is $50! I finally just said, “screw it!” And this is just the last in a long line of things I have taken a shot at doing. For years, I was involved in the music business trying to get a songwriting gig. After years of struggle (and right out hardship) I finally had to give it up, and I might add, with a great amount of bitterness. I can hand fabricate flat sheetmetal into car parts. (Went to school for that one.) I can do it with the best of them. Yet–nothing! Body shops won’t hire me because they don’t do work like that. No one likes to give their craft away but, that seems to be the way everyone wants it. If you don’t want to work for dirt, you won’t get anywhere. You might as well understand now that you are nothing more than a servant to those who were born with a silver spoon stuck in their mouths! And I don’t believe in dreams anymore. They’re a waste of time.  

  23. Passion At Work says:

    Hi all,

    Just a thought and personal opinion after reading this article.

    As many believe that it’s ideal to think of their dream, there is nothing wrong to believe in what you truly want to do, quote and quote: “passion”. The main reasons why people stop pursuing their dream is that we do not understand the “how”. Everyone once dream big, think far, and yet we are suppressed to believe we need to live to survive. 
    That’s one misconception which leads to failure in general.  I’d say, it’s about reaching financial freedom, so that life can be balanced to do what you love, and love what you do. Success people do not survive, they thrive. It’s not about seeking the “process” & “how to” which makes our lives successful in general, it’s a mentality. Success is a science, a psychology, a philosophy, a mentality – from inner self to outer. Understanding WHAT we need to do is far more important. Define our purpose, our end dream, and work in reverse to accomplish each incremental steps.
    Say, Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, but “failed” 10,000 times before he became one of the greatest inventor. That being said, he has discovered 10,000 other methods which does not work and achieved his success. People see failures now as failures, and build up fears. We need to understand the importance of learning. Humans are given the intelligence to think and create, and we should harness that potential as a gift instead of giving it away to the system. We live our day to day lives now like an assembly line, and that’s not how humanity should develop and evolve.

    Take control of your lives, believe your change is for a good cause, and put your passion out there. Opportunities are created, not given.

    Keep staying positive
    Passion at work.

  24. This is amazing! I enjoy your encouragement for all of us who are struggling to find a balance between our dreams and “normal job”. Thank you!

  25. This is amazing! I enjoy your encouragement for all of us who are struggling to find a balance between our dreams and “normal job”. Thank you!

  26. This is amazing! I enjoy your encouragement for all of us who are struggling to find a balance between our dreams and “normal job”. Thank you!

  27. CMOE says:

    There’s nothing wrong with following your dreams, but you have to have an actual plan or strategy to make sure that they come true. You may have to stay in your normal job for some time to make sure that you have the resources to follow your dreams–and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

  28. Thanks for one’s marvelous posting! I definitely enjoyed
    reading it; you will be a great author. I will remember to bookmark your blog
    and will often come back later on. I want to encourage that you continue your
    great posts, have a nice morning! 

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  30. Vijaywinner1991 says:

    Hello there…

    I am also going through one of such dilemma. But i would like to speak practically :
    Few things 1 must know about himself : his financial condition, the availability of resources to follow his dream/passion, his age and his potential/skills(let it be writing skills,dancing,sports,acting,marketing,academical,knowledge,blah..blah..) and the most of all- if he today enters the field of his dream,where does he stands??
    for sure 1 will know the right answer abt  himself… to what great extent he can let his quantum leap successful.. SO simple…. have a great backup plan and launch yourself for your dreams and if you aren’t ready…stick with the job till you develop your skills to give a tough fight in the competition…Simple!!!
    Remember: Every taken risk with confidence and well planned ideas is indeed an oppurtunity!   

    vijaywinner1991@rediffmail:disqus .com

  31. Johnsonunlimited says:

    It’s not alright to do a job that you don’t like to achieve a goal?  Why would you do that?  One life to live?

  32. Tim Martens1 says:

    Hey if you can make car parts from sheet metal you could make medival helmets and armour. There is a fun project and sometimes you can make it at those kind of niche things.

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  34. Sunny says:

    Thanks. I am only 14 and even at this age, I always feel pressurised to be what my family wants. I want to be a presenter, because it’s genuinely the job I am happy in and adore doing! My family’s against it, they want me to be the usual (doctor, accountant, lawyer…)
    And I feel like if I follow my dreams, I’ll let them down.
    Mostly, they just think I can’t make it! I know it’s hard word but I know I can get there, they should need to believe in me too! Even university wise, they insist on Cambridge/Oxford, but I want to go somewhere else and study media/communication! Any advice on what to would be much appreciated, thanks

  35. Kev says:

    You put me on the spot! I guess I just was hoping for fresh content, because I love the site and the format. Although I should say that I realize the value of posting things that may have been “done” already for those who may not have seen them, but mine was just a vote for more variety, more cutting-edge content. That’s all.

  36. Skyline says:

    Well with an attitude like that and such a negative perspective on the subject matter you won’t get pretty far…

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