Why You Don’t Need Your “Dream Job” Out of College

Confession: my first job with a bachelor’s degree was at Starbucks. Another confession: I was really, really bitter about it.

I held out for “real” employment as long as I could. I began the search before my spring semester even started, and believed someone would hire me in time to tell graduation guests about my new dream job as a copywriter. That was a pretty delusional mindset, as it turns out—I learned how to operate a cash register and heat breakfast sandwiches instead.

Looking back, the position itself wasn’t the problem—it was my attitude. I had the worst entitlement complex, and was naïve enough to believe that a degree proved my professional worth. While it seemed like every other graduate had found meaningful work, I made coffee; and because I didn’t dream of making coffee for a living, I was a failure.

I know, I know… total jerk, right? But being a barista breaks you of jerkdom pretty quickly. I’m grateful to have worked at Starbucks because it taught me that lofty expectations can set you up for meltdown-worthy failure—and that dream jobs are a myth. But if my story isn’t enough proof, here are a few more reasons why you shouldn’t look for your dream job right out of college:


It’s not that dreamy

The term dream job implies that it’s perfect and meaningful in every way; but when you’ve just graduated, do you even know what perfect, meaningful work looks like? If I landed a copywriter job right out of college, I wouldn’t have learned about other kinds of writing that fulfill me (like blogging). I had only built my dream based on the idea of work I wanted to do—not my real experience with it.

You don’t have the skills

At Starbucks, I could barely keep up with drink orders—and let’s be honest, my register skills weren’t stellar either. If I couldn’t even remember how many pumps of vanilla syrup went in a tall vanilla latte, why would I deserve a job that requires working under detailed style manuals and editorial guidelines? You need to prove that you can follow directions, absorb training, and have a good attitude before you have a shot at your pie-in-the-sky career; those skills do matter.

You need to discern (and struggle)

Dream jobs, if they do exist, must be a lot like finding love: you need to wrestle with incompatible pieces before finding the perfect fit. Doing jobs you hate, in fact, may help you find better career matches than if you plucked your dream position out of thin air. I used to work with someone who quit her job selling cars to become a restaurant server; she just liked it better. Who says you can’t do the same thing?

College graduates, it’s time for a reality check: your dream job isn’t real (yet). But you’ll find your place eventually—and if you need to work at Starbucks before it happens, I’m here for you.

Do you think a “dream job” is possible right after college? Leave me a comment!

Image: Eric / CC BY 2.0


  1. says

    I kind off have my “dream job” out of college. I have the title and company I wanted for my first job.. but it’s never perfect because you also have to do things/tasks that you don’t like. So maybe a “dream job” or “perfect job” doesn’t exist. At least for now. :/

    • says

      Absolutely! Even the best jobs have a “work” component to them–otherwise they wouldn’t be rewarding. But it’s totally acceptable to get your dream job after years of effort instead of getting it right away; you’ll appreciate it more and have the skills to do it better! Thanks for reading, Stephanie, :)

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