Did You Grow Up to Be What You Wanted?

Personal Branding

Editor’s Note: This blog is a modified excerpt from professional “headhunter” and bestselling job-hunting book author Skip Freeman’s next book in the “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets series of job-hunting books, CAREER STALLED? How to Get Your Career Back in ‘High Gear’ and Land the Job You Deserve─Your Dream Job. Publication is scheduled for early 2013.


Remember when you were a youngster and people were continually asking you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” If you’re at all typical, you probably asked yourself that same important question quite a few times as well. According to a recent survey conducted by LinkedIn*, the World’s largest professional networking site, only about one in three adults (about 30%) claim to have actually achieved their childhood “dream” job, or to be working in careers related to such a job.

Where do you find yourself at this stage in your career? Are you among the fortunate group, i.e., the 30% who say that they are in fact in their dream job or profession? Or, far more likely, are you among the much larger group of professionals who, even though you probably have already firmly established your professional brand, continue (or would like to continue) the quest for your dream job/profession─which may or may not be even remotely related to your current job/profession?

LinkedIn’s career expert Nicole Williams is quoted in a recent AOL.com article (Dream Jobs: Who Has Them, And Why) as saying, “The dream jobs we aspire to as children are a window into our passions and talents.”

The overwhelming majority of survey respondents (70%) defined their “childhood dream job” as being one which involved “taking pleasure in your work,” Williams added.

Significant to note is that a mere 6% of survey respondents said that their dream job meant making a lot of money.

Williams said that the childhood dream job is something many professionals never really seem to let go of─even well into their career and long after they have already established their professional brand.

“I’ve met a lot of people at their 40th birthday who say, ‘I am not doing what I want to do,’” she said.

Tips on Pursuing Your Dream Job

Williams offered three tips for those professionals who still yearn to pursue their childhood dream jobs/profession:

1. Locate someone now doing your dream job. “Even well into professional life, it’s possible to have a ‘warped perception’ of what a childhood dream job is,” Williams said. “So it’s important to find out what living a certain job is really like, to see if you really want to move forward.” Williams cited an example of one woman who gave up everything to move to her dream job, a baker. “(The woman) wasn’t thrilled when she had to start waking up at 4 a.m.,” though, Williams said.

2. Gain direct exposure to the professional community. Another good way to accurately gauge if your childhood dream job is really all that you suppose it might be is to get some direct exposure to the field/profession. Williams pointed out that virtually every professional field has career groups on LinkedIn. Join some of these groups, she advised, because not only can they give you  some valuable insight into the actual professional field, they also can serve as a path toward joining the field, if you remain so inclined and are genuinely qualified to do so.

3. Determine the connection, if any, to your current job/profession. “Oftentimes, we are attracted to what we are innately capable of, so don’t presume the job you currently have isn’t connected to your dream job,” Williams said. “When people go for their ‘childhood dream job,’ they often think they have to make a ‘clean break,’ but oftentimes the impulse to ‘wipe away that old experience’ is really not necessary,” Williams said. “You don’t want to start from scratch.” (Emphasis mine)

And, just coincidentally, it is this third tip from Williams that clearly shows she definitely knows what she is talking about when it comes to today’s job market.

Let’s suppose that you are now performing as a chemist for the paint and coatings industry, but what you have really always wanted to do is to be a commercial artist/painter. Nothing necessarily wrong with that goal, of course─except if you have no training and/or professional experience! In today’s job market, employers are looking, primarily, for this one thing from potential candidates: Current and relevant experience.

If, in this example, you have indeed kept your “toe in the water” in relationship to your dream job/profession by, say, continuing to paint and exhibit as an active hobby or avocation, then pursuing your dream job/profession indeed might not be all that far-fetched! If you haven’t done something like this, though? Heed Williams’s advice in Tip Number 3 above: “You don’t want to start from scratch.”

TOP 5 Childhood Dream Jobs for Today’s Professionals

Just for the record, the LinkedIn survey showed that the TOP 5 dream jobs for today’s professional men when they were youngsters are as follows:

  • Professional (or Olympic) athlete (8.2% of survey respondents)
  • Airplane or helicopter pilot (6.8%)
  • Scientist (6.8%)
  • Lawyer (5.9%)
  • Astronaut (5%)

And the TOP 5 dream jobs for professional women when they were children:

  • Teacher (11.4%)
  • Veterinarian (9%)
  • Writer, journalist or novelist (8.1%)
  • Doctor, nurse or emergency medical technician (7.1%)
  • Singer (7.1%)

The fact of the matter is, most of us tend to do best that which we love most. Continue to dream your dreams, continue to seek out your dream job and/or profession and to pursue your professional passions, but also bear in mind that the time to “reinvent” yourself (if you currently are in a job or profession that has no logical connection to your dream job/profession) is not in a down job market.

The wise professional actually can have the best of both worlds if he or she plans carefully. How? As Williams advised, seek out and learn as much as you can about your dream job/profession, and then take advantage of every opportunity to become actively involved in it in some meaningful way, but also keep “your day job” until you are actually offered (or land!) your dream job! That way you’ll still be able to pay the mortgage and feed yourself and your family.


Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.

*LinkedIn surveyed 8,000 professional women and men around the globe for the study.