Astronaut, model, policeman, cook, shoe seller, jet pilot, sometimes even Chancellor – everyone has jobs that he dreamed of when he was young. Even if only very few have realized their childhood dreams and sometimes even smile at them in retrospect, they are still valuable treasures that can help to find more fulfillment in the job. “The story of every person naturally begins in childhood,” explains the Munich career consultant and psychologist Madeleine Leitner. “That is why childhood dreams in particular provide valuable help when it comes to finding out why people are dissatisfied at work today. They even help with career planning.”
Childhood dream jobs often illustrate the problem in today’s reality: A well-behaved family man, who also obediently assists his dominant superior in his job, always wanted to be a robber baron as a child and, unlike today, was actually a “wild guy”. Or: Even as a child, a manager who was caught up in violent power struggles in management was convinced that her name would later appear on a skyscraper. A middle management employee who had fallen on the sidelines professionally wanted to become a sailor as a child, but had already determined at the time that only captains really had anything to say.
Even children have a personality with likes and dislikes. However, many people lose their very essence in the course of their lives for a variety of reasons, the psychologist knows from her experience in advising people in professional change situations. “When working together, the memories of earlier dream jobs in childhood often provide valuable clues to the proverbial core of the poodle: Who am I actually? What do I really enjoy, what brings me fulfillment?”
However, Leitner warns against drawing too quick and superficial conclusions when interpreting the ideas. Dream jobs can be based on very different ideas and motivations. A pilot can bring tourists to their holiday destination and make them happy, as a fighter pilot they can fight evil or develop creative show flights as an aerobatic pilot. A forester can do something good for plants and nature, make prey or make the forest an economic success model. Above all, a doctor may want to help people, but may also see prestige and prosperity as motivation or simply be a perfect craftsman in his specialty.
The American author John Holland differentiated six different motifs that can be used to categorize people’s ideas about their dream jobs:
R (ealistic): work physically
I (nvestigative): analyze
A (rtistic): be creative
S (ocial): help, support
E (nterprising): manage something
C (onventional): manage
These categories turn out to be surprisingly homogeneous even with the earlier very different dream jobs of a person. “If you then compare the resulting patterns with the current activity and the elements required, you can usually quickly see where the causes of dissatisfaction lie,” says Leitner. Typical and particularly problematic combinations are, for example: an “A” – heavy, creative person who performs a “C” administrative job. Even an “S” person who primarily wants to help, but is primarily supposed to generate business and sales in his job, is injured in his essence. This is an important key to understanding the need for change.
However, the psychologist expressly warns of radical career changes. Fine-tuning is often enough. You can often take on more or less responsibility, more or less creativity, administrative or design tasks in your existing job. It depends on the details in order to find more job satisfaction or to be more successful. Even if some people regret their childhood dreams to this day, they are rarely really relevant. When they consciously compare the idea of their previous dream jobs with reality, it often leads to disillusionment.
“But you should really do that very consciously,” advises Leitner. “The worst thing is to mourn a lifetime of a dream that would have turned out to be a nightmare.”