Busting the Myth of the Unicorn Dream Job

By Annemarie Estess | 20 Rock Co-Founder

Ahh, the Dream Job. That seductive pinnacle of professional passion.

The Dream Job Myth sounds a bit like this:

The Unicorn Dream Job is out there, waiting somewhere in the opaque forest of industries and company structures and roles. You just have go hunt it, grab it, and keep it, and your quest for life meaning and satisfaction will be solved.

Allow us to burst the bubble: unicorns aren’t real.

(We cried, too.)

Here’s where we wholeheartedly reject this mythology. It assumes that meaningful work, and satisfying living, are to be found outside of you.

Outside of your influence, leaving you wondering whether an employment scenario might be the Unicorn Dream Job if only it had a better job description. Better industry. Better teammates. Better commute. Better meeting culture. Better perks. Better mission.

Which is a scenario that leaves us pining for a job on a pedestal that seems sure to send us home stoked every day because the title is legit, the mission is mighty, the perks are tantalizing and the brand oh-so-slick.

A set of conditions that would make the jigsaw puzzle fit together at long last.

Delightful and perhaps semi-annoying news!

You have a leading hand in making your Unicorn Dream Job come to life. And your sense of fulfillment and peace depends on you understanding this and making choices to live it.

Psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman helps bottom-line it:

The key is not finding the right job, it is finding a job you can make right through recrafting.” (Seligman, p. 170)

Different emphasis, right? This perspective makes it only partially about the hunt, and mostly about the way you show up and shape the experience.

Woaaah, Nelly (sticking with the equine theme): What about people who HAVE found their Unicorn Dream Job?

A cool body of work on job crafting and meaning-making at work reveals that they are likely stepping into jobs with a certain baseline of conditions — using their strengths and contributing to a greater good that they care about — and then shaping their experience in predictable ways (Seligman, p. 172).

In other words, they are likely finding a really good horse and turning it into a unicorn.

You can do this, too. Scheme up your Unicorn Dream Job by…

  • Job crafting. Our post on job crafting runs through the ways in which we create meaning and satisfaction by proactively redesigning our tasks, relationships, and intentional perspectives at work.
  • Using your strengths consistently. Ideally every day, several times per day. This helps us get that tingly feeling of being well-used by our work. We get into conditions for flow where our strengths harmonize with the challenges at hand, and we’re immersed in tasks with a consuming focus.

Want another take on your strengths? Start by taking StrengthsFinder and VIA Character Strengths surveys.

  • Connecting with the big picture beyond yourself. What attention are you placing, day after day, on your impact? What stories are you looping in your mind about how pointless or purposeful your efforts are? What person(s), outcomes, or experiences do you get to make better each day by showing up and firing on all cylinders?

The stories we repeatedly tell ourselves become the pair of goggles through which we look. This is not simple, and it takes practice. But we are capable of rehearsing our perspective for better or for worse.

So take the pressure off of finding the unicorn, fully decked out to your exact specifications.

If you so desire, bring your Unicorn Dream Job to life with a blend of selectivity (again, finding that good solid horse), intentional perspective and rewarding habits. You’ll be taking the lead and enabling yourself to love what you do.

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We want to hear from you!

Have a tricky work situation? Want our perspective? Ask 20 Rock to be considered for our monthly leadership support column: hello@20-rock.com

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Works Cited

  • Seligman, M. Authentic Happiness, New York: Free Press, 2002. Print. pp 168–72
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